Ganassi NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson has issued a public apology for comments about Hendrick Motorsports "cheating" that he says were made in jest during a television appearance.
Larson appeared on the NBC Sports 'Splash and Go' segment with Rick Allen this week, answering various questions surrounding the race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
When asked if Chip Ganassi Racing is the top Chevrolet team right now, Larson said, "I don't know. Atlanta is so different than every other track we're going to go to the rest of the year. You can't jump to conclusions off of I think one week."
He then added with a smile: "I feel like Hendrick just plays games in a way with NASCAR and I feel like they always start the year kind of bad to show NASCAR that they're being nice and cooperating and following the rules and stuff and then it gets a couple months in and they start cheating and finding some speed", before laughing.
Rick Hendrick's team struggled at Atlanta, with Alex Bowman's 15th-place finish the highest among its four drivers. William Byron was 17th, Chase Elliott 19th and Jimmie Johnson 24th.
Hendrick supplies Ganassi with engines, and Larson later issued an apology on social media and underlined that the comments were made in jest.
"I want to apologise to Mr Hendrick and Team Hendrick for the comments I made earlier today," Larson wrote.
"I feel terrible about it. I meant it jokingly, but shouldn't have implied they are anything but a strong competitor that gets better as the season goes on.
"I appreciate the engine support we get from them as they are major part of the reason we have been as strong as we are."
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The apology received support from former Hendrick Motorsports driver turned television analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr, who wrote "racers know what you meant" in a Twitter reply.
Larson is currently Chevrolet's leading driver in the Cup standings, holding fourth in the championship after the opening two rounds.
He led the most laps and won the second stage at Atlanta, before pitlane problems left him 12th at the finish.
His new team-mate Kurt Busch finished the race third.