NASCAR driver Colin Garrett and Iowa National Guardsman Spc. Aniekanabasi “Basi” White have a unique tradeoff going.
After clinching the TCX class championship at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway in September, Garrett is promoting White’s company called Sensiil Studios, Iowa’s first Black-owned comic production company. White, meanwhile, is featuring Garrett, a 23-year-old Virginian well-known for his support of the military community, as a character in Sensiil’s next graphic novel.
“Sometimes things just click,” said White, a religious affairs specialist from the 334th Brigade Support Battalion in Cedar Rapids. “We’re just two young dudes doing what we love, and now we get to do it together.”
It’s a relationship that started when White decided at the last minute to enter the inaugural 11/11 Veteran Project Pitch Competition at the Iowa Veterans Entrepreneurship Conference in June. The competition was a project of 11/11 Veteran Project, Garrett’s “for-a-purpose for-profit” company that helps businesses reach strategic business goals while promoting and supporting organizations supporting the military community.
When White found out about the contest, it was already full. He attended anyway — and someone dropped out. The guardsman took their spot and impressed the judges with samples of his comic books and vision for bringing more diversity into Iowa’s publishing scene.
“A lesson I learned in the Army is to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” White said. “It was kind of me telling God, ‘Yo, if this is something you want me to be involved in, you’re going to make it happen, OK?’”
It did happen, culminating in an Indianapolis race weekend in early October where White got to be front and center as Garrett prepared and raced. The two even got to go axe-throwing together in their downtime.
“Basi stood out to us at the pitch competition, and it’s been super-cool to see the progress of the comic book he’s making,” said Garrett. “This weekend, I actually got to see close up the finished product, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this relationship will grow into.”
Fast lane future
White, an admitted racecar rookie, said the entire weekend was not only fun but informative.
“I’m a nerd, and one of the first things I told Colin’s dad Ryan when we met is that Black folks don’t really watch racing,” he said. “But then he showed me this app that has Colin’s stats as he races around the track, and I ended up getting super-hyped up like I had been watching racing my whole life.”
Sensiil will release “Regicide: Havoc” featuring Garrett this autumn. The company got its birth in 2022 and has been “going swimmingly,” according to its founder. From appearances in media outlets, farmers markets and comic-cons, “It’s just been one opportunity and blessing after the next,” White said.
He credits part of that success to his National Guard training, often writing action comics with some type of military theme.
“Being able to bring that voice to soldiers and military personnel, I know what they go through,” White said. “I feel like writing comic books is a really good way to have veteran voices heard.”
Garrett is just happy to lend a megaphone however he can. Besides Sensiil Studios, his racecar has also featured the logo of Young G’s Barbecue Sauce, a food company founded by Army veteran Gerald Young, the other winner of the 11/11 Veteran Project Pitch Competition.
“We’re trying to create as many opportunities for as many veterans as possible,” said Garrett, a brother to two military members. “And doing this graphic novel should help our cause tremendously.”
To that end, Garrett’s 11/11 Veteran Project plans to keep partnering with White and Sensiil with an upcoming crowdfunder to cover printing costs. Plus, that way they can raise even more funds to promote other veteran-owned companies through Garrett’s racing next year.
“It’s really all in God’s hands,” White said. “I’m just being a nerd and having fun.”