INTERVIEW: Caruth's shot at the big time

Christian Petersen/Getty Images via NASCAR

INTERVIEW: Caruth's shot at the big time

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INTERVIEW: Caruth's shot at the big time

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Rajah Caruth doesn’t have as much experience as many of the drivers he races against, but he can assure those who will watch him full-time in the Craftsman Truck Series next season that he is just as hungry.

“Nobody wants it more than me,” Caruth tells RACER. “Although I haven’t been racing since I was 5 or 10 (years old), I’m just as much of, if not more of, a racer than all of my counterparts.”

Caruth and GMS Racing announced his 2023 ride on Tuesday, giving him the steering wheel to the No. 24 Chevrolet. The 20-year-old will be a rookie in the series alongside Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye.

His new status as a full-time NASCAR national series driver is still sinking for Caruth. With the offseason training and personal changes that he’s undergone over the last few months, he was prepared if something came his way. But the reality of being in the Truck Series garage on a regular basis won’t hit home until he’s doing it on weekly basis.

“The small things like having my own hauler and not having to worry about travel, and really the things that to some guys are pretty normal, to me is a big deal,” Caruth says. “But effort-wise, this is what I’ve been working toward for a long time.”

There will be some who will be introduced to Caruth for the first time next season, while others become more familiar with the former NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine member. Caruth, who grew up in Washington, D.C., has no family history in the sport and started on iRacing before getting a chance to compete in different grassroots divisions with Rev Racing.

“I’m not plain,” Caruth says of what fans should know of him. “I feel like a lot of the drivers in trucks, and in general, a lot for them are very plain and the same copy and paste personality. That is not me.”

Going truck racing is perfect for Caruth, who feels it’s the next natural step for his career. He made four starts last season with Spire Motorsports, which served to get his feet wet for the competition, but also helped him understand how important the mental aspect of racing is.

Caruth dipped his toes into the NASCAR national series waters this year with a handful of Xfinity and Truck starts. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

“At St. Louis, I really went into there really naive and not knowing what was going to happen and how we were going to do,” Caruth says. “I ran pretty well, and although I spun, I sped, and I got put in the wall, still finished 11th, which was good. But then at Richmond, I felt like I’d be able to run up front again but ran 25th.

“So, that was the biggest thing I learned with the mental game and how important homework (is), but also being as even-keeled as possible in terms of not getting too high or too low. And then the fact that so many things can happen in truck races with how short they are.”

Homework isn’t a problem for Caruth, and not just in the ironic sense that he’s a junior at Winston-Salem State University majoring in motorsports management with a focus on marketing. Those who have had Caruth on their radar, like GMS Racing president Mike Beam, will point to his work ethic.

In addition to being on a workout regime from driver-turned-trainer Josh Wise, Caruth has been keeping notes since he started racing, and he rivals a phone-addicted teenager with how much he uses his as a tool.

“On my phone, I have a notebook that I’ve used since I started racing late models in 2019 – 2020 that goes all the way to the current day,” he says. “In that notebook, I write down all the information that I can get out of my brain from being in the race car. I even have some of my virtual racing experience on there, which, honestly, is kind of weird. But I have a very detailed notebook.

“I have a sim rig in my room, and I’m on there basically every day. I have an insanely high… you know the iPhone screen time number? My YouTube screen time is over three hours a day ,watching stuff. I have probably five different playlists of racing stuff to watch or play in the background of my apartment. From last year’s practice and qualifying to races to onboard cameras. Even off-track stuff like Noah Gragson, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola have channels and made blogs and videos. Some basketball players as well.”

No matter how much a driver says they are ready to be thrown into the deep end of the pool, that is rarely the case. Caruth, however, feels as ready as he’s going to be for his chance next season, having put in all the effort he can off the track with studying and training to try to make the most of the opportunity.

“It really comes down to my preparation off the racetrack – getting to workouts on time and being plugged into the competition meetings to doing the best I can in the simulator to my preparation behind closed doors when nobody’s looking,” Caruth says. “It can be all fine and dandy if you do workouts and act a certain way on camera or in front of people, but behind the closed doors, when it’s you and the trainer or you and the person in the mirror, that’s where the difference is made.

“If I achieve that and push myself every day, I know the results will come.”

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