When Rajah Caruth makes his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway, his blossoming racing career will have come full circle.
Richmond was the track where the Washington, D.C., native attended his first NASCAR race, an Xfinity Series event in 2014. A then-12-year-old Caruth decided that day he would make motorsports his life’s work.
In 2022, now 19, Caruth returns to the famed 0.75-mile oval as a competitor. He does so just a few years after driving a race car for the first time.
Caruth, the 2021 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award recipient as a result of his accomplishments last year in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, races full-time in the ARCA Menards Series for Rev Racing. His Xfinity Series debut arrives with Alpha Prime Racing, a new team founded earlier this year by NASCAR veterans Caesar Bacarella and Tommy Joe Martins. Caruth, their first driver signee, is slated for six Xfinity Series races in 2022.
Caruth’s remarkably rapid ascent to this level technically began in 2019, his first year competing in Legends Cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Development program. But Caruth’s journey can be tracked back to an earlier date, before real-life racing and even before the online simulation racing that put him on the motorsports map.
Below are the notable moments on Caruth’s racing timeline, and his recollection of each as explained to NASCAR.com.
Rajah Caruth’s racing timeline
2014: A 12-year-old Caruth attends a NASCAR race for the first time, the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 for what was then the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Richmond Raceway.
Rajah’s recollection: “I was a die-hard (NASCAR fan) before then, but I think that race, seeing everything, it emphasized it. As a kid, you don’t think about having to have a job. Sometimes you know what you want to do, but you don’t understand you’ve got to work. From day forward, it was like, ‘OK, this is what I want my life’s work to be.’ I still obviously wanted to be a race-car driver. But that day, it was like, ‘OK, this is my purpose.'”
2018: Caruth races professionally (online) for the first time in the eNASCAR Ignite Series; he finishes 20th in points.
Rajah’s recollection: “That summer, I had gotten on iRacing on June 11, on my 16th birthday. The Ignite Series started on the 18th. And those first two weeks I wasn’t that good, but I spent more and more time on it and got better and better. And actually, during that summer, I not only had my second-ever summer job, but I also had track practice three times a week. Work every day, track three times a week. When I wasn’t doing those things, I was on my rig. I say rig, but it was literally a wheel on the desk with my laptop.”
2019: Having signed with Rev Racing as the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development driver with a majority iRacing background, Caruth competes in a real race car for the first time; he finishes 13th racing Legends Cars in the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Rajah’s recollection: “It was just hard. I didn’t know what to expect. I had only been on iRacing for one year. I was very inexperienced, so I had no clue what was going on. I was pretty hard on myself. I expected myself to go out and win, but realistically that wasn’t going to happen. It was hard, but things started clicking kind of a year later.”
November 2019: Caruth is selected to race a Late Model in 2020 for Rev Racing in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.
Rajah’s recollection: “I was actually going to my school’s girl’s soccer championship against our rival school. We were taking the Metro train to their campus to go and watch. I got the text that was like, ‘Hey, you got picked for a Late Model program.’ I was awestruck. In addition, that night, my parents took me out to dinner to tell me the news, as well. It was all kind of at once. It was awesome. So surreal, to be honest with you.”
Sept. 4. 2020: Caruth drives from eighth to second in the “Prelude To The Southern 500” 100-lap Late Model Stock car race at South Carolina’s Florence Motor Speedway, a moment he considers a turning point in his career.
Rajah’s recollection: “The night before, my teammate, Perry Patino, gave me this pep talk, like, ‘Man, you have what it takes.’ I was just like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ Didn’t give it any merit. Then I pass all my teammates and go and try to run down (leader) Sam Yarbrough, who had won the last race ever at Myrtle Beach the weekend before that. That race was an eye-opener for me, because I really questioned myself, and then I go and run pretty decently. It was surreal, because I was just like, ‘Wow, how did that just happen?’ And so there was that race when things started clicking. Later that summer, that’s when the racing stuff really started to kick in for me as a driver. From that point onward, I haven’t really sucked.”
Oct. 3, 2020: Caruth wins his first Late Model race, at South Carolina’s Greenville-Pickens Speedway as part of the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.
Rajah’s recollection: “Honestly, I really wish I remembered more. I was so caught up in it, I didn’t really take a chance to sit and enjoy it. It was a very fun day — I remember that. But I don’t remember too much of it, to be honest with you.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) October 4, 2020
2021: Caruth runs full-time in the ARCA Menards Series East for Rev Racing and places third in final standings on the strength of two top fives and five top 10s in eight starts. He also picks up a pair of NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series wins in a Late Model at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway, plus a victory at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina.
Rajah’s recollection: “Last year was big. It helped me with confidence getting those Late Model wins — legit wins. Going to the ARCA stuff, I was hoping I would win one race, but to finish third a couple times and run up front, you can’t really asked for more. So to be honest it was just a big year, a big development year. I wanted to win an ARCA race so bad. But I understand you have to run up front to finish up front. It takes seat time and being able to adapt and comprehend. That was a big learning year.”
Oct. 2, 2021: Caruth finishes third in the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 for the ARCA Menards Series at Indiana’s Salem Speedway, his career high in the national touring series.
Rajah’s recollection: “That was a struggle in practice. I was last out of the competitive cars. It was miserable. I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ And my teammate (Nick Sanchez) goes out and qualifies third. I was like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ I just felt terrible. But in the race, sure enough, I drive all the way up to third, almost got to second on (series champion) Ty (Gibbs), but then he cleared me off of four. I finished third, but at that moment, I was like, ‘I have what it takes.'”
2022: Caruth gets his opportunity to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with startup team Alpha Prime Racing.
Rajah’s recollection: “We’ve been working on this probably since last July. At that point, I was just looking for opportunities to race, because the ARCA races were so spread out, and everybody I was racing against were racing either Xfinity cars, Trucks, Super Late Models or Late Model Stocks. Or even Trans-Am stuff. And I was just kind of sitting for weeks. So the opportunity kind of presented itself. Brad Perez is the one who really started that relationship for real between (team co-owner) Tommy (Joe Martins) and me. We actually made a group text. Brad helped connect us, and it kind of went from there.”