Rajah Caruth’s love of fast cars extends back a long time. He says, “… I would watch races on TV, and play NASCAR video games. I watched my first race when I was 12.” This love of fast cars has put the 20-year-old Winston-Salem University Junior on the path to becoming the GOAT of NASCAR racing. Rajah, who came into professional racing by way of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, is one of only a handful of Black professional NASCAR drivers, and he’s already had a big impact on the sport. From finishing 3rd in the 2021 ARCA Menards Series East to grabbing three late model stock car wins in the same year, he’s accomplished so much in his four year NASCAR career.
He believes that having the right set of tools has set him up for success, including the right tech and being in the right environment. He spoke with Blavity about the future of NASCAR and the importance of diversity in the sport. He acknowledges that both he and NASCAR have a long way to go, and we’re all geeked to see what he can do.
For Rajah, tech plays a major role in his sport in big and small ways. If it’s not streaming one of his fav artists like Rod Wave or Lil’ Baby to get in the right headspace for a race, then he’s using tech to help him get better on the racetrack. “Tech plays a huge role in how advanced everything is on the engineering side of it,” he said. “And from a driver development standpoint, I haven’t been to a lot of the racetracks, and I’m racing there for the first time. So to be able to hop on my simulator at my apartment or go to the Pratt and Miller Chevrolet simulator, it puts me on game so by the time I get to the racetrack, I’m ready to go, and I know where I’m at. I know where my markers are for apex and things like that.”
Tech has helped Rajah to propel his career forward when other opportunities were lacking. He started his racing career at 16, driving in the virtual 2018 eNASCAR Ignite Series on iRacing simulators when he couldn’t get to an actual racetrack. Fortunately a lot more HBCU students will be introduced to the world of racing via iRacing simulators being donated by Xfinity to Bowie State University, Delaware State University, Texas Southern University, and Spelman College in preparation for the Xfinity HBCU tour. Rajah believes tech will help provide other kids with similar opportunities and continue to shape the racing world.
Rajah had this to say about the future of NASCAR “…not only driving but going over the wall or being a mechanic or an engineer, or working at NASCAR, there’s so many different opportunities to be successful in the sport. And I think by doing things like with XFINITY in the eNASCAR college series–donating those rigs to HBCUs– I think that’s huge because it gets people involved and gets their foot in the door to racing where otherwise they wouldn’t have heard anything about.”
Tech is certainly not the only thing helping Rajah reach his goals. He credits having the right environment as well. For him, Winston-Salem University, one of the most highly regarded historically Black universities in the country, was the right environment. He says Winston-Salem, where he studies motorsport management, was the right place for him for one very important reason: “being there helped me to learn to make good decisions.” Rajah said. When you consider how he was raised, that makes a lot of sense. His father, Howard University Professor Dr. Roger Caruth, and mother, Samantha Caruth, assistant admissions director at Sidwell Friends, drove home the importance of education in their conversations with Rajah. When it was all said and done, he said, “attending an HBCU was a given for me.” Like many Winston-Salem students, Rajah is using every tool at his disposal to become the best in his chosen profession.
Unlike many of his classmates, Rajah is balancing a career as a pro-athlete and a full-time student’s course load. That can make prepping for races a bit more challenging, especially when the school year is getting into full swing. “The week prior, is a big balancing act, right? Because school starts next week. So it’s balancing that, it’s balancing simulator time, and it’s balancing workouts. It’s balancing meetings and different work I have to do on the race car and to myself, and on top of that, not trying to go insane to like having a personal life. So it’s a huge balancing act getting ready for each race,” he said. With so much on his plate, it’s tough to imagine the Xfinity Series hopeful managing it all.
There’s more for him to consider as well. Rajah knows more diversity can only make NASCAR better, and the D.C. native wants to be sure that the kids watching NASCAR and coming from where he did get the same opportunities he’s had. For Rajah, racing is more than fast cars and wins, giving him a chance to rep what matters to him. Whether it’s putting a sponsorship from his parents’ birthplace, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on his car or repping Winston-Salem on the track, he knows eyes are on him for more reasons than his racing record. That kind of pressure would be a lot for anyone, but Rajah carries himself with the cool and calm he’s becoming known for on and off the racetrack. It’s got a lot of people questioning how he manages it all. For now, as Rajah said, it’s all a balancing act.
This editorial is brought to you in collaboration with Xfinity.