Devon Rouse’s NASCAR career got off to a great start. After coming out last June, he ran at Daytona and was blazing a trail on the track. There seemed to be nothing that could stop him from achieving his motorsports dreams.
Then he needed money. Being a professional race car driver is very expensive, with the top NASCAR teams spending about $400,00 per week at the track. Sponsors typically pay for the exorbitant cost, but it takes a lot of leg work, and exposure, to get those deals done.
Rouse is a 22-year-old kid from Iowa who works a regular desk job, in addition to racing. He’s found the business portion dejecting.
“I don’t have a big history. I don’t have a big name,” he said. “My dad or grandpa weren’t huge in it. I’m working a full-time job in addition to doing this.”
Three weeks ago, Rouse pulled out of The Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway, due to a lack of funds.
“It was so disheartening, because I had such a big uproar after the whole Daytona thing, and then such big hopes coming off that,” he said. “Knowing that the only thing holding me back was not having the money to do it — that was really disheartening.”
Rouse’s next big race is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the Knoxville Raceway slated for July 9, and this week, he decided to ask for help. On Tuesday morning, Rouse sent out the following message to his followers:
Well guys, after months & months of trying to come up with all the funds for these @ARCA_Racing & @NASCAR_Trucks races, it just doesn’t seem to be there for me. wasn’t even pulling for myself, but more my fans and supporters.. nevertheless I’m still digging, just not promising— Devon Rouse (@MrRouse16) April 13, 2021
In the past, some of Rouse’s followers have tagged Marcus Lemonis, the celebrity CEO of Camping World, when responding to his tweets (Camping World is Rouse’s main sponsor). Naturally, they brought Rouse’s latest message to his attention. This time, Lemonis replied.
He privately messaged Rouse and pledged to cover his $25,000 in outstanding costs for the race in Knoxville. Rouse says the exchange was surreal.
“It’s absolutely amazing. I don’t think it’s quite fully hit yet,” he said. “It was such a quick turn of events. It was so much emotion for a couple of hours — the excitement, not knowing whether this is real, and being like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get all of this done,’ and making sure I had everything in line. I can’t come up with the words for it. I’m almost speechless, which is a not a normal thing for me.”
In an email, Lemonis said he wants to help Rouse achieve his racing goals.
“My primary goal in this sport is to help teams, drivers and sponsors knock down the doors that are in front of them,” Lemonis said. “Devon has displayed a relentless pursuit of that. “
I would be glad to give you one shot.. performance matters. You have definitely earned that shot. No handouts here @CampingWorld https://t.co/0sAH9J4UO8— Marcus Lemonis (@marcuslemonis) April 13, 2021
With the Slocum 50 on tap this weekend, Rouse is keeping the pedal to the metal — literally. All he can ask for is a spot on the track. What happens next is up to him.
Rouse determined to make the most of every opportunity, and prove he belongs.
“NASCAR didn’t just come out and pick a random gay person in the world and say, ‘We need you to start driving, because we need diversity on our organization,’” Rouse said. “That just didn’t happen.
“I hope I’m able to perform well at Knoxville, but also have it keep going, so people can see me and my talent and give me a chance.”