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Bubba Wallace didn’t win a single NASCAR Cup Series race in 2020. Despite that, he became a household name and face of the organization, speaking out on social injustice issues following George Floyd’s death. His popularity introduced the sport to a whole new audience. 

Like Wallace last year, Devon Rouse could be that NASCAR driver in 2021 who brings in a completely new set of fans when he becomes the first openly gay driver to compete at a NASCAR national touring series event since 2003. 

Devon Rouse moves his way up the racing ranks

Like every successful NASCAR driver, Devon Rouse started early at a local track. He began his racing career with go-karts at the tender age of 4. By the time he was 13, he had won six track championships at Shimek Speedway in Iowa before the track closed.

He moved up to modifieds during his early teen years, and then in 2016, his parents bought him a sprint car. He first raced the 305 sprints and then moved up to 360 sprints before finally driving in the Sprint Invaders Series in Iowa. 

With each step up, Devon Rouse always had an eye toward NASCAR. Like most racers, he dreamed of one day competing on the top touring series against the best of the best. 

Devon Rouse to debut in 2021 as first openly gay NASCAR driver in years

Late in 2019, Devon Rouse and several friends left Iowa for a trip to Florida. While out one night at a bar, Rouse told The Hawk Eye he saw a man wearing a NASCAR shirt and felt compelled to introduce himself. The pair struck up a conversation that lasted for hours, and by the conversation’s end, he had invited Rouse to travel with the team for six weeks. 

Fast forward to 2020 and Rouse found himself testing a NASCAR truck in Myrtle Beach, S.C. right before the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, the pandemic altered the NASCAR schedule and Rouse’s planned debut in July at the famed Eldora Speedway in the Dirt Derby never happened.

This weekend is the next big step in Devon Rouse’s career track as he will be at Daytona preseason testing for the ARCA Menards Series. 

“I can spill on here because there isn’t many followers.. I’m very excited to be running @DAYTONA this coming weekend!! Not only a career changing moment for me, but also going in as the only open LGBTQ @NASCAR Athlete/Driver! Let’s go turn some dreams into reality!” 

The 22-year-old then added a reply about his plans for NASCAR in 2021. 

“Not only the ARCA test this weekend, but as of right now running 2 NASCAR truck races too!” 

Stephen Rhodes was first openly gay NASCAR driver  

Like Bubba Wallace was a trailblazer on the NASCAR Cup Series as the lone Black driver, Devon Rouse will do the same this year on the NASCAR Truck Series as the only openly gay driver. However, he’s not the first.

Stephen Rhodes was the first gay NASCAR driver and he raced a couple of times in 2003. He made his NASCAR Truck Series debut at the Lucas Oil 250 in March, where he started 33rd and finished 30th. Less than a month later, Rhodes competed at the Advance Auto Parts 250 at Martinsville Speedway, where he started 32nd and finished 21st. 

While Devon Rouse has plans to race twice this year, unlike Rhodes, that won’t be the end of it. He’s hoping it’s just the beginning and plans on becoming a fixture with NASCAR and breaking down the barriers one race at a time.