CONCORD, N.C. — Although the announcement was t-minus 24 hours away, Rajah Caruth couldn’t ease up on the throttle with other priorities, both literally and figuratively. After all, the 20-year-old Winston-Salem State University student was hunkered down with a college paper due at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday evening.
“It was for my facility management class,” Caruth said. “It was about picking a facility and doing a case study on it. I did Charlotte Motor Speedway, so it was pretty easy.”
But even late-semester papers and projects couldn’t hold up the anticipation for what came the following day as GMS Racing announced Tuesday that Rajah Caruth will officially join the team to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet in the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
The Wendell Scott Foundation – inspired by NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott Sr. – will serve as Caruth’s primary partner in 2023. The Foundation aims to provide resources to underprivileged African-American youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. The Truck Series will begin its 2023 campaign on Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.
“We are truly excited to welcome Rajah to our team next year,” said Mike Beam, GMS Racing team president. “I’ve studied up on him ever since I saw him racing in ARCA, but I know that he’s been on the radar for many people in the industry for quite some time now. It was fun to watch him and Daniel (Dye) fight for the championship last year, and I think having both of them make the jump up to the Truck Series will be a benefit because they will both be able to learn together.
“Rajah’s a sharp kid. I’ve seen his work ethic and attention to detail he brings to the race track, and I can tell that he’s hungry. He just started driving a few years ago, so to see how far he’s been able to grow in such a short amount of time has been pretty remarkable. He’s built himself a good name in the garage area and is someone that people like to be around, so he’ll be able to soak up some mentorship lessons from experienced drivers, which should go a long way. I’m excited for him.”
From walking down the facility steps on-site at the Team Chevy Performance Technical Center to announcing in front of a crowd numbering more than 50, Caruth certainly felt at least one wrench ease off a back with already enough stress on it anyway.
“But honestly, the last couple of weeks have been stressful based on this, but also, like, finals for school and everything,” Caruth said. “So, finally glad to get it off my chest, and now I can really start working.”
The announcement solidifies GMS Racing’s full-time lineup in 2023, with Caruth joining Dye and Grant Enfinger for the upcoming season. Chad Walters will be crew chief atop the box for Caruth with Jeff Hensley remaining with Enfinger and Travis Sharpe pairing with Dye.
Similarly to navigating through the weekly college class schedule, Caruth wishes to learn the ins and outs of working through the week-in and week-out grind that comes from racing full-time in a national series. To Caruth, the opportunity to learn such a regimen will be available on and off the race track with his GMS teammates.
“Really preparation, and kind of what their weeks look like from them being at the race shop and what they do on a weekly basis to their approach at the race track and their communication with their crew chiefs, and just things that I can do to get better on my own and be more prepared for when we go to the race track,” Caruth said in regard to potential teammate lessons.
Caruth comes off a productive 2022 in the ARCA Menards Series, where he compiled eight top-five and 14 top-10 finishes. Caruth not only raced for the championship but additionally finished right behind GMS teammate Dye in the points standings (third).
Dating back to his childhood in Washington D.C., Caruth found a passion for racing. Starting with sim racing on the iRacing platform, Caruth eventually worked his way into the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, which invited the 16-year-old to compete in their annual combine. Such an impressive showing eventually garnered Caruth a selection to drive for Rev Racing in US Legends Cars, Late Models, ARCA Menards Series East and the ARCA Menards Series national tour. Select starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Truck Series have helped round out Caruth’s experience, especially at tracks where he will be behind the wheel this season.
With his full-time driving role at GMS in a national series, Caruth additionally joins an extensive list of NASCAR Drive for Diversity alumni, including NASCAR Cup Series drivers Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suárez.
To Caruth, coming off an iRacing background similar to William Byron only further cements his gratitude to individuals that helped him land where he is at today. Adding to the legacy of the Drive for Diversity Combine on top of it all only further heightened Caruth’s opinion of the program becoming that much bigger of a door for eager drivers wanting to follow a similar path as he did.
“It’s huge,” Caruth said. “I think it not only helps the legitimacy of the Drive for Diversity program, but also Rev Racing and iRacing, honestly, man, because I was the first off of iRacing since besides William to get into real life and get a gig just based off talent.
“So, now, having been scouted through iRacing, through the Drive for Diversity program and developed by the individuals there to be in a position to get a truck ride helps the legitimacy of everything.”
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As college classes conclude for the semester, the winter days linger and, perhaps more importantly, the offseason continues. And while Caruth understands the importance of an offseason – not to mention resting up for his first full-time national series campaign – the Tuesday announcement only increases the level of the giddiness.
“Excited,” Caruth said. “I mean, I can’t wait for it. I know it’s offseason for a reason, and the rest is necessary, taking time off is necessary, but I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Even still, the 2023 truck role will have to wait just a bit longer. In the meantime, though, the student Caruth will remain busy. Final semester assignments and projects will certainly do that.
In other words, easing up on the throttle before 2023 will have to wait a touch longer.
“I got one due tomorrow, I have a final tomorrow,” Caruth said. “… Honestly, I have a lot of stuff due, but it’s the end of the semester, so I got to get it done. I’ll get it done.”