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Meet the Ohioan making motorsports more inclusive

Brandon Adkins, a man in dark sunglasses and a black tee, stands in front of reflective windows.
Adkins Speed Center
Brandon Adkins says he wants to welcome more LGBTQ+ racers into the world of motorsports.

Brandon Adkins comes from a go-karting dynasty, spanning half a century. He quite literally grew up on a racetrack in rural Tuscarawas County. And he learned from the best: his grandfather, his father and his uncle all raced.

So, it was no surprise when, in 2019, he took home first prize in a grand national go-karting championship. But it was historic: he’s the only openly gay man to do so, as first reported by the Buckeye Flame.

Now, Adkins is using his family business, the Adkins Speed Center in Port Washington, to bring more people from the LGBTQ community into the world of motorsports.

He joined the Ohio Newsroom to share his story.

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

On continuing his family’s racing legacy

“It was actually very difficult at times, just to kind of keep up and live up to that name and that expectation. Growing up and winning races and keeping the name and the tradition going. It definitely, it just warms your heart. But at that time, I didn't know who I was or what I really wanted and who I expected myself to be. And it took a lot longer than I should have had to find myself.”

Go-kart racers line up along the track at the Adkins Speed Center in Port Washington.
Adkins Speed Center
Go-kart racers line up along the track at the Adkins Speed Center in Port Washington.

On coming out to his community

“I came out shortly before taking over the business. It was so crazy supportive and everybody was like gung ho, ‘We're going to support you,’ … And we show up and it's like, ‘Here's my partner Jamie. We're going to be taking over the business.’ And it was poof. Everybody was gone, basically.”

“So it was hard. It was sometimes gut-wrenching moments of ‘Why are we doing this?’... I looked at it as like, I'm not giving up on something that I've always wanted to do, and I've always been waiting for my whole life just because of who I am. And now, matter of fact, because it's such a problem with everybody, I'm going to make it my mission to make it not a problem.”

On the barriers to LGBTQ participation in motorsports

Adkins Speed Center in Port Washington boasts a pride flag alongside its track.
Adkins Speed Center
Adkins Speed Center in Port Washington boasts a pride flag alongside its track.

“I think it's just tradition. You know, everything is just passed down for so long and everybody is just so set in their ways. And it's just a lot of closed-mindedness. But the cool thing is, when the helmet goes on and you're in the go-kart, nobody can say or do anything: you're a racer. So it doesn't matter what you are or what you look like or how you act off the track when you're in the go-kart, it is what it is.”

On promoting inclusivity

“At the end of the day, our facility is 100% a safe space, no matter what it's for. Even if you just need to get away for a day, we don't put up with nothing, you know? For us to just fly the flag here at our property, to have a little bit of rainbow color on our team carts when we show up at the races, we are very different. And, we are making a stand.”

“I want to see way more people in the industry a part of the LGBTQ community. If it's only one or two by the time I'm done, then I accomplished something because again, there was nothing. There was nobody. Until now.”

Kendall Crawford is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently worked as a reporter at Iowa Public Radio.