Gay race car driver hopes to thrust his way to the winner’s circle
“Evan Darling” sounds like the fake name of a gay porn star. But there really is an Evan Darling and the gearshift knobs he grabs and cockpits he enters are not double entendres. Darling is a race car driver, and if life works out as he hopes, he will soon turn on his mean machine at a track near you.
In the world of motor sports there are only two active, openly gay racers: Darling, and Canadian stock car racer Billy Innes. You could throw in an endurance driver who is tacitly out but never says the G-word, and a retired racer who is semi-out. But the universe of gay drivers would still equal the number of wheels on Darling’s Acura Integra.
Darling’s path to Sports Car Club of America Southeast Division champion began in Andover, Mass. As a baby, Evan loved cars. He liked playing with his Matchbox toys so much that he cried whenever he had to stop. He liked speed, too, and as soon as he could, he raced BMX bicycles and motorcycles.
But as red-blooded-American-male as his story sounds, Darling harbored a secret.
“When all my friends were looking at boobies, I noticed the husbands,” he recalls.
He came out to himself at 13, then to his parents five years later. They did not take the news well. His father, an attorney, later represented military veterans in their fight against gay advocacy groups for control of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
His parents also disapproved of his racing, so beginning in his late teens, Darling was on his own. He moved to Florida and built a successful landscaping business, but his need for speed never eased. He started road racing in 1994, and won numerous divisional titles in both sprint and endurance events. Four years ago, he made a difficult decision: He sold his company to pursue driving full time.
“There are two kinds of drivers,” Darling says. “Some people worry about crashing. Others think about being the fastest one through the corner.
They’re missing the part of the brain that says “‘Stop!’ They go for everything, every millisecond of every race.”
He places himself in that risk-taking category. A good driver, he says, needs several attributes, including reflexes and instantaneous decision-making.
“Things come at you beyond quick. You’re a zero or a hero in an instant.”
Endurance is important, too. A race car’s interior can surpass 130 degrees, and endurance races last up to 24 hours.
Those qualities have nothing to do with being gay or straight. But two years ago in Atlanta, while Darling was standing in the winner’s circle after a race, the man he was dating rewarded him with a big kiss.
“Everyone kind of looked at me,” Darling remembers.
It was a surprise to him, but a pleasant one. He heard nothing derogatory, and soon realized the world and his own wheels continued to spin without incident.
When he began a search for national sponsors, he identified himself as a gay race car driver marketing himself as someone who wants to be visible and make a difference. So far, sponsors have not sideswiped each other in a rush to put decals on his car. Big sponsors, Darling believes, worry about losing their customer base.
Darling has one sponsor: Georgie’s Alibi, a Fort Lauderdale gay bar. To succeed at the next level, he needs the big bucks a national sponsor can provide. He is convinced those sponsors exist.
“I know there are companies that want to see a gay professional athlete succeed, and want to be seen as diverse and inclusive by everyone,” he says.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 6, 2007