Race Weekend Central

Rajah Caruth’s Nonstop Quest to Learn Is Finally Paying Off

Rajah Caruth made history on Friday (March 1) when he became the third Black driver to win a NASCAR national series race.

Caruth’s mistake-free race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway led to his first career win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The Washington, D.C., native joined Spire Motorsports this season with sponsorship from HendrickCars.com, a deal that came together very last minute and that teams him up with Kyle Busch in five races. It’s Caruth’s second full season in Trucks and only his sixth driving real racecars after getting his start in iRacing.

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Tracking the Trucks: Everyone Penalized as Rajah Caruth Makes History at Vegas

Caruth has been mentored for several years by Bubba Wallace. That relationship was on full display after the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, when Wallace was seen on the broadcast lecturing Caruth after he was involved in a multi-truck pileup at the end. Wallace then discussed the matter further on the podcast Door Bumper Clear.

Just hours before the Vegas win, Frontstretch caught up with the 21-year-old to chat all of the above and more.

Michael Massie, Frontstretch: You and I have a little bit of a background in iRacing, running Monday Night Racing together. The most important question is who wrecked more people? You or me?

Rajah Caruth: Oh, me, 100%. I will say, I’m the type to own up to my mistakes, and I have crashed a lot of people on iRacing. But I can say 100% it has never been on purpose besides maybe like one time, and that was with Anthony [Alfredo]. But otherwise, anytime I’ve crashed somebody it’s never been on purpose. I can 100% say that.

Massie: Now that you’re doing Trucks full time, I know you use iRacing to help prep for races, but do you still have free time to get on there and goof off?

Caruth: Definitely. I was on the night before we flew here [to Vegas]. It’s a good cornerstone of my week to race on there, just to refresh myself with the racetrack.

The trucks on iRacing is not super realistic compared to real life, especially with the mile-and-a-halfs. But some of the places like the road courses and some of the other tracks, it’s not terrible at all.

So above all, I like driving the Next Gen stuff, like in the B-fixed. And honestly, this winter, I’ve done a lot of like road racing with the Dallaras, with the Ferraris, just trying to be a little bit better of a road racer. So although we only go to COTA [Circuit of the Americas] this year, just to make sure I’m as prepared for that as possible.

Massie: You and William Byron both don’t have that many years driving actual cars compared to a lot of guys out here. So when you showed up for the first time, how big of a learning curve was that for you compared to those guys that have been in go karts since they were four years old?

Caruth: My first legend car race was the day I turned 17. So man, I sucked for like the first year and a half, to be honest. But luckily being in the Drive for Diversity program, they gave me time, they let me develop, learn, grow, make mistakes and improve. And so eventually, it got to the point where I was winning late model races and contending for a lot of ARCA wins and the championship and helped me put me where I’m at now.

So it was a hard journey so far. But really, now, it’s nice because I can think about, like this is my fifth race here at Vegas, and that’s really cool. Racing here with Alpha Prime [Racing] and then with GMS last year, it’s great to kind of have my own experience to go off of vs. always asking somebody for advice and learning how to do stuff on my own.

Massie: You made up for a lot of lost time with doing the double duties the last couple years right?

Caruth: Definitely, I mean [Vegas], Bristol, Kansas, Dover — although Trucks don’t race Dover — Darlington, across the board, racing with Tommy [Joe Martins] and Alpha Prime. It’s funny, their cars are right there.

That taught me so much, how to speed on pit road and learning how to make the most days. Even if a good day is 15th, just making the most of that. So I know that’s not the case now with the equipment I’m in, but they taught me a lot, and I’m super thankful for it.

Massie: It feels like this Spire deal came together pretty last second. How last second are we talking?

Caruth: Probably two weeks before Daytona, but no complaints at all. I feel really thankful that Mr. H [Rick Hendrick] and Mrs. Linda [Hendrick] and everybody in the Hendrick family and at the Hendrick Auto Group, they believe in me. Just because they don’t have this [HendrickCars.com sponsorship] for just anybody.

For it to be me, it’s pretty special. So I feel a lot of gratitude, and I’m excited to continue the strong start to the season this weekend.

Massie: You ran a couple Truck races for Spire two years ago. How different is this organization now compared to two years ago when you drove a few races?

Caruth: Honestly, there are a lot of differences, right? There are a lot more people. But in terms of the hearts of people, their determination, the quality of people, no real changes. Just a really good group of people with really good leadership and everybody pulling in the same direction.

It’s an honor to be at this team and have a home for years to grow. It’s cool because, like my hauler driver, Montana, I had him as my hauler driver [two years ago].

Massie: You got Kyle Busch as your teammate. What is that like?

Caruth: That’s really cool. Even in the [competition] meeting last week. He knows so much about this stuff. He knows so much, he could put it together himself, and he has.

So to be there, and the questions he asked me and asked Nick [Sanchez], Chase [Purdy] and myself really pushes us to be better.

Massie: Did you hear Bubba Wallace when he appeared on Door Bumper Clear a couple of weeks ago?

Caruth: Unfortunately, I did. I try to kind of keep my head in the sand with a lot of the social media stuff, just because it doesn’t help me, a lot of the opinions and stuff don’t matter. They’re not the guys putting together my trucks. They’re not the people that support me and that are at the tech center with me every morning. But I did hear it. So, yeah.

Massie: Bubba’s been your mentor for a while. What would you say is the ratio of praise to tough love that he gives you?

Caruth: Man, I don’t know. Honestly, from my years of playing sports in school and even outside of school, I’ve really kind of thrived under like a tough-love type of approach with some restraint.

So I think, I don’t know, it’s hard for me to say. A lot of that’s between him and I. But I really feel like it was never that big a deal. People blew that way up more than it needed to be. It really just comes down to he wants to see me succeed and do well. And he’s going to point out the things that he thinks I can do better and the mistakes he’s made. I’m really grateful for it.

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Stat Sheet: Spire's Las Vegas Performance Was Its Best Yet

Massie: It wasn’t all negative [on DBC]. They talked a lot about how you’re the guy always up on the roof for Cup practice, trying to learn and get better. My question is, why aren’t more drivers doing that?

Caruth: Man, I don’t know. I’ve been doing that since I was racing ARCA. … It’s cool because as a race fan you get to watch the races. But you can see so much from up there, seeing how people develop runs, how people set up passes. The timing it takes for a spotter to make a decision for you and what, literally, they will say ‘clear’ for vs. well, technically, it is clear, but they’re not going to call it because somebody is progressing or digressing. So on and so forth.

I’m up there all the time. Like I said, I try to not listen to that stuff, because I’m like, man, I feel like a lot of stuff they said wasn’t true. It made it seem like I was tearing stuff up every week, which I wasn’t. And like I think about like that first Kansas, and from that race forward, I never made any stupid mistakes like that. So nonetheless, the people that matter are my team and the people that support me, so I just really poured into them this year and try to just improve as much as I can.

Massie: During this interview, everybody in the garage has come up and said hi to you. So you must not be pissing too many people off around here. Seems like you’re one of the more-liked guys around here.

Caruth: Maybe you want to ask some of the TRICON [Garage] guys. But overall, I try to do the right thing as much as I can, from, if I make a mistake, making sure I have that conversation in person. Which I’ve done every single time, whether it was two years ago at Pocono with Alex Labbe and Mario Gosselin’s team [DGM Racing], to even Bristol with Josh [Williams] and Mario’s team, to the Truck races over the last couple years.

I’ve just tried to make sure I’ve done things the right way. I can’t control how others treat me. I just have to do things the best that I can, how I was raised, how [crew chief] Chad’s [Walter] told me how to do things. That’s all I can really do.

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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WJW Motorsports

Congratulations and go Rajah. Have seen him for many years now on IRacing and he was definitely honest there – he’s taken out his fair share over the years no doubt. I think he’d do well at this point to distance himself from Bubba, and focus on improving his craft rather than his politics.

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