Can you feel that in the air? It’s race season baby! Whether it’s the indoor Chili Bowl, the silly season news, or the influx of fresh NASCAR schemes, 2021’s racing calendar is already taking off. One of the most notable early season proceedings was the ARCA test at Daytona that took place in mid January. Up and coming stock car drivers of all experience levels and backgrounds take to Daytona International Speedway to either tune up for the upcoming season, or get valuable (or required) seat time in order to meet their 2021 racing goals.
One such driver that officially started their NASCAR career with the test is 22 year old Devon Rouse. An experienced dirt sprint car racer, Rouse’s ARCA test might seem at first to be just one of many promising rookies taking part, but Rouse is blazing trails beyond their personal accomplishments. Devon Rouse is one of NASCAR’s first openly LGBTQ competitors, and with that no doubt comes a large amount of pride as well as a unique challenge. Rouse was kind enough to spend some time with TehBen.com as we talk racing and goals going forward…both before and after the big weekend down in Florida.
So this weekend’s ARCA test has to be a long time coming, what transpired to make this happen?
The ARCA test has been a long time coming. Actually how fast it all came about was kind of wild! It wasn’t quite a last minute deal, but a very quickly made deal. The testing date was obviously January 15th and 16th, and I think we figured out that I was doing the test right before Christmas.. maybe it seemed like there was more time in between us figuring it out and the actual test date, but it came really quick!
What’s the 2021 race schedule looking like so far? Which races do we know for sure you’ll be in? Will you still be sprint car racing this season?
The 2021 race season is kind of up in the air for the moment. For ARCA racing I am not sure what all races I will be doing, I am looking at doing 2 Camping World Truck races right now, Bristol March 27th, and Knoxville Raceway on July 9th (both dirt races). Obviously I will be competing in all of the dirt races I can be with my family-owned sprint car team when I am home, and once we figure out a pavement schedule for me!
Being NASCAR’s first* openly LGBTQ race car driver, are there any specific feelings in that regard given what’s on the horizon for 2021?
I am actually not NASCAR’s first openly gay competitor, Steven Rhodes was in the Truck Series in 2003, however to my knowledge I am the first openly gay driver in the ARCA series, and made history doing the Daytona test this past week. Also now in today’s world especially, to my knowledge I am the only open driver in contention that is openly gay. It’s pretty cool knowing that I made history in the ARCA Menards series, but also as well as it being at Daytona International Speedway. Actually my first green flag lap of 2021 will mark my 20th year anniversary of racing, and what a better way to ring in your 20th year anniversary taking a green flag at Daytona International Speedway. Based on my feelings are regards to the 2021 and further years of my racing involving me being gay shouldn’t alter anything at all. My sexuality doesn’t define my personality, skills, talent, morals, and characteristics in being behind the wheel, or let alone a person at that. Now, I am beyond happy to be out there at a professional level and be a influencer, or role model to people who have anyone in their family, friend, or someone that is or once was in my shoes as a LGBTQ member. I am glad to be out there as that person and help in anyway I can, but I think people making that define me is incorrect.
American stock car racing is going through a tumultuous time, as is the nation itself, particularly to issues of social inequities. What challenges do you expect going forward? What challenges have you faced thus far?
I do expect some challenges going forward due to peoples closemindedness and selfishness, however, I am strong enough mentally to overcome whatever those poor individuals have to say or feel. I will have the haters out there who want to use their slanders toward me when seen on commercials, interviews, social media posts, but that’s totally fine as they can sit behind their screen or keyboard, meanwhile I will continue to sit behind the steering wheel, they can continue to just watch instead of actually participating.
Who is your racing hero?
My racing hero was and is Jeff Gordon. My go-kart number from day one has been 24, I have multiple diecasts of his, flags, carboard cut-outs, etc… the list could go on and on! He has been my racing hero from day one, and always will be!
Whether you realize it or not, you’re going to be a hero to people in the very near future, if not already. Tell us how you feel about that.
I was ready even before making the coming out post knowing that things would forever change, whether I wanted them to or not… things would be changing! I am ready to take this on, once again as stated above, it doesn’t define me, my characteristics, or personality.. but I am ready for it and can’t wait to see what I can do for myself, my career, the ARCA Menards Series, and NASCAR as well!
Who do we need to thank and support that’s taken you this far? How can fans best support your racing goals and dreams?
I have so many people to thank who have gotten me to this point in where I am, and I mean so many. First, obviously my parents, Mike and Diane Rouse who have given me countless opportunities, race cars, and whatever I need to continue my career. My sister, Sara Rouse in being one of my largest supporters as well! Any sponsor who has been with me and there are just too many to list… but without their support through the countless years, or however long they were with me has helped me along the way! My grandparents have been huge supporters of mine as well, Gerald and Rosie Smith (moms parents) and Betty and Rene Medina (dads parents). Now with the pavement world, Robby Lyons was my first in with NASCAR and has helped me so much throughout this journey so far, Josh Reaume (team owner of RBR) for giving me the opportunity to test in their truck and believing in me! Austin Theriault for all of his help with the ARCA test and connecting me with Andy Hillenburg, but him just also being by my side for any question, comment, or concern I have… and still being that guy to this day! My fans can keep doing what they have been doing for the past 20 years, keep supporting, cheering me on, and just being them! I appreciate you guys, and if it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have anyone to perform for, y’all are my rock!
What’s the goal for the Daytona Test? What do you need to prove in your mind or your team(s)?
My goals for the test are to one keep the car in one piece.. kind of nerve-racking walking into the largest stage in all of motorsports and being a rookie, but nevertheless it is not time to forget my skills that have gotten me to this point. I want to be within the top 40 drivers, especially being my first time with the whole pavement deal ultimately! annnnnd leaving that there it’s go time and we will chat with you when the test is over!!
On January 15th Rouse took to Daytona and successfully tested the Andy Hillenburg owned Ford powered ARCA stock car for 34 laps with a personal best time of 51.636 seconds at 174.297 average mph. We spoke again after the test for Devon’s reaction.
So how did it feel taking a stock car out at Daytona?
It was AMAZING! When I rolled out of the garage for the first time, and was driving through the garage area it still hadn’t hit me. The second I pulled onto pit road and came from the garage area to pit road it hit me as I had the sites and sounds around me actually coming down pit road. Riding the apron around the bottom of 1 and 2 then blending onto the backstretch it was like WOW IM ACTUALLY DOING THIS! The feelings and how it was is almost indescribable.
I know you’re a dirt driver by trade, but how’s the pavement life looking now?
It’s looking up for sure. I will never, ever step away from dirt, it’s my roots… but entertaining this new world is for sure looking like a lot of fun and something I can see myself doing!
What’s next? With a good and safe Daytona test under your belt, what’s the next racing task on your list?
Right now I am not quite sure what is next actually, but I am thinking the truck race at Bristol…we will see though nothing is set in stone yet! Watch all of my social media handles to keep update on all of my upcoming races and info to be released!! Facebook- Devon Rouse Racing, Instagram- devon_rouse16, Twitter- @MrRouse16, and TikTok- devon_rouse1624.