For Rajah Caruth, being named the 2021 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award recipient in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series is more than an honor.
The award doubles as a fresh source of motivation for the 19-year-old from Washington, D.C., as he continues his rapid ascent up the stock car racing ladder.
“It’s something I’ve hoped to earn, so to receive it is pretty awesome,” Caruth said of the award, given annually to an outstanding minority or female driver in the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series. “It really motivates me to try harder; to be more focused on doing what I’m supposed to do away from the race track, especially in the offseason. It helps me to remind myself what I need to be doing in order to prepare for next year.”
That preparation will be key for a driver who in 2022 will compete part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series just a few years after his first real-life experience in a race car.
Named after Wendell Scott, who in 1963 became the first African-American driver to win a race in NASCAR’s top national series, the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award is based on a driver‘s final Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national standing as well as on-track performance, sportsmanship and community service. The recipient is selected by a committee as nominated by drivers, crew members and track operators.
Caruth’s third year behind the wheel of a race car provided plenty to warrant both his nomination and selection.
A product of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Development Program, Caruth found success as a rookie in the ARCA Menards Series East this year driving for Max Siegel’s Rev Racing operation; he finished third in points with a pair of top fives and five top 10s in eight races. Caruth attributes much of that success to what he learned wheeling late models in the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.
“I had a couple cool moments; just moments when things clicked for me,” Caruth explained. “The things I’ve been coached on and talked to about from people at Rev and outside of Rev. To finally understand what some of them were saying. To be able to apply it was awesome.”
Caruth specifically referenced his experience competing in the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series at Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, North Carolina. He said Hickory was where he was able to practice and eventually perfect the proper passing technique, a skill he was able to apply to his efforts on the ARCA Menards platform.
And it’s no coincidence that both of Caruth’s Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series victories in 2021 came at Hickory.
“I learned so much,” he said. “I had a couple cool moments at Hickory, personally. Not even the wins. Just learning the race car and learning some things about race craft.”
Including those two wins, Caruth in 2021 notched six top fives and eight top 10s in 12 Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series starts. Beyond Hickory, the NASCAR-sanctioned tracks at which he competed included South Boston Speedway, Florence Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
Caruth’s success at both the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series level and the ARCA Menards level exemplifies his driving talent. Still, his rise in the sport has been a surprise even to the driver himself.
Caruth was born in Atlanta and raised in D.C., where he lived when he attended his first NASCAR Cup Series race at nearby Richmond Raceway in 2014. It was then when the Caribbean-American decided he wanted to pursue a career as a driver. That journey began with video games and online sim racing, and in 2018, Caruth competed in his first professional iRacing Series. He finished 20th in eNASCAR Ignite Series points.
After he joined NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Development Program and Rev Racing, Caruth’s first real-life racing experience came in 2019. He finished 13th in Bojangles Summer Shootout (Legends Cars) at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 2020, he won his first Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series race at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Easley, South Carolina. He also improved to sixth in the Summer Shootout standings.
This led to the ARCA Menards opportunity on which Caruth capitalized in 2021. And he has parlayed that success into a busier racing schedule. Both Caruth and Rev Racing teammate Nick Sanchez will run full time in the ARCA Menards Series (national) in 2022. Both will run part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series schedules, too.
Sanchez, of course, is the 2019 recipient of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award. He finished third in ARCA Menards Series points in 2021 on the strength of a victory and nine top fives in 18 starts. Caruth can look to his friend within Rev Racing for an example of how his own career could continue to progress.
A sophomore pursuing a major in motorsports management at Winston-Salem State University while living in nearby Concord, North Carolina, Caruth hopes to keep Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series events on his racing schedule for 2022. He would like to run some dirt and additional road-course races, as well.
At this point in his development, he wants to leave no lessons behind the wheel unlearned.
Yes, Caruth’s career has skyrocketed to the point where he is no longer far from his ultimate goal of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, one level up from Xfinity. But he understands the value of patience.
“With how fast everything has gone, I’ve been able to slow down and not really be focused on rushing,” Caruth said. “Fortunately, I’m only 19, so if I do what I’m supposed to do, I can have a long career in this. Just not rushing it; making sure everything we do, we do it the right way.”
So far so good, as proven by the honor that is the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award.