Back to News

March 2, 2024

History, family intersect for Rajah Caruth in Las Vegas breakthrough

LAS VEGAS – Samantha Caruth was beaming. As a self-proclaimed hugger, she took the moment to embrace seemingly everyone who visited Victory Lane late Saturday night to congratulate her and her son, Rajah, on his first trip there in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Roger Caruth sat close by, checkered cloth in hand while fielding calls from well-wishers who were still awake back home, thousands of miles from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval. His notifications for missed calls and unread texts had already surged past two dozen in the short walk from pit road to the trophy presentation in the center of the fan-friendly garage. That figure was expected to multiply as word of his son’s accomplishment spread.

“Some people are sleeping on the East Coast, so they’re probably going to find out in the morning,” Roger Caruth told “So that’s when my phone’s going to really start blowing up.”

It was a good problem to have.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I mean, that’s what racing is about.”

Rajah Caruth celebrated a historic night by becoming the third Black driver to win a NASCAR national series race, etching his name alongside Hall of Fame trailblazer Wendell Scott and current-day Cup Series star Bubba Wallace. The 21-year-old driver punctuated the moment with a professional-grade smoky burnout that made him look like a seasoned veteran, far removed from his earlier Late Model triumphs at Hickory and Tri-County in the North Carolina foothills and light-years away from his iRacing roots.

History intersected with family Friday night at Las Vegas, and Roger Caruth was among the first to cross the tri-oval’s infield grass to embrace his son after the checkered flag unfurled.

“I’m pretty speechless. It’s been a tough journey so far,” said Rajah Caruth, now in his second full season of Truck Series competition. His first truck win arrived in his 30th start. “A lot of people have helped me get to this point. Thank you to every single one of y’all. Definitely ups and downs, but this journey has been fruitful at times and testing at times. … This winter was a lot of uncertainty about where I’d be driving, not having a bunch of funding behind me at the time. I just stayed true to my faith and my family. Fortunately, a lot of people put a lot of stuff together for me to be in this spot.”

RELATED: Caruth scores first Truck Series win | NASCAR community reacts

Even before Friday night’s triumph, the week had been a banner one for Caruth. His Spire Motorsports No. 71 Chevrolet team received extra backing from just two days earlier, increasing its primary sponsorship from a previously announced 10-race deal to a secure, full-season run for 2024.

That vote of confidence was rewarded in short order in Friday’s qualifying session when Caruth rocketed to his first career Truck Series pole position. The FOX Sports crew that interviewed him after his qualifying effort had perceived an uncharacteristic show of emotion. Caruth blamed his would-be tears on catching some dust in his eyes — a trope of an excuse right up there with cutting onions. He explained later that because of the intense, swirling wind in the Nevada desert, the dust was the actual culprit and not a convenient, hackneyed scapegoat.

The extra support was rewarded again in Friday night’s race, where Caruth ran consistently among the top five with finishes of second and third at the stage breaks. The final stage is where the No. 71 group nailed the final pit stop – the Spire team with the strategy piece and Caruth on the execution – when his closest challengers stumbled with penalties or other shortcomings in the sequence.

The Caruth family -- from left: Roger, Samantha and Rajah -- on the starting grid at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Alejandro Alvarez |

The week had already been a win for Caruth & Co., but when the pit-stop exchange netted out and the race went clean and green for the final stretch, a breakthrough seemed well within reach.

“Wherever he placed, I would have been celebrating,” Samantha Caruth said in between hugs later. “This is just extra on top of extra. He’s living his dream in real-time.”

The pinch-me dream state from Las Vegas was shared by the Spire Motorsports group that’s grown in big leaps in recent months. Spire’s Craftsman Truck Series operation is continuing the legacy of the Kyle Busch Motorsports team that it absorbed, now with four allied full-time trucks making a run of it alongside its expanded three-car Cup Series effort.

Doug Duchardt, a longtime NASCAR executive with a wide breadth of racing experience, was a key component to Spire’s recent moves. He’s been on the job as Spire Motorsports team president for all of three months now. Duchardt has experienced plenty of wins and championships from his earlier management roles with Hendrick Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing, but his post with Spire represents part of a ground-up build from an organization that first hit the track just five years ago.

Caruth’s victory – which made Spire-affiliated teams 3-for-3 in the Truck Series win column so far this season – was a big step in the organization’s growth.

“I think every first win is special for anyone. I think for Rajah and for Spire and then for HendrickCars who just came on, it’s just … it’s extremely, it’s hard to state how special just for everyone,” Duchardt told “Rajah has a pretty cool demeanor, he doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but I know it’s been a lot of work, and a lot of work by him and all of his support system with his family. So I’m just really happy and proud — of him and for him.

“But then our team, it was a huge lift for the whole team to put four truck teams and three Cup teams together in one shop and work together to get through all that and get through this first bit of the season. And so I’m just proud of everyone at Spire Motorsports for getting through that. And I think what makes it special is, of course, it’s three in a row in the Truck Series with three different drivers, and it just shows the depth of the team and how much those guys on that truck side work together.”

The celebration rolled on into the night, with Victory Lane team photos, another trophy pic with Caruth’s group-chat besties and other commemorations of a career first. “Aw, I’m so happy for you guys,” said Cup Series standout Ross Chastain after finding his way to Victory Lane for one of Samantha Caruth’s hugs.

MORE: At-track photos: Vegas | Weekend schedule

Among the rotation in the hat dance of Victory Lane photos was a family portrait worth savoring.

“I’m really glad both my parents are here,” Rajah Caruth said. “Especially my dad. I know my sister’s watching, too. They’ve been my rock. My dad took me to my first race. Both my parents did, with my late granddad. Got me that first experience. Really enabled me to put in the work and chase the dreams, like I said, of living by myself in North Carolina. I can’t imagine for a mom, for a dad, to send their 18-year-old kid to a completely different culture, a completely different lifestyle, to live on his own, work at a race shop, and be in a completely different environment.

“I’m glad they’re here. They’ve been with me every step of the way. That’s honestly a blessing I’ve really had, is having my parents, my sister, a lot of really good close friends and others that have helped elevate me, helped me during the tough times and helped me celebrate for the good ones.”

“This is a beginning of a bright future, I think,” Roger Caruth said. “It’s been kind of a struggle to get here, but that’s the nature of the game. We just took full advantage of the opportunities that we had, knowing that he had to potentially do what he did tonight.”

What better place to savor a career-defining triumph than Las Vegas, with the nearby glitz, the neon lights, the cheeky nightlife, the long-ingrained gambling culture and the high-roller swagger. Gaming media scribes at the Vegas speedway pointed out to Caruth that his accomplishment was also a big win Friday night for bullish bettors. At the suggestion that he stay awhile to share in the party atmosphere, Caruth politely but firmly declined.

“I’m going home, bro,” Caruth laughed. “I am flying back, yeah. I am a homebody. I stay inside.”

Which all makes sense. Home, after all, is where family is.