Gay auto racer Zach Herrin is going to accomplish one of his life goals this weekend. For the first time, the lifelong racer will compete in a NASCAR ARCA series event.
It’s a journey that began when Herrin first learned how to ride bikes at four years old. He grew up in a racing family on the West Coast; but soon moved to Atlanta, so he could be in the heart of NASCAR country.
Herrin, 26, started racing professionally at 16, and his first pro race took place at Dayonta. It was quite the symbol.
But then Herrin stopped. The boy who literally grew up with a race track in his backyard walked away from the sport that always defined him so he could discover himself.
When Herrin touches down at the Phoenix Raceway Friday, he’ll be doing so as an out gay man.
It’s an incredible feeling.
“I know I have a lot of eyes on me, and all I want to do is get out there and blur everything out so I can have a great debut race,” Herrin told Outsports. “Everyone’s debut races are ones that tend to stick around a little bit for drivers. For me, I just want to get out there and let my talent shine and actually show I am deserving to be there, and all of this work is paying off.”
The race marks the end of the 2022 ARCA Menards Series West season, allowing Herrin to end his year on a high note. After several years away, he started racing more regularly in 2020, and traveled to Daytona International Speedway for some pre-season testing in mid-January.
The event is an opportunity for drivers to get back into the seat after a long winter hiatus. But for Herrin, it was a chance to start anew.
The problem is, he needed sponsors to complete his rebirth. Herrin has spent the bulk of 2022 courting potential partners, and finally, he’s found them.
He’s proud to showcase logos for “Rebuy Engine” and “Quick Quack Car Wash” on his car this weekend.
“They saw my passion to try and get out on the track, and to engage in the LGBTQ+ community as well,” said Herrin.
We’ve written extensively over the last couple of years about the rainbow wave that’s hit auto racing, historically viewed as one of America’s most conservative sports.
Earlier this year, I profiled Travis Shumake, an out gay drag racer who’s sponsored by Grindr. Out driver Devon Rouse has been chasing his NASCAR dreams as well.
For Herrin, the message he’s sending means more than where he’ll finish. He’s hosting a charity event in Phoenix before the ARCA race, with proceeds going to Phoenix Pride.
After spending the bulk of his life in the shadows, Herrin is ready to be visible for his community. In addition to his charitable work, he’s started engaging with the LGBTQ community in his hometown of Greenville, S.C.
“It’s been great, but I also kind of feel selfish that I haven’t been involved in the years past,” he said. “I feel like I always should’ve been there and built these relationships throughout the years. But now that I’m taking advantage of it, and helping where I can, I feel like I’m making up for time lost.”