Race Weekend Central

Rajah Caruth on Racing as a Full-Time Student, Developing as a Racer

Rajah Caruth is still quite new to racing … anything.

He acknowledges his overall dearth of experience as compared to his rivals and attempts to overcome it each time he races. Regardless, he’s running full time for the first time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for GMS Racing and part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Alpha Prime Racing.

Caruth sat down with Frontstretch‘s Phil Allaway at Texas Motor Speedway to talk about racing in Trucks while going to school, his development, iRacing and more.

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Phil Allaway, Frontstretch: Speaking of education, it’s hard to be full time in college and racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. How do you juggle the two?

Rajah Caruth: Well, Phil, I have some homework due on Sunday that I have not started yet, so that should tell you what it’s like. It’s really two full-time jobs.

Being a racecar driver requires you to be all-in with every part of your personal life, obviously your mental capacity and physical strength. It’s the same for school.

I can’t even say [that it diverts] my focus because I feel like I’m plugged into both entirely. But I have to make sacrifices. A lot of personal sacrifices and decisions about my priorities.

Racing’s my No. 1, and it always will be. It’s paying the bills, and I also feel like it’s my purpose. With that being said, I still think that education is really important. I will do my best to finish my education at Winston-Salem State University.

Allaway: Really hope that’s not a research paper that’s due.

Caruth: It’s not a research paper. I’m not that dumb.

I’ve left research papers and presentations to Sunday night before, but those days are over. I value my sleep. I’m going to be like an old man.

Allaway: It seems like it’s been tough at times with a lot of contact, but how would you describe your season to this point?

Caruth: Man, it seems like the end of races really hasn’t panned out for us. At Daytona, we really just bided our time. We got up into the top 10 following Chase [Elliott], then I made my move since rain was a factor. I kind of got in a bad spot in turn 3 and [the wreck happened].

At Las Vegas, we got stage points. We ran anywhere from seventh to 12th all night. We were going to be in a really good spot with green-flag pit stops. Green-flag pit stops are something that I feel I’m pretty strong at naturally and I’ve been working to improve at. I felt really good about it, then got hit [for speeding] coming onto pit road, and it kind of ended our night.

Atlanta, we worked back into the top five for the second-to-last restart, then probably didn’t pick the line we needed to and got hung out [to dry]. Then, we got a flat tire at the end. That was not a good result.

[At Circuit of the Americas], we were in the top five on the last restart of the race and killed my tires with five or six [laps] to go. We’ve had the pace to run in the top 10, and I know we’ll continue to do that.

The luck’s gotta fall my way, but at the same time, there’s a lot on my shoulders to do [well], and I welcome that pressure. It’s been a lot of fun so far, but kind of unfortunate with the luck.

Allaway: Here at GMS Racing, you have a veteran teammate in Grant Enfinger, who has 154 starts in Trucks.

Caruth: Damn. I haven’t run 154 races in my entire life. I’m under 120.

Allaway: How has Enfinger helped you out so far this year?

Caruth: Grant has been a really strong resource for me. It feels great, personally, to see him listen [to me] and answer my questions, whether I’m on [the driver-in-the-loop-simulator] or at the track. He actually came to one of my [sim] sessions earlier this week, watched me and gave me some pointers.

We walked and talked with each other during the track walks at Atlanta and COTA as well. Even when I raced at Rev [Racing] last year, we had a little bit of a relationship start there. It’s been great to have him as a teammate.

It’s the same with Daniel [Dye]. Daniel was there at the first place I drove a stock car at, New Smyrna Speedway, almost six years ago.

Having both of them as teammates is great. They’re great resources to have.

Allaway: We still have limited on-track time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. How has the lack of track time affected your development as a racer?

Caruth: I don’t think it hurts my development, honestly. It’s not something that I can control. That just puts a [greater] emphasis on preparation. The recommendations that Josh Wise makes to us, since some of us are kids, but others are grown men. It’s up to us to take the advice and the recommendations given to us in how to be a professional athlete.

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Josh always tells us, “You race how you live.” With these 20-minute sessions, it’s like “whatever.” It’d be nice to have an hour of practice, and that’s only the case at Phoenix and a couple of other [tracks]. It’s cool for me since everybody’s in the same boat.

Obviously, I’m going to be behind against everybody for the rest of my career in terms of experience. I’m never going to catch up, and I’m not worried about it. Good to know that we have the 20 minutes, and it puts the emphasis on unloading strong. We’ve done that all year so far, and we’re going to continue to do it.

Allaway: A lot of the racing experience that you’ve had prior to the past couple of years was on iRacing. Do you still use it for development, and if so, how much?

Caruth: I was live-streaming yesterday and just racing for fun. The sim is a strong tool for me. Some tracks are out of date, the grip is messed up and the visual notes are not where they need to be. Other places like Charlotte and Phoenix are spot-on.

For preparing for real life, I’m on [iRacing] as often as I can be. Obviously, it’s difficult to balance it with school, but iRacing’s a really strong tool for me. It’s a great thing to use, not only to learn the racetracks, but just to improve as a driver. Learning how to place my vehicle, not doing stupid things and having fun with my buddies. It’s a great tool.

Allaway: You’ve competed in Interstate Batteries Monday Night Racing off and on over the past couple of years. How much has Monday Night Racing grown over that time?

Caruth: It’s great to see the success of the league. I know the work that Ford [Martin] has put into running that series and those that help him like Gary [Sexton], Paul [Sutton] and [Josh] Mendoza.

At times, there’s been some questionable calls, but that happens with every sports league, not just on iRacing. That’s nothing new there, but those guys work really hard. I haven’t run it that much in the last year and a half since I’m fortunate enough to be racing in real life.

Allaway: They have more stringent officiating in Monday Night Racing than in regular iRacing these days.

Caruth: That is true. [Laughs and points at fellow MNR competitor, GMS Racing PR Leighton Sibille, who reacted.]

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Allaway: With Alpha Prime Racing, you have a “selected” schedule for this year. What does your schedule look like this year?

Caruth: It’s on my Instagram, dog.

Las Vegas got added on late, so it’s not there.

Allaway: How would you describe the first couple of weekends in the No. 45?

Caruth: They’ve been relatively clean so far. I feel like running the Xfinity car, I’ve raced that more, so I’m more comfortable in it than the truck. Honestly, it’s made me much better in the truck.

This year, I finished 21st at Fontana [Auto Club Speedway]. Threw away a top 20 because I gave up my right rear [tire] at the end. I’ve definitely learned a lot from racing that series and the competitors there. Some of them are really good.

Las Vegas, it helped a lot having the extra track time. I’d been there already last fall and figured out how to qualify the Xfinity car.

Going to Dover, if I’m in Cup someday, I’ll race there. Loudon, Watkins Glen and Darlington, those are places I haven’t been in the truck and they don’t go there. It’ll be great to get some [track] time there and get to the end of the races.

Alpha Prime has a really good upside in terms of sneakily getting some top 15s and top 10s and on an average day, running between 18th and 25th. I have the confidence to go to Darlington and Martinsville and show what I got. We can build on the finishes I had last year.

Since this interview took place, Caruth has raced three more times. He was 19th at Texas, then tied his career-best with an 11th-place finish on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway. After a 25th-place finish at Martinsville, Speedway he is currently 18th in points.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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