Nick Boulle is usually something of a man about town. But the dashing 26-year-old completely disappeared from the Dallas social scene recently.
“No one really knew where I was,” Boulle tells PaperCity.
Boulle — the son of Denis and Karen Boulle, the owners of deBoulle, the upscale jewelry mecca with stores on Preston Road in Dallas and the River Oaks District in Houston — was preparing for one of the most prestigious events in auto racing. He did not have time to hang out. Not with the grueling 24 Hours of Daytona calling his name.
The race, now officially called the Rolex 24 at Daytona because of its main sponsor, is just what it sounds like. It’s 24 hours of straight racing waged on the legendary Daytona International Speedway. It’s the first major auto race of the year, and it brings out some of sport’s biggest names.
Even when Boulle told friends he had to get ready for the 24 Hours of Daytona, a lot of them didn’t quite understand.
“A number of people asked me if I was going to watch the race,” Boulle laughs.
The confusion’s somewhat understandable. After all, who jumps right into one of biggest auto races in the world?
Nick Boulle, that’s who. His story is something of a fairytale built on the sweat it takes to drench a race suit, several times over. Boulle gave up auto racing several years ago, frustrated by not being able to raise the mega sponsorship dollars required to fully fund a professional Indy Car team.
There are diamond dollars and then there are race car dollars. It takes millions and millions to power a race car team, with no guarantee you’ll ever see a return.
Boulle could have walked away right into something of a playboy’s life if he so desired. Successful, handsome, charismatic and well connected, Boulle didn’t have to work to keep himself in athletic shape. He didn’t have to take up competitive cycling — and not just take it up, but obsessively train to the point where he turned himself into a two-time Texas state champion.
But he did, and Boulle was ready when opportunity came speeding around the corner.
When top British race car driver Tom Kimber-Smith’s team needed new blood to fill out its roster (the 24-hour race requires four-driver teams), it looked to the rookie from Dallas with a heavy right foot and a steely calm. Having deBoulle Motorsports (along with Vista Del Mar, a luxury condominium project in Florida) as one the main sponsors may get you a chance. But it doesn’t get you in the car.
Nick Boulle still had to prove himself on the track. He did.
“I was surprised,” Boulle says of being selected. “I knew they had several other options to choose from.”
Boulle’s leap into Daytona resulted in a second-place finish in the Prototype Challenge (PC) Class — after 698 laps and 25 pits stops packed into 24 hours over the weekend. If not for a faulty $14 part, the team likely would have won. Endurance racing is not for the faint of heart. Each driver spends about six hours crammed into the car whizzing around the track at speeds as high as 185 MPH and, as Boulle half jokes, “tries not to pee in the car for the other drivers.”
For Boulle, it’s very much a dream come true. Discomfort and all. He started racing go-karts at age 12 and soon jumped to a national circuit, competing against a host of kids bent on being the next Jeff Gordon or Michael Schumacher. Nick Boulle fell in love with auto racing fast. His dad always had loved the sport, and they quickly shared the passion.
At Daytona, one of the biggest thrills for Boulle centered on bringing his dad along for the dream.
“I wouldn’t be here without his support,” Nick Boulle says, speaking on the phone as he heads back from the track to the hotel. “He sort of keeps me calm. There’s a lot of pressure in these surroundings. And he helps keep me in the moment.
“It’s special having him here.”
Boulle’s whole family came along for this ride. His mother and little sister, Emma, also made the trip to Daytona. They’d watch along with 100,000 fans and a Fox Sports I television audience. The driver admits he came into Daytona with “sky-high expectations.” Despite the long layoff, despite the fact he’s a rookie, Boulle believed he could do great things behind the wheel.
Now … well, you might see him at a few more parties again. Or maybe not.
Boulle could slide right back into the social media world (he opened WowBirds, an SEO optimization and marketing company, with a SMU buddy several years ago in his break from racing). Future opportunities in racing could beckon, though. Boulle’s back in, and when this guy gets into something, he tends to go all in.
Take cycling. That started as just a way to keep in shape and maybe channel some of his competitive drive. Before long, he started putting 300 miles a week on the bike. And he turned himself into a state champion. Twice over.
“I ended up going much higher than I ever imagined,” Boulle says of that ride.
Who knows what’s next? Nick Boulle is speeding ahead, racing into the future. You might want to hold those invites.