Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Gay race-car driver Zach Herrin on industry, historic partnership with Lambda Legal
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 3312 times since Sun Feb 26, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

NASCAR driver Zach Herrin has announced a partnership with Lambda Legal, a national organization aimed at achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people and everyone living with HIV through litigation and public advocacy.

Adding to the significance of this historic partnership is the fact that Herrin is one of the few openly gay drivers on the NASCAR circuit.

The partnership recently debuted during the weekend of the Daytona 500 (Feb. 18-19) that took place in Florida—a state that has several anti-LGBTQ+ statutes (including the so-called "Don't Say Gay" Law) that Gov. Ron DeSantis has backed.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Windy City Times: So the Daytona 500 took place last weekend. What role did you play? Did you drive in the main race?

Zach Herrin: So I race in NASCAR's ARCA [Automobile Racing Club of America] Menards series [stock-car racing]. So under NASCAR's brand banner, you have the Cup series, which includes the Daytona 500; the NASCAR Xfinity series; the NASCAR Truck series; and the NASCAR ARCA Menards series. We are a new developmental series that NASCAR recently purchased about two years ago; it's for younger drivers like myself who are looking to break into the [upper tier].

It was a great time for someone like myself to be part of the Daytona 500 weekend. It's a massive event from Wednesday through Sunday, with huge fan attendance. Our race actually took place on Saturday [Feb. 18]; our race was 300 miles less than the Daytona 500 but we still did 200 miles, running 80 laps. It was a hot, long one.

WCT: You left the world of racing for a decade and recently returned. Why did you leave, and what compelled you to come back?

ZH: What brought me to make my professional debut at 16 was that my life had been so sped up at that point. It was a hobby that turned into a dream and a career for my family; I have an older brother [Josh Herrin] who has gone on to have a massively successful career in professional superbike racing.

I never had the opportunity to focus on my mental health and this part of my identity that I always felt was there. But growing up in this industry, I never found someone that I could connect or identify with. It's a very challenging industry, and it's very difficult for people of [different] sexual orientations or gender identities as well as people of color to find representation in [it].

And I was already having issues, as I was just breaking into my professional career. Ultimately, I just said, "I'm done with this. I just need to step back and focus on me and who I am before I can find my internal happiness again and go down this career path." Through that period, I was able to grow with this identity that was always there and led me to coming out to my family and friends.

Now, I've been able to grow into this person. I know how I want to be perceived and express myself as a gay man in today's world. But another part of me—being an athlete—was missing again. In December 2021, I said on social platforms, "This is who I am and I'm going to chase my dream. I'm going to put it all together and I don't know how—but we're going to figure it out together."

WCT: You mentioned that this industry can be rough.

ZH: What separates motorsports from your standard stick-and-ball sports is that we have such a small niche of people to begin with; to find acceptance in this industry is one of the challenges we face. And there really hadn't been anyone else before me doing this, so I'm creating a space for myself and LGBTQ fans; it's making an impact, even though it may be small. [Writer's note: Stephen Rhodes was acknowledged to be the first openly gay NASCAR driver when he debuted in 2003, but there have been very few LGBTQ+ drivers.]

NASCAR has reached out to me, asking, "How can we help you? How can we grow in the right direction together?"

WCT: Tell me how the partnership with Lambda Legal happened.

ZH: I'll be very honest: Partnerships and sponsorships are extremely important in our sport, and it's a very expensive sport. It can't be done unless you have family funding to get you to this point. It's just not feasible.

So someone like me is always striving to find brands that are willing to support an out athlete in today's America. To many, marketing to the LGBTQ+ community is only relevant one month out of the year and everything is put in the closet until it's trendy to make sale dollars.

I reached out to Lambda Legal because I know what it does for our community. I saw a good opportunity, specifically with this race taking place in Florida. The "Don't Say Gay" bill is being replicated across the country and it's a very challenging time for LGBTQ+ people—especially youth. As one who felt silenced—especially in a sport I love so much—I was wondering, "How can I help out here?" I want to help LGBTQ+ youth chase the dreams they want.

WCT: Where do you see the Lambda Legal partnership going?

ZH: What we want to do is really drive this message across the country. We're kind of at a standing point right now with my on-track schedule. In the best situation, I secure additional partnerships and funding to have the schedule that we want together. I'll be going to locations across the country that are challenging our community, like Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio and Arizona. We're going to be bringing the fight directly to them if we're able.

WCT: If you could talk with Gov. DeSantis, what would you say to him?

ZH: That's a good question. I think the right answer for me, with my career path, is that I'm trying to not create a political divide. I know where a lot of the current fan base would stand. I'm trying to paint the prettiest picture to say what I'm here to do but, respectfully, I'll just agree to disagree with their statements and beliefs.

I know I'm creating change. There's some discomfort but there's also new comfort coming into this sport because of it. Once there's a more solid platform for me to amplify my message, we'll continue pushing. We're doing what we can.

WCT: Also, please talk about your involvement with [the LGBTQ+ motorsport organization] Racing Pride.

ZH: Racing Pride is based in the UK and, last year, it expanded into North America. They see a lot more inclusivity and presence among motor sports in Europe. Their efforts to expand here were to help, in any way possible, a more inclusive spot in North America. We're trying to see how we can make that work; we have to work with the series to continue pushing the envelope here. We do have some pretty exciting things lined up with Racing Pride.

WCT: You mentioned youth earlier. What's your advice to that younger LGBTQ+ person who may want to get involved in race-car driver or other motorsports?

ZH: First and foremost, they need to remove the thoughts that they're in a box; the box is broken now. Go beyond it. Your dreams are limitless; all it takes is hard, relentless work. It's eventually going to happen.

I think as we see motorsports continue to grow with this new generation—a more diverse generation—I think it's going to be more accessible. I think LGBTQ+ youth will be in a better place but we're going to continue fighting for them.

More information on Lambda Legal is at .

This article shared 3312 times since Sun Feb 26, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Megan Rapinoe receives send-off in last international match
Lesbian soccer icon Megan Rapinoe received a triumphant send-off in her last international match, and the United States beat South Africa 2-0 at Chicago's Soldier Field on Sept. 24, per ABC News. Trinity Rodman and Emily ...

Gay News

Chicago Red Stars exercise option for goalie Alyssa Naeher
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Sept. 20, 2023) — The Chicago Red Stars has exercised the contract option for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for 2024. Naeher joined the Chicago Red Stars in 2016 from former National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club, ...

Gay News

Chicago Sky swept by Las Vegas Aces; Sky's season ends
The defending WNBA champions the Las Vegas Aces continue to roll—at the Chicago Sky's expense. On Sept. 17, the Aces defeated the Sky 92-70 in Vegas to end Chicago's season and move into the WNBA semifinals. ...

Gay News

Chicago Red Stars tie Angel City in front of large crowd
After staging a second-half comeback, the Chicago Red Stars split points with Angel City FC in a 2-2 draw. Ava Cook and Cheyna Matthews scored goals for Chicago. Cook's second-half goal was the forward's third against ...

Gay News

Pritzker and Brady-Davis honored at Planned Parenthood gala
On the evening of Sept. 14, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) and Planned Parenthood Illinois Action PAC (PPIA PAC) organizations presented their annual Fighting Forward Gala fundraiser. The event shone ...

Gay News

Mets honor lesbian baseball icon Maybelle Blair
On Sept. 14 at NYC's Citi Field, the New York Mets recognized the life work of lesbian baseball pioneer Maybelle Blair, 96, with the inaugural Amazin' Mets Foundation Legacy Award, according to a Major League Baseball ...

Gay News

Chicago Sky routed in playoff opener
In Las Vegas on Sept. 13, the top-seeded and defending champion Aces had little problem with the number-eight seed Chicago Sky in the playoff opener for both, with Las Vegas prevailing 87-59, per ESPN. On the ...

Gay News

Red Stars forward Cheyna Matthews selected to Jamaican Women's National Team
Chicago Red Stars forward Cheyna Matthews selected to Jamaican Women's National Team CHICAGO (Sept. 14, 2023) — Chicago Red Stars forward, Cheyna Matthews, was selected to join the Jamaican Women's National Team for the team's Ol ...

Gay News

SAG-AFTRA and WGA join GLAAD in releasing Studio 11th Responsibility Index
--From a press release - Hollywood—Sept. 14, 2023 — GLAAD released its annual Studio Responsibility Index in a joint press event in Hollywood alongside the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio ...

Gay News

Univ. of Alabama condemns fans' racist, anti-gay slurs
The University of Alabama condemned its fans' behavior after they were heard shouting racist and homophobic slurs at three Texas Longhorn players during the football teams' Sept. 9 clash, ABC News reported. In a video that ...

Gay News

HRC to host Chicago dinner, auction to support response to national state of LGBTQ+ emergency
--From a press release - Chicago, IL. - September 8th - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Chicago Steering Committee is proud to host its Annual - Human Rights Campaign Chicago Fundraising Dinner and Auction!! The Dinner and Auction will be held ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ media welcome Press Forward nat'l media funds for local news innovation, survival
--From a press release - [CHICAGO] – Members of News Is Out, a collaborative of six legacy LGBTQ+ media organizations, have expressed support and excitement about the newly announced national Press Forward effort to support local media in the United States. ...

Gay News

AIDS Run & Walk Chicago 2023 to draw thousands to Soldier Field on Sept. 30
The AIDS Run & Walk Chicago returns to Chicago's Soldier Field on Saturday, Sept. 30 to help create equity and justice across Chicagoland and raise awareness and funds for individuals who are living with or vulnerable ...

Gay News

'Merchant of Death' talks about exchange with Brittney Griner
Russian Viktor Bout—the so-called "merchant of death" involved in a prisoner exchange for out WNBA star Brittney Griner late last year—told ESPN that, among other things, he followed Griner's case closely from federal prison in Illinois. ...

Gay News

Chicago Sky in playoffs for fifth straight time
Despite having a losing record (17-22), the Chicago Sky are in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive time. Kahleah Copper scored 20 points, Marina Mabrey added 19 and the Chicago Sky clinched the last playoff spot ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.