HBCU student Rajah Caruth signs new deal to continue burgeoning career as a NASCAR driver

Caruth drives a Chevrolet Silverado for Spire Motorsports in the NASCAR Truck Series.

When Rajah Caruth says he needs a new ride, he sounds like many HBCU students making their way through school. But unlike his peers at Winston-Salem State, Caruth routinely tops 100 mph and makes news when he gets a replacement vehicle.

He was a rookie full-time racer in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last year, but his team ceased operations after the season. Caruth’s prospects for 2024 were unsure until last week when Spire Motorsports picked him to drive the No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado this season.

Rajah Caruth (left) will drive a Chevrolet Silverado for Spire Motorsports in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. (Photo: Courtesy of Roger Caruth)

“It was pretty special because of all the uncertainty this winter and trying to figure out the best situation,” Caruth told theGrio. “I felt really thankful to have things get close and then come together pretty quickly. I have a lot of gratitude, and I’m just ready for the season to get started.”

He’s a senior at North Carolina’s Winston-Salem State, the only HBCU with a motorsport management program, where he carries a full load of courses and remains on pace to graduate this year. Managing time and juggling schedules are normal for any student, especially one who frequents tracks across the country virtually every weekend from February to September.

“It honestly gets harder every year because of the demands on the racing side of things,” Caruth said. “Weekly routines, meetings, and making sure I’m in the best mental and physical condition to drive gets more heightened every season. It’s hard to balance for sure, but this is my second year racing full-time, and this is going to be my reality, hopefully, for a good while. I’m just trying to close this chapter and be done with it.”

The first chapters have been amazing for the 21-year-old from Washington, D.C. Caruth was just a tyke when he discovered a passion for racing, inspired by the movie “Cars”. He stands out in NASCAR for his physical characteristics (one of few Black drivers) as much as his unique path (an iRacing champion) and rapid ascent. 

In addition to racing, Rajah Caruth studies in the motorsports management program at Winston-Salem State University. (Photo: Courtesy of Roger Caruth)

Caruth’s success at video-game racing helped him land one of four coveted spots in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, the launchpad for top-level NASCAR drivers such as Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, and Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver who races full-time in the Cup Series. 

Wallace is a mentor who took the traditional route to racing.

“By the time I was 16, I had seven years of experience,” Wallace told The Athletic. “And when Rajah was 16 years old, he was brand new.”

Caruth, who won the 2021 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award, recorded four top-10 finishes in the Truck Series last year and was No. 16 in the final standings. He also raced part-time in the Xfinity Series and posted a 12th-place finish last October. Spire Motorsports saw enough promise to bring him aboard as it expands.

“We’ve talked about seminal moments for Spire Motorsports in the past, and I think this is another one of those moments,” co-owner Jeff Dickerson said in a statement. “Rajah Caruth is an exceptional young man. He’s a very talented driver with a bright future. He’s obviously young in his career, but he’s mature beyond his years. You hear people talk about an ‘it’ factor, and when you talk to him and get to know him, it’s pretty obvious he has ‘it.’ “

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Caruth said he learned a lot as a rookie full-time driver in a “very up and down season” that got better toward the end.

“I really figured things out and ironed some things out with the team to where we finished top 15 in every playoff race,” he said. “I feel very good about the start of this season with some new personnel and some personnel we’ve kept. I feel really good about our group and think we could really make a playoff run.” 

His first race in the new ride is the Fresh from Florida 250 at Daytona International Speedway, airing 7:30 p.m. Friday on Fox Sports 1.

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