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Rajah Caruth learning on and off the track in NASCAR journey

Rajah Caruth learning on and off the track in NASCAR journey
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rajah Caruth during qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BVM) – Full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rajah Caruth knows the challenges he faces every time he gets behind the wheel of his No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado. With the majority of his competitors dialed into the scene from a young age, Caruth has had to overcome his own inexperience.

Not even in racing for five years, the 20-year-old has only been at the helm of a real race car since 2019. With his introduction to the sport coming on a virtual track, Caruth has had to come a long way.

“The way I see it is, I’m always going to be behind in experience,” Caruth shares. “I’ll always be behind in time being in racing and behind even in talent in some areas. But, I have to make up for it in my work ethic and my passion in the little things that I do to be excellent.”

Rajah Caruth NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rajah Caruth during qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

With parents that come from outside the racing world, Caruth would find his original introduction to racing from the Disney movie “Cars.” The following years, Caruth would fully ingrain himself into NASCAR as he aimed for a chance of his own on the track. Without a perfect path to follow, Caruth determined his best chance would come virtually on IRacing, a racing simulation video game, where he could join NASCAR’s Ignite Series. 

Caruth would fundraise around $2,000 for a racing simulator rig that could help him work his way through the youth online event. With a 20th overall finish in the series, Caruth would use the result as the center of his application for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. After receiving the next steps following his application, he would be accepted into the program where he could officially get his chance in a real race car. 

The Washington, D.C native has taken things up a notch since getting his initial chance on the real-life track over the last few years, featuring as a full-time national series driver for the first time in 2023. This campaign, the GMS Racing driver has completed 12 races with one top-10 finish and two just right outside. 

“The technical stuff and the actual driving stuff is not entirely different,” Caruth says of the difference in the jump over. “In some places, it’s spot on and in other places, I’d give it like a C-plus. I’d say the thing I’m able to take and really work on from both, and really struggle with a bit, is being aware of driving – to where I’m not allowing the emotion to affect my decision making whether that be a sense of urgency or being frustrated or getting happy and losing focus.”

Rajah Caruth Wendell Scott
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rajah Caruth during qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

As one of two full-time Black drivers in the racing scene, Caruth has a deep knowledge of some of the drivers that have come before him, growing up doing projects on Wendell Scott – the first African-American driver to win a race at NASCAR’s top level – at every level of education he could. That’s what’s made his 2023 sponsor so special.

After winning the Wendell Scott 2021 Trailblazer Award, which honors a young minority or female driver who is breaking barriers, Caruth was able to form a relationship with the Scott family as they helped him overcome his earliest struggles in NASCAR with getting sponsors. 

With the help of Wendell’s grandson, Warrick, who founded the Wendell Scott Foundation, Caruth has been able to feature the foundation on his truck throughout 2023.

“Definitely, even at a friendship, almost familial level,” Caruth said when asked if his relationship with the family has grown. “Really in the last year and some change. It’s been pretty special.

“I’ve always known about the history of the Scott family and the legacy of the Scott name in the world of NASCAR. Since I was in late elementary school, middle school, high school, any chance I had to do history projects, I’d do it on Wendell Scott and his family.”

Rajah Caruth Winston-Salem State University
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Rajah Caruth (44) puts in his ear phones prior to the start of the Alsco Uniforms 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

While Caruth still figures out all that comes with being a full-time driver, he continues to balance a lifestyle that also comes with being a full-time student at Winston-Salem State University. He’s been appreciative of the support the school has offered in his endeavors, even recently sporting a WSSU paint scheme during his Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It hasn’t been a cakewalk,” Caruth said. “Sometimes it’s been great, other times it’s been a big struggle just how much time everything requires. It’s put an emphasis on putting priorities to everything but it’s been really hard a lot of times. It’ll be worth it when I’m done next year. It ain’t easy and luckily [WSSU] is very understanding and helps me out in not just my academic pursuits, but elsewhere.”

Caruth will be part of a select group that have completed a degree while in the sport, alongside notable drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Ryan Newman, Brendan Gaughan, Austin Dillon and William Byron. Attending college was always a priority for Caruth, whose dad is a current professor at Howard University and has been supportive in his path through racing. With a strong tie to HBCUs, Caruth’s decision was an easy one, he says.

“I have a lot of family and friends that went to Florida A&M, Hampton, Spellman, Morehouse, Tuskegee,” Caruth said of the importance of HBCUs to him. “Extremely historical and important HBCUs, so it was not a question at all where I was going to go to school.”

Rajah Caruth GMS Racing
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rajah Caruth during qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

With his summer break now underway, Caruth can go back to focusing on the track as his full priority. The “up-and-down” year has given him plenty to reflect on as he garners new experiences every time he gets in the car. He has a lot of people to thank in his journey so far, from his No. 24 team, to the people in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, to even drivers like Bubba Wallace, Corey Lajoie, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson. 

With his focus clear on what it will take to keep moving up the ranks, Caruth seems primed to be a part of the next generation of drivers. His work on the track, and even his growing social media presence off of it, currently run by his sister, all are working towards his end goal of making it to the Cup Series.

“I have a lot of winning to do that I’ve not done yet,” Caruth said. “I’ve got a long way to go, a lot of developing to do as a driver and as a young man to do in the next little bit but I’m going to do whatever it takes to continue that.”