LONG POND, Pa. — A packed weekend of racing came to a brutal end for Rajah Caruth in his third NASCAR Xfinity Series start with the Alpha Prime Racing No. 44 team. On the second-of-90 lap “Explore the Pocono Mountains 225”, Rajah slid up off of the final corner and clipped the rear end of the No. 36, Alex Labbe.
The contact sent the two cars careening into the inside SAFER barrier, making heavy contact at the beginning of the GEICO Restart Zone. The damage would end both of their races. Labbe got out of his car and threw his hands up and down towards Caruth before checking in and taking his ride to the infield care center.
Moments later, Rajah exited his own car under his own power, surveying the damage briefly before pivoting away from the car, shaking his head. “I’m just very disappointed I made a bad mistake like that,” Caruth said to MRN Radio after exiting the care center.
Rajah’s final result was a 38th place finish on Saturday, a disappointing bump in the road for what is shaping up to be a promising future racing career ahead of the Washington D.C. native.
The last-place result wasn’t indicative of the tremendous task of a weekend that the rising talent took on up in the Pocono Mountains.
This weekend was likely one of his busiest yet in his young racing career, as Caruth scheduled himself to compete in three different events utilizing three different racing vehicles, a combination of real-world and virtual racing.
Not only was Raj scheduled for this race and his usual duties with Rev Racing and his No. 6 ARCA Menards Series Chevrolet, but he was also competing in the second race of the eNASCAR Qualifying iRacing Series, the second round on the first step of the eNASCAR Road to Pro ladder.
With help from his Nazareth-based Alpha Prime Racing teammate Sage Karam, following a long day of ARCA testing at Pocono for the General Tire Delivers 200, Rajah was able to hop into a sim rig and compete in the event after reaching out on social media for help two days prior.
On Thursday night in the Road To Pro event, Caruth completed all 60 laps around the virtual Tricky Triangle and finished 22nd after getting spun into the wall earlier in the event. The series uses iRacing’s scanned NASCAR Camping World Truck Series vehicles.
Again, the result wasn’t indicative of the effort. Before the contact, Raj had worked his way into the Top 20 against some of the best eNASCAR sim racers on the iRacing platform. This particular round takes the 70 best drivers from Round 1 and whittles it down to 20 drivers advancing to the Contender Series.
The following day while taking on the real deal, Rajah strapped into his ARCA car and battled home to finish in fourth in the General Tire Delivers 200. In speaking with him earlier in the day, he lamented in the fact that he wasn’t given the opportunity to finish the race, as it was called early due to darkness.
The current ARCA Menards Series points leader believed he had a winning car, and the pace showed through the night. Raj ultimately pushed the eventual winner Taylor Gray ahead of his teammate, but also his main rival in the championship hunt, eventual second place finisher Nick Sanchez, and maintained the point lead.
Rajah also wasn’t thrilled with his pace in the Xfinity car after the short practice and single car qualifying on Saturday morning. In final practice, Rajah only managed a 31st best time, citing the nuances between the ARCA car and the more powerful Xfinity Series car.
He then qualified 32nd in the 39 car field attempting. The time was good enough to put him in the show on speed, but it was definitely lower than he would have hoped. Still, Rajah was hopeful for the race ahead, ready to take on another new and exciting challenge, and to work to get better through the event.
Unfortunately, a costly mistake, which he fully owned up to when asked exiting the care center, ended his race far too early.
For most up-and-coming drivers, seat time is key to perfecting the craft of wheeling around whatever vehicle they happen to be in. When visiting any venue for the first time, this point is even further emphasized.
Caruth is one of the few drivers that is taking this unique path up the ladder. While he’s getting more and more opportunities in real-world equipment, he still straddles the line between virtual and reality as one of the top oval iRacers on the service.
An iRacer since 2018 and a member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity since 2019, Rajah’s racing career didn’t start in his childhood like many other young drivers.
He got his start on iRacing, finishing 20th in the eNASCAR Ignite Series in 2018, and since then, his climb has been exponential and impressive for those on this unique sim-to-reality path.
Since that start with racing online, he’s a multi-time winner in the NASCAR All-American Weekly Series, at the top level of sim racing with multiple wins in Monday Night Racing, and now he’s creeping up to more and more starts in the Top 3 NASCAR National Series events.
As far as his virtual efforts are concerned, Rajah’s got a legitimate shot at making the next round of the eNASCAR Road To Pro – the eNASCAR Contender iRacing Series which will pin the Top 20 from the Qualifying Series against the bottom 20 relegated from the Coke Series.
Caruth also still has four more planned starts in the No. 44, as well as a couple in the No. 7 Spire Motorsports truck in the Camping World Truck Series. He’s still leading the ARCA points. Today’s results were a slight detour, but things are very much looking up for the young driver.
The next start for the 20 year old in the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be the September 10th event at Kansas Speedway. He’ll get a truck start before then on August 13th at Richmond Raceway. As for his full-time gig, he’ll be back next week at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park for the 11th race of the 2022 ARCA season.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com