Stephen Rhodes is on a mission. After being absent from NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition for over ten years, Rhodes looks to find a sponsor and truck ride for the Camping World Truck Series in the 2014 season. If he does accomplish this goal, he not only has a promising future in the sport of auto racing, but will also be returning to the sport as NASCAR’s first openly gay driver.
A few days after watching his interview on Speed TV’s, NASCAR, Race Hub, I was able to talk to the North Carolina native about his career goals, his racing heroes, and more about being the first openly gay driver in the sport of NASCAR.
AFTER MIXED REACTIONS ON TWITTER REGARDING YOUR RACE HUB INTERVIEW, ARE YOU AT ALL SKEPTICAL ABOUT RETURNING TO THE SPORT AS AN OPENLY GAY DRIVER?,
“No, I’m not skeptical about returning to the sport. I have repeated stuff a couple of times. This is how things are, you’re going to have positives, you’re going to have negatives, you’re going to have supporters, you’re going to have haters and I don’t foresee anything being an issue returning.”
IN ONE ARTICLE REGARDING YOUR INTERVIEW, BOTH CARL EDWARDS AND BRAD KESELOWSKI HAVE SAID NASCAR WAS READY FOR AN OPENLY GAY DRIVER IN THEIR SPORT. HOW DID THAT FEEL HEARING THAT COMING FROM VETERANS OF THE SPORT?
“I think it’s awesome! It shows me that there’s support already and it is maybe something that has been on people’s minds that’s going to come up one day, and it kind of makes me feel a little more comfortable with the whole thing.”
ARE YOU MORE EAGER TO GET BACK IN THE SPORT AFTER SEEING NASCAR SCHEDULE RACES AT DIRT TRACKS LIKE ELDORA? AND POSSIBLY MORE FOR THE FUTURE?
“Absolutely! I think last night’s (last Wednesday’s) race was exciting. It brought great media coverage. It brought great crowds for a Wednesday night race, I think ratings were up. In general I think it definitely was exciting to see. I have raced on dirt tracks before so I would love to have the opportunity again.”
WHEN YOU LEFT NASCAR TO OPEN UP YOUR RESTAURANT IN GOLDSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA. DID YOU DO ANY TYPE OF RACING ON THE SIDE, TO KIND OF STAY WITHiN THE SPORT AT ALL?
“It has been probably three years, I am constantly around the sport. I have taken a year off here and there to go to school and stuff. When I was younger I have always gotten back in the seat and picked up where I had left off. I have had so much training since age 8, that the break that I have had I don’t think it is going to affect me as a driver.”
ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT FAIR TO HIDE WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON, IF YOU COULD GO BACK STEPHEN, AND DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. WOULD YOU HIDE WHO YOU ARE INSIDE, AND THE LIFESTYLE YOU LIVE, SO YOU CAN GO ON WITH A MORE NORMAL CAREER IN NASCAR?
“No absolutely not. I have always been comfortable with who I am, I have been out since I was seventeen years old and there has not been a day that I have ever regretted that.”
I UNDERSTAND IF YOU DON’T WANT TO ANSWER THIS, BUT I THOUGHT I WOULD PUT IT UP SINCE I SAW IT LAST NIGHT. ONE TWITTER COMMENT READS: “THAT IF Y’ALL ALLOW A GAY NASCAR DRIVER,” THAT HE IS “DONE WITH THE SPORT.” HE THEN WENT ON TO SAY THAT “DALE EARNHARDT WOULD BE ROLLING IN HIS GRAVE.” HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH CONSERVATIVE MINDED PEOPLE LIKE THAT IN OUR SPORT?
“In response to this person’s comment, Dale Earnhardt was my idol. He is who I looked up to my entire life since I was a kid. The day he passed away I didn’t go to school, I didn’t go to school for two or three days after that. To the person that made the comment I would just say that Dale Earnhardt may have been an inspiration to you but he was also an inspiration to me. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, we have dreams, we have goals and we have people that inspire us. I don’t agree with Dale Earnhardt rolling over in his grave to know that there was a gay driver in this sport. I think that Dale Earnhardt touched so many people’s lives that he would probably be proud to say that, Stephen go for your dreams. I would just say to that fan, I hope they stay in the sport and watch”
ANOTHER COMMENT ACTUALLY CAME FROM SOMEBODY THAT SAID THEY WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH YOU AND SERVED ON YOUR PIT TEAM ONE YEAR, I BELIEVE BACK IN 2000-2002, HE CALLED YOU THE NEXT DALE EARNHARDT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HEARING THAT?
“People that know me and that have worked with me in the past, they know what kind of driver I am. I have had an incredible career, I have a great resume, and I have had articles written that I was the next Jeff Gordon, and this guy saying that I am the next Dale Earnhardt, it puts a smile on my face! I definitely would love to be able to achieve that whether one of those drivers ever achieved. I feel that once I get the opportunity, that I am going to really be able to prove to people that I am good driver and that I can do it.”
IF YOU ARE ABLE TO FUND A TRUCK RIDE FOR THE 2014 SEASON, WHAT WILL BE SOME OF THE GOALS YOU WISH TO ACCOMPLISH IN THAT FIRST YEAR BACK?
“First year back into the sport, I would just like to just reestablish my image coming into the sport as a gay driver. I would like to achieve wins. I shoot for the moon and would love to bring home a championship for my team.”
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT WILL BE POSSIBLE IN 2014?
“Anything in life is possible!”
AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND AND TAKE AWAY FROM READING THIS? IS IT ABOUT MAKING A STATEMENT AS AN ACTIVIST OR DO YOU JUST WANT TO BE ANOTHER ONE OF THE GUYS THAT TURN LEFT?
“Absolutely I’ve said it before. At the end of the day I’m a driver, I’m a racecar driver and I just so happen to be gay. I’m overwhelmed with the support that I’ve seen, like Carl Edwards said, you can be black, white, gay straight. You know, a big man you can be a small man, if you’re a good driver you’re respected in the sport.”
For more on Stephen Rhodes and hunt for a 2014 Camping World Truck Series ride, Please visit www.SRhodesRacing.com or visit him on social media at www.facebook.com/SRhodesRacing and www.twitter.com/SRhodesRacing .