Feb 10, 2022 - Sports

Iowa's openly gay NASCAR driver opens up

Devon Rouse

Devon Rouse is introduced before the Corn Belt 150 on July 9, 2021, at the Knoxville Raceway. Photo: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA Today Network

Growing up in Burlington, Devon Rouse wowed everyone with his prowess behind the wheel — starting with a go-kart at age three, up to a sprint car surprise from his parents at 17.

But even as his racing reputation grew — there was something important no one knew about Rouse.

  • "I am gay. Yes.. you just read that correctly. This is me, and it's time for me to stop living a double life," Rouse wrote in an Instagram post in 2020.

Driving the news: Rouse, 23, is taking major next steps in his racing career. He recently moved to North Carolina to focus on driving, the Burlington Hawk Eye reports.

  • But he's also making history as a public figure in a sport that is tied more with a Confederate flag than a rainbow one.

Flashback: Rouse's family is made up of racing fans and he quickly got into it, joining his first race at age four.

  • By his teenage years, he was a star at his local track.
  • But behind the scenes, he knew he was gay and "did everything I could to try and change it," Rouse told the "I Am Athlete" podcast.

In 2020, during the midst of the pandemic, his mental health was at its "rock bottom" and he knew he had to tell his friends and family.

  • "It got to the point where I either needed to come out ... or I wasn't going to be here anymore," he told the podcast.

Since then, he's dealt with lost friends and the hardships of being only the second NASCAR driver who's come out since 2003.

But, he's also free to be himself.

  • He landed a major 2022 sponsor — Gigg, Inc. — and he's looking for more.
  • On Feb. 19, he'll try to qualify for the ARCA Menards Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
  • "I've got the drive, I've got the fight, I've got the passion and I think God blessed me with the talent," Rouse said.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.

More Des Moines stories