Twenty-Year-Old HBCU Student Rajah Caruth Went From Online Racing To NASCAR | What’s Next?

Twenty-year-old Winston-Salem State University student Rajah Caruth got his start in motorsports when he saw the Lightning McQueen character in the movie “Cars.” With some mentoring from Black racing star Bubba Wallace, now the HBCU student races NASCAR for real and the hope is he will help diversify the sport.

It began with a movie and online racing

Caruth grew up in Washington, D.C., and his family couldn’t fund his racing career and in order to learn basic racing skills, he raced online. At 17 he was selected to be a part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program and had an opportunity to race a real car.

Rajah Caruth, driver of the #24 Wendell Scott Foundation Chevrolet, continues to break ground in NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“You have a reset button on [iRacing], so there’s almost zero consequences for crashing,” Caruth told USA Today. “Versus in real life, you slip a tire at one point or place your vehicle in a spot it shouldn’t be in, it’s game over.”

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. NASCAR Cup Series drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suárez and Kyle Larson are alumni of this program, which is operated by Rev Racing in Concord, N.C.

In just three years Caruth has gone from no real car racing experience to full-time racing on the third-tier NASCAR Truck Series circuit as part of the GMS Racing Team.

The struggles to make the sport more diverse

His truck truck carries the logos of the Wendell Scott Foundation, named after the first full-time Black driver and whose goal is to provide young people with cultural opportunities and increase exposure of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. 

“Rajah being from the STEM education world, it’s especially important for African-American students because we don’t have exposure to the racetracks,” said Warrick Scott, Wendell’s grandson and CEO of the foundation, to Fox Sports. “The racing culture isn’t particularly part of our lexicon.

“Rajah excelling through iRacing and being able to transition into the NASCAR Diversity program, he’s the next star of this generation because he is tied into technology.

“Increasing the pool of diverse drivers is the start, and it looks like the diversity program is helping to do that,” Scott continued. “We’ll have to see over the next 10 years how those drivers have progressed.”

The racist past and present of the sport is also something Caruth has dealt with.

During an iRacing event, another competitor made a comment hinting at Caruth’s entrance into the sport through the diversity program.

“‘Everybody knows how you got your ride,’” the competitor said allegedly, as Caruth retold USA Today. Caruth says those types of comments are “pretty frequent.”

Wallace has served as a mentor for Caruth and can certainly understand the racial issues faced within the sport.

“Bubba has been one of the most helpful to me, not only for on-the-race-track things but … also on a personal level, like understanding the similar things we go through,” Caruth said. “Since I was in Legend cars, it’s been big to have him in my corner.”

In order for Caruth to truly help with the sport’s diversity he’s going to have to be a star and to do that he will need to win races and compete for championships.

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