Although many people don't realize it, the LGBTQ+ community seriously represents when it comes to driving fast and winning races. The rainbow/checkered flag crew comes from a variety of countries, backgrounds and racing formats including stock car, Formula 1, Le Mans and the dirt-track circuit. They all have one thing in common: they drive fast and like to win.
Here's just a few of the folks leading the pack into turn number one.
Drawn to motor racing as a kid in California, Herrin started off on motorcycles when he was five years old. He worked his way up the ladder on bikes and, in 2012, raced in the AMA Supersport Championship series. He then crossed over to four wheels by racing in the Superkarts series, where he eventually turned pro. In 2014, he moved up to the INEX Legend car circuit before quitting the sport due to a non-welcoming environment for gay wheelmen. He came out, took some time off and decided he wasn't going to let prejudice drive his career into the pits. He's now back and driving in the NASCAR-sanctioned ARCA Menards series.
Being featured in a Sport Illustrated story doesn't happen to every athlete (and to even fewer dirt track racers), but it did happen to Dustin Sprouse. He calls West Virginia home and logged five top-10 finishes in ten of the eleven races he competed in during 2021. Last year, he also made Rookie of the Year and is now angling for a spot in the Lucas Oil Late Model series. Sprouse grew up in a racing family and came out in his early 20's. Like Zach Herrin, he took a long break from the sport, mostly because of a funding shortage. Sponsors are hard to come by in dirt track racing and can be even tougher for openly gay drivers, but Sprouse is still showing up and avoiding obstacles that might slow him down.
Haywood is an American driver who retired from his twenty-year racing career in 2012. During his driving years, he notched five victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring. In addition to all that, he served in Vietnam and raced in the 1980 Indianapolis 500, finishing 18th. In 2018, he published an autobiography where he came out as gay. The sport recognized his achievements and courage by inducting him into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Eaton is from Yorkshire, England and began kart racing at the age of ten. She worked her way up to full-sized cars and, by 2016, she was piloting a Maserati in the British GT series. Around that same time, a television career came calling as she began appearing in British motor racing shows including Amazon's The Grand Tour, which is hosted by the hugely popular former-Top Gear trio. Eaton came out as a lesbian when she was seventeen and is in a relationship with the next LGBTQ+ racing pro, Jessica Hawkins. Eaton and Hawkins are both active on the W Series, an all-female circuit that races Formula 3 cars.
Hawkins is also British and grew up in Poole, Dorset. Kart racing was one of her early passions, but she also excelled at hockey and football. At age twelve, she held the 2008 British Karting Championship. Hollywood rang her up for her stunt driving skills displayed in “Fast and Furious Live" and the James Bond film, “No Time to Die." From 2014 to the present, she's been competing in a variety of racing series including the British Formula Ford Championship and the British Touring Car Championships.
Taking the checkered flag while flying a rainbow pennant is not so unusual. These pioneers and others prove that driving fast and winning races is and should be open to everybody.
Which other LGBTQ+ racing drivers are you supporting? Let us know in the comments.