Rajah Caruth is a 17 year old race car driver from Washington, D.C. who has been recently accepted into NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program for women and people of color, and is about to begin racing late models across the southeast United States.
He has been passionate about racing since he was five, but did not realize his desire to be a race car driver existed until he was 12. He grew up in a family of Caribbean descent, making him quite the underdog in the racing world. He does not come from a ton of money like other drivers in NASCAR, and he is one of very few black drivers emerging into the sport. Expectations are high for any driver who wants to perform and Caruth is no exception.
“Part of me wanting to be a racer had a lot to do with me going to my first race at Richmond Raceway back in September 2014,” Caruth said.“My first time getting real experience racing was back in the summer of 2017. I was racing go-karts and I didn’t do it for a super long time, it was simply to get my feet wet. We used to run 2 heat races for qualifying, then the field would be reverted from slowest to fastest, inverting the field to determine the starting lineup.
“Poor me, being a slow little kid, I would always start first in the B-main and was able to hold the lead for a good duration of the race,” continued Caruth. “Unfortunately, going into the final corner of the race, I got bulldozed straight into the wall. It stung, but it was a valuable learning experience starting my career and helped me get to where I’m going in my career.”
Caruth also does online simulator racing with a program known as iRacing. This is a video game that allows users to hook their computers up to a steering wheel, pedals and shifter and helps teach them how to drive race cars in the real world. NASCAR drivers and race car drivers from other racing leagues around the world frequently use iRacing to improve their skills and learn the dynamics of the tracks.
“I was getting good experience running with such good people. It really gave me a gauge of how tough it is to drive a NASCAR Cup Series car and how much skill it takes. It was a really fun experience and helped me self motivate and tell myself ‘I can do this’ when the time comes and taught me having one bad race doesn’t make me a bad driver.”
Every year, multiple people who meet the requirements for Drive for Diversity travel to Charlotte, NC or Daytona Beach, FL, for the combine with hopes to have a shot with Rev Racing, the team that those who were accepted into the Drive for Diversity program get to drive for. Caruth tried out twice, and made it both times.
“I had no idea what was going on the first time around. Go Pro Motorplex was intimidating, so I viewed video footage to get an idea of how to get around that place. I was seen as the underdog when I went down to Charlotte, and when I got picked I was really surprised to be honest. I didn’t see myself being picked at all and they picked me. The rest is history.”
Caruth values his on track time as much as his off track time. Bubba Wallace, a current NASCAR Cup Series driver and the only current African-American driver on the circuit, ran some races in a Legends Car at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Summer Shootout racing series, which Caruth also competed in.
Wallace has five wins in the NASCAR Truck Series and multiple top five finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series. To date, Wallace is one of the most successful African-American drivers, which makes this a huge deal considering the fact that he and Caruth will be racing against each other for the first time this upcoming summer.
“My coolest memory was getting to be on the same track as a guy I have looked up to for the last ten years. It’s even cooler that I get to race in his division this year.”
Caruth’s first late model race is in Myrtle Beach, SC and has been preparing diligently for it since November. He shows no signs of being overwhelmed or intimidated by this being his first race in a faster car after all the simulator time and legends car practice he had in 2019.
“If you don’t feel nervous you are not ready,” said Caruth. Nervous doesn’t mean you’re unprepared or not confident, you have to be nervous because it shows you’re invested and you care about it. Of course I got a little butterflies, but I cannot wait to get on track Friday and get seat time.”
Caruth also lets it be known he spends a lot of time in the gym and studies lap times from his test sessions. He will be racing against guys who have been racing late models for almost twice as long as he has been alive, and is ready for the challenge.