Ryan Hines grew up a racing fan. He worked at a local speedway through high school and college, and now he’s living his dream working at NASCAR. He’s a coordinator of Xfinity brand content at Stewart-Haas Racing, where his main job is to handle Chase Briscoe’s schedule, media requests, video content and the team’s podcast.

He’s 23 now, but until junior year of high school, Hines was in the closet. He credits reading Outsports as helping him find the confidence to finally come out as gay.

“It was articles on Outsports that gave me the courage to be myself in high school,” Hines tweeted Thursday.

We wondered which ones provided that inspiration, and Hines elaborated in a DM conversation with Outsports.

“The first one I distinctly remember is Connor Mertens,” Hines told Outsports, recalling the place kicker at Willamette University in Oregon, who came out as bisexual to his team in January 2014.

“He had a similar small-town, conservative background that really resonated with me,” said Hines. “I read his letter and it felt like something I could have written myself because it was everything I wanted to say and more. Beyond that, it was really just all the stories that came out around the time I was in high school. They all spoke to me and helped me realize I could be myself and still do what I love. Connor’s was just the very first one I read and I have stayed tuned into Outsports ever since.”

Being gay and living in Pleasant Hill, Ohio, population 1,232 and overwhelmingly conservative, Hines told NBC Sports, he didn’t think his dream could ever become a reality.

“It’s crazy that growing up I never thought I could be gay and work in NASCAR,” Hines said in an episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

“You’re told the stereotype of what racing is, and that fans and people involved aren’t accepting,” he said. “You hear that it’s a ‘redneck’ sport, and you associate Southern redneck roots with homophobia, whether it’s true or not. Now that I’m working in the sport, I see past those stereotypes and generalizations and have come to realize that most people in the sport are average people. They don’t care. They want you to be you. If you are who are to them, they’ll respect you for that.”

“I feel a lot of people who may be gay and have aspirations probably have that same mindset that I had growing up. I think it’s important there are role models for those people. Being an example of this guy is gay and is working in NASCAR and able to be himself and do what he loves to do, people being able to see that and know they can do it, too, is a step in the right direction. Having that representation is important.”

You can read more about Ryan Hines by clicking here and listen to the NASCAR on NBC podcast here.

Don't forget to share: