This weekend, racing driver Devon Rouse made history. He became the first openly-gay driver to turn laps in an ARCA car during the series’ yearly test session. He did so behind the wheel of Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing machine.
Seeing racers of the LGBTQ+ community in the motorsport world is still a rarity, although there are now several organizations dedicated to increasing awareness and fostering a friendly atmosphere in which folks can just be themselves, no matter who they are.
American stock car racing is generally thought of as one of the more macho disciplines of racing, one that eschews all things that the good ol’ red-blooded Southern man might enjoy. But times have definitely been changing; NASCAR has had one of the more robust responses to diversity and inclusion in the wake of the George Floyd riots, citing that intolerance has no place in its sport.
It’s a damn good time for a young LGBTQ+ driver to make his name in the sport.
Rouse started racing karts when he was just four years old, moving up to modifieds and then sprint cars by 2016. He won multiple local championships and found his passion, but like many young drivers in America, his ultimate goal was to make it to the NASCAR Cup Series.
In 2019, Rouse and some friends took a trip to Florida, where he met someone who would change his life.
“We went to an outdoor bar and there were some guys there wearing college shirts,” he told The Hawk Eye. “One guy had a NASCAR truck shirt and I told my friends, ‘I’m going over and introduce myself.’ We ended up chatting for hours. The guy was from Clearwater, which is the town we were in. He was back home on his way to Miami Beach for a race. They invited me to travel with their team for six weeks. If I had not gone over and introduced myself, that would have never happened.”
He had the opportunity to test a NASCAR Truck, but COVID-19 halted his progress. During the break from racing, Rouse shared his coming out story with the world.
“I do want to be there as a role model and an influencer for the people that have ever felt like I have or felt that there was nobody,” Rouse told Always Race Day. “I want to be that person up there where they can say, ‘If he did it, so can I.’”
Like other drivers, he doesn’t feel his sexuality completely defines him, nor should it be considered a factor that impacts his on-track performance. But being a member of the LGBTQ+ family while competing in motorsport is still a rarity, and having those role models to normalize their presence and start dismantling stereotypes is always a great thing.
As of right now, Rouse has stated via Twitter that he is also set to run two NASCAR Truck Series races during the 2021 season.