Profile: Evan Darling
by BOB KECSKEMETY
While most of us were barbequing, swimming and celebrating with friends during Memorial Day weekend, Evan Darling, 42 of Oakland Park was up in Lakeville, CT at Lime Rock Park racing in a Grand Am Continental Challenge road race.
“I’ve always been interested in racing, it’s in my blood. When I was young I was racing Big Wheels and bicycles and anything to go fast. I love the competition, I love to win.”
Darling was born in Andover, Massachusetts to a conservative family and attended Andover High School and Northern Essex Community College. He came out to his family at the age of 18 and admits that growing up gay in a conservative family wasn’t easy, even in Massachusetts. In 1995 there were protests against homosexuals participating in Boston’s Veterans Day Parade. Darling’s father, an attorney, represented the Irish American War Veterans against Boston’s LGBT community. “That was a little rough,” said Darling, “but I came to terms with it.”
Darling’s family was never supportive of him being gay and sent him to a psychologist to cure him of his homosexuality. However, after six weeks of therapy, the doctor determined that Darling was perfectly normal, happy and confident and there was nothing wrong with him … the problem was with his parents.
At 18, Darling moved out of the house and went to New York where he attended Parsons School of Design but shortly later had to drop out because of lack of support from his family. He continued to live in New York for a few more years then moved to Florida in 1988 first to Delray Beach with a friend then to Fort Lauderdale. In 2000 he moved from Florida to North Carolina to continue his racing career where he never hid his homosexuality.
“There aren’t many opportunities in North Carolina for an ‘out’ race car driver,” said Darling. “The company, German Speed Merchants of Wilmington, North Carolina respected me and I still have a great friendship with them.” Darling moved back to Fort Lauderdale in 2008. Darling still occasionally races for German Speed Merchants.
Darling never hid his sexuality from the other drivers but didn’t advertise it either. “I don’t have a big gay flag on my racing suit. My partner at the time always came to the races with me. And they never had an issue with that. However, since I’ve turned pro some of the teams have talked about me behind my back. They’re just pussies, they don’t want to talk to your face. If you ask them if there’s a problem, they say ‘no’, they’re okay with it but then you hear the stories of what they say behind your back. That’s just how it is and I don’t care. I’m happy and comfortable with myself and I think we should all be that way.
Owned by the better-known NASCAR, Darling Races in Grand American, Grand Am Road Racing. Unlike the more circular NASCAR track, Grand Am road racing uses a track with many curves and banks. Road racing is more popular in many countries around the world but in the United States it comes behind football and NASCAR in popularity. NASCAR is now using their marketing machine to increase the popularity of Grand Am. A Grand Am race can last as long as 24 hours long using multiple drivers taking shifts in one car during these endurance races.
The cars themselves are stock
cars which have been modified within the rules. Both Daytona and Sebring in Florida have Grand Am tracks as well as Lime Rock, Connecticut where actor/race car driver, Paul Newman did his racing.
Darling has adopted The Trevor Project as his favorite charity. The Trevor Helpline is the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBT youth. The organization was established in 1998 to coincide with the HBO airing of the award-winning short film hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, Trevor. Trevor was a comedy/drama about a gay 13-year-old boy who, when rejected by friends because of his sexuality, attempts to take his own life.
When Darling became listed in Out Magazine’s “Out 100” list as being a race car driver, he started looking for media programs in California and found out about the Trevor Project. He did some research and reached out to the organization. “A lot of kids take their lives and if they thought they could get some support and guidance, they wouldn’t. The statistics are staggering; so many do it because they are not comfortable with their sexuality.”
With Grand Am races televised on Speedvision, Darling would like to have “Trevor Project” painted on his car. He feels that adding the LGBT demographic to Speedvision’s NASCAR viewership, the audience would be massive and he would be able to make a clear message.
Darling’s racing career has been floundering recently due to lack of sponsorship. He says that little has come from his sports agent in over two years and that he sold his landscape company in order to support his racing career. He realizes that the economy has been difficult but he’s looking for more exposure and to get companies and individuals to support what he’s trying to do. He’s run out of personal funds and can’t manage for much longer but works side jobs to make ends meet. However, with the support of sponsorships, he can continue to carry the message. Both the message of The Trevor Project and the message that a gay man can survive in a very straight sport.
He once answered a cell phone call while racing on the back stretch in Atlanta. The phone started to vibrate and he answered the call by saying, “I’ll call you back.”
His brother, Ryan Darling is the Director for U.S. Senate Relations for the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.
Once while driving at night in Virginia, he had to avoid a deer that ran across the racetrack. Once an elderly lady made a wrong turn on a highway and ended up on the racetrack itself. The race was immediately stopped to get the woman off the track safely.