Rajah Caruth finds victory lane as NASCAR profile grows

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rajah Caruth arrives at the 2024 iNASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The 21-year-old student at Winston-Salem State has cracked into NASCAR’s national-level series racing and on Friday, March 1, 2024, won the Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

By Edward G. Robinson III,
AFRO Contributing Sports Editor,
erobinson@afro.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Rajah Caruth walked beside the pit row wall at Martinsville Speedway on April 5 with orange and yellow tape rolls around his wrist. He placed slashes of tape as distance markers that he would use later on that night as he competed in the Long John Silver’s 200.

Casual in a black hoodie, tan cargo pants, black Jordan 4s and black sunglasses, the 21-year-old walked along the track and snapped a few photos, taking notes about the challenging oval course. 

“I’m that detailed about everything,”  said Caruth, a graduate of School Without Walls High School. “It’s the one thing I care about the most – besides  family.” 

It was Caruth’s family who introduced a then 12-year-old to the sport of racing with a surprise trip to a NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway. Soon, he was racing virtually and competing in iRacing. By the time he turned 16, he was racing in the eNASCAR IGNITE Series. 

Amazingly, the Atlanta-born and Washington, D.C.-raised Caruth has turned iRacing into full-time, professional on-track racing. On March 1, he collected the checkered flag at the 2024 Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200, becoming the third Black driver to win one of NASCAR’s three national series, along with Hall of Famer Wendell Scott and Bubba Wallace.

He competes in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where he drives the No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado for Spire Motorsports.

Caruth’s talent has been on display for years. Observers have marveled at the kid who started driving much later than his peers yet has displayed a natural knack for the sport. He worked through the stages, making his name as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program.

His recent victory has only solidified him as one of the sport’s young drivers to watch and reinforced Spire Motorsports’ decision to add him to their race team this season.  

At Martinsville Speedway, Caruth battled for much of the race, finishing seventh after starting in position No. 16. He has five top-10 finishes this season after completing seven of 23 races. 

His public profile has risen, too. Fans approached for autographs. Others requested pictures. Caruth handled the press like a rock star. 

Rajah Caruth, center, interacts with his pit crew and chief Chad Walter, right. The 21 year-old competes in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where he drives the No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado for Spire Motorsports. In March, he won the 2024 Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200, becoming the third Black driver to win one of NASCAR’s three national series, along with Hall of Famer Wendell Scott and Bubba Wallace. (Photo by Edward G. Robinson III)

Andy Gee, senior director of partnerships at Spire Motors, said he admires Caruth’s work ethic. His team recently called on the young driver to shoot a television commercial. Other requests come in daily. 

Despite a full racing schedule, Caruth is a full-time student at Winston-Salem State University, where he is studying for a degree in motor sports management.

“He’s a very impressive young man,” Gee said. “He’s shouldering a lot and taking it all in stride.”

Caruth credits his parents.

“It’s nothing super special,” he said. “It’s not anything that I have to try hard to do—thankfully. It’s how I was raised and who I am as a person…. I feel I have that same demeanor for everything I do.” 

So does driving come easy?

“Yes,” he said. “But to elevate my level? No. Driving is fun. … But to get better, it’s not easy. It’s not easy because I didn’t grow up doing it. … I don’t feel out of place. I don’t feel uncomfortable. It feels natural. But it’s not easy.”

A young Caruth watched the movie “Cars” and saw the toys in stores. He watched races on YouTube. After that first trip to the raceway, he was hooked.

“You always hope,” he said. “This is the thing you see on TV. You hope for it. You dream of it. But you never know what the journey’s going to be. I certainly hoped to get to this level.”

Caruth shared those dreams with friend Garrison Hogan, of Milledgeville, Ga., who raced competitively with him in iRacing. 

“Now, it’s everything that he talked about at 18 years old,” Hogan said while visiting his friend in Virginia. “I’m just happy for him. Honestly. To see him live out his dreams and keep pushing. He’s going to make waves. He’s going to do a lot of big things.”

Roger Caruth, the elder, snacked on pistachios as he watched the swarm around his son as he stood near the pit road during a midday practice run. Pit crew members scurried, and the son, dressed in a blue flame retardant suit, listened on headphones to his crew chief. 

Trucks, whipping around the track, revved and sputtered. There was a chill in the air. Caruth breathed it all in, taking mental notes of it all. 

Then it was his turn to drive. 

“Unprecedented,” Roger Caruth said. “You can’t write a story like this. You just have to live in the moment.”

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