RICHMOND, VA. – A driver’s path to their NASCAR debut is often paved by over a decade of racing – often from go-karts or quarter-midgets as a young kid to NASCAR as an older teen/young adult – but for Rajah Caruth, that path took just three years.
Caruth will start 22nd for his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in the April 2 ToyotaCare 250 at his home track, Richmond Raceway, three years after he made his real-life racing debut in June 2019 with REV Racing.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes just kind of thinking about how quick it’s been,” Caruth reflected. “It’s been a great journey and a lot of people have helped along the way and I’m very thankful.”
Ahead of his debut, Caruth thanked his dad and his ‘pops,’ who introduced him to NASCAR and brought him to his first NASCAR race in 2014 – a night that changed Caruth forever.
Caruth desired to be more than diehard fan and, in 2018, he made his iRacing debut and raced in the NASCAR eIgnite Series.
In June 2019, he made his real-life racing in a Legends car fielded by REV Racing who signed him to their driver development program a month before. Caruth won his first late model race for REV Racing in Oct. 2020.
In 2021, he ran his first ARCA Menards Series East season and his first start in the ARCA Menards Series. He now runs ARCA full-time and will reach NASCAR’s number-two division at his home track where everything changed.
“Going into this weekend, it’s going to be fun to have a lot of friends and family there, especially going to a racetrack that I’ve seen events at since I was a little kid,” Caruth said, “so to have my national debut there, it’ll be awesome and I’m just really excited to get on the race track.”
Caruth’s rapid development is similar to what Parker Retzlaff has done. Retzlaff is another eIgnite alum who also made his NXS debut this season.
Retzlaff qualified sixth for his March 12 NXS debut at Phoenix. He ran less than 30 laps in a preceding practice session – and none on the real track before the weekend.
Caruth faced the same scenario as he received a 30-minute practice session to turn his first real-life laps at Richmond before qualifying. He qualified 22nd after being 17th-fastest in practice.
To prepare, Caruth has drawn from an abundance of knowledge and connections he has acquired to supplement his sim racing regimen.
“I’ve done a lot of sim racing on my own, a lot of sim coaching and a lot of time at Chevrolet – and really exhausting my network of people that I’ve fortunately come in contact with,” Caruth said, “and just been a student like I always have – watching previous races, watching onboard cameras, looking at statistics, and things of that sort.”
Caruth has received help from Justin Allgaier and Corey LaJoie – while Chevrolet’s driver development has linked him to Scott Speed and Josh Wise. Wise has already brought Caruth into the fold of his workout regimen used by many top Chevrolet drivers.
Caruth will be solidifying a big, new step in his career this weekend with no Richmond experience to draw from. However, with his abundance of experience racing with no prior experience, it’s a small part of this big step.
“I’ve really appreciated just as another race – another new racetrack to go to, just like how an ARCA series has up to like 15 different race tracks,” Caruth said. “So I kind of approach it the same way that mental aspect of having to be a sponge to everything.”
Since the start of 2021, Caruth says the biggest thing he’s learned in the car is to trust his senses when diagnosing handling issues. Outside of the car, the 19-year-old driver said he’s learned better time management.
Stringent time management has been essential for Caruth as he began pursuing a motorsports management degree while his racing career rapidly took off toward continuously bigger and bigger stages.
This year, he took to Daytona for the first time, to kick off the ARCA Menards Series championship he is running for in 2022.
“My first time at Daytona was cool. I didn’t tear up anything, which is what you hope as a rookie wanting to have plate race,” Caruth said. “It’s just I mean, to come 11th wasn’t bad. We didn’t lose too many points to the 43 [Daniel Dye] which isn’t bad, I would say, especially with how inexperienced I am. I’ll take that we can go on and go to Talladega to make up for it.”
Caruth also appeared in the popular Netflix series, “Race: Bubba Wallace,” which premiered Feb. 22.
“They reached out to me around this time last year about being in it,” he said. “Then they reached out to me again and it went from there. It was pretty awesome being in it.”
In his next big opportunity Saturday, Caruth is expecting a top-20 finish ‘at a minimum’ as he makes his NXS debut with the No. 44 Alpha Prime Racing team.
The No. 44 team has only one finish outside of the top-20 in the last four races – a 32nd-place finish by Sage Karam, who wrecked late after running inside the top-10 under green and finishing fifth in stage two.
Virginia State will sponsor the No. 44 Chevrolet that Caruth will drive with many important people on his mind – including his dad, his manager and his ‘pops, who he said, “has been with me since day one and helped me orchestrate a lot of this.”
Rajah Caruth’s first real-life laps at Richmond Raceway put him 17th in practice and in a 22nd starting position for the ToyotaCare 250 (2:30 p.m. ET; TV: FS1; Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).