Rajah Caruth’s Truck Series win is a new career high and a triumph for NASCAR

Six hundred. That’s the number of text messages Rajah Caruth estimates he received in the aftermath of scoring a historic victory Friday night in the Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, joining Wendell Scott and Bubba Wallace as the only Black drivers to win a NASCAR national series event.

The win was popular, with a large contingent within NASCAR ecstatic to see the hardworking 21-year-old from Washington, D.C. — who first taught himself to race using the virtual simulator iRacing and didn’t get behind the wheel of an actual race car until he was 17 — achieve his dream of winning a major NASCAR series race.

Caruth also received a request from the NASCAR Hall of Fame looking to obtain a piece of his uniform or equipment to put on display.

Caruth has frequently used the word “surreal” to describe the win and the reaction. Since he crossed the finish line Friday night, securing a spot in the Truck Series playoffs in just the third race of the season, it’s been a whirlwind of media interviews, team meetings and attempting to respond to all those text messages.

“I’m just, honestly, more relieved than anything to be in the playoffs,” Caruth said Monday afternoon. “But it hasn’t really sunk in but still special for everybody involved.

“One thing that was pretty cool, honestly, just kind of the respect of my fellow competitors. Like guys I have had differences with or raced hard with over the last couple of years and seeing them just say ‘good job’ or saying I deserved it and did it the right way.”

Before conducting a media video call Monday, Caruth apologized for quickly scarfing down a sandwich, noting he hasn’t had much time to eat having just exited a Spire Motorsports competition debrief. That already full schedule only became more crowded when he realized at the end of his interview that he had a homework assignment due Tuesday for a managerial accounting class.

“Ah, great,” Caruth said, a frown coming over his face.

In addition to being a winning NASCAR driver, Caruth is also a full-time student at Winston-Salem State University where the senior is pursuing a degree in motorsports management. He could graduate this spring, but the May 10 commencement ceremony conflicts with a Truck Series race at Darlington Raceway, so instead he’ll walk in December.

Rajah Caruth embraces his father, Roger, after winning Friday’s Truck Series race. The 21-year-old driver didn’t start driving race cars until he was 17. (Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)

Caruth needing to balance reveling in his big accomplishment with schoolwork is fitting — that’s been a recurring theme as he chased his NASCAR dream. Education is important to Caruth, whose father, Roger, is a Howard University communications professor, and his mother, Samantha, is an assistant director of admissions at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Many times, Caruth has had to knock out some homework at a racetrack between on-track sessions or head home late from a race to work on an assignment, juggling his commitment to earning a degree while also putting in the necessary time to hone his skills as a driver.

“You have to be fully mentally there for racing, but you also have to do that for school,” Caruth said. “And that’s been one thing that’s been really hard for me as I’ve thankfully continued to get higher up the racing ladder.”

There has been doubt, however, whether he would make it in NASCAR, Caruth admitted.

His family did not have the resources nor the connections to help facilitate his ambition, which is why he turned to iRacing to learn the nuances of racing stock cars well past the age when many drivers have been racing actual cars for years. Eventually, the opportunity came, and gradually Caruth climbed up NASCAR’s development ladder, finally securing a full-time Truck Series ride for the 2023 season.

But while he flashed potential during his rookie year, he lacked tangible results.

It wasn’t late in the offseason that Caruth secured a ride with Spire for the 2024 season, and even then, uncertainty existed whether he’d be able to compete in all 23 races until Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick stepped in to support a full campaign.

On Friday, Caruth rewarded the faith Hendrick, Wallace — who’s been a mentor and big brother to him for several years — and so many others have had in him. Wallace’s wife, Amanda, shared a video on social media of her husband intently watching the final laps of Friday’s race, then enthusiastically celebrating afterward.

“What a massive win for the little bro!” Wallace posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “What a monumental win for our sport! Proud is an understatement! LFG!!!!!!!”

Similar to Wallace, Caruth is a member of the Drive for Diversity program that NASCAR began 20 years ago to provide a pathway for people from diverse backgrounds to become involved in NASCAR.

The success of that program has been on full display in 2024. Caruth is one of four graduates to win one of nine national series races, a group that includes Nick Sanchez (Daytona Truck race), Daniel Suárez (Atlanta Cup race) and Kyle Larson (Las Vegas Cup race).

“Hopefully, we continue over the years to continue to grow more representation,” Caruth said. “Because we see it on our pit crews, and we are starting to see in race teams, whether it be through our engineering or PR departments, obviously at NASCAR.

“So hopefully, you start to see it more through the drivers so that way that’s not, like, the headline. Or it’s just (about) how good our drivers are because I mean, you don’t see it in any other sport.”

(Top photo of Rajah Caruth celebrating Friday’s win: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

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