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On this day at Spire Motorsports’ headquarters, you can see the trappings that come when a NASCAR team wins a race. There are speeches and pep talks by team management and the driver-crew chief combination of Rajah Caruth and Chad Walter, a photo of all the employees standing together outside, a team-provided lunch, and even an ice cream truck with assorted free treats.

The celebration is honoring Caruth’s triumph a few weeks before in the Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Fittingly, the sunny spring day matched the atmosphere around Caruth’s career prospects.

“His attention to his craft and seriousness towards it is paying off,” Spire president Doug Duchardt said.

The focus on this day is as much on what Caruth accomplished in Las Vegas as on the potential of what’s to come. With Caruth, all of 21 years old and just a few years into racing actual cars after getting his start racing in the virtual world, it’s easy to think there will be more days like this ahead.

“This is a new dawn, I guess,” Caruth said. “(Walter and I) were talking about how this changes the complexion of the rest of the (regular) season for us in terms of how we (go after points), how we’ll approach stages and things of that sort. And that’s a new thing for me.”

Even with little real-world experience, Caruth’s ability behind the wheel has been unmistakable. He’s adapted quickly to every new division, flashing speed and potential.

But it takes more than talent to succeed on the climb up NASCAR’s developmental ladder. Many young drivers have had a moment of glory, suggesting a continued upward trajectory, only to fade out. It’s a lot easier to stumble than to continue pushing ahead.

“He’s honestly from the same mold that I am,” said Cup Series driver William Byron, who also started racing virtually before transitioning to real cars. “So I feel like there’s pros and cons to that pathway, kind of learning from seat time and all the experience, but I think he’ll get there. He seems like he’s figuring it out.”

Caruth endeared himself to his Spire colleagues with his work ethic. Duchardt raves about how much time Caruth spends in the shop helping his No. 71 team in ways big and small.

“He’ll help them by handing them wrenches. He’ll be hanging around as they’re building the trucks,” Duchardt said. “And I just think that it makes it easy for everyone to want to pull behind him to help him have success.”

This quality was on display long before last year, when Caruth was a rookie in the Truck Series trying to find his way with a team (GMS Racing) dealing with the likely possibility that it would close at season’s end, which ultimately happened. Since relocating from Washington, D.C., to NASCAR’s hub in the Charlotte, N.C., area as an 18-year-old, Caruth has been a fixture at racetracks, even on weekends when he wasn’t required to be there.

His presence was noticed around the garage. And so was the notebook he carried around, writing down anything he thought might be educational.

“He walks around with his notebook and jots down whatever you have to say,” said Bubba Wallace, who has served as a mentor to Caruth. “I’ve never done that. I don’t know if anybody else in the garage has done that. So he’s different in that way. But he just wants to learn and get better.”

Even as Caruth has progressed to the national level, he hasn’t stopped writing in his notebook. Just last fall, Kyle Larson ducked into the basement of Bristol Motor Speedway’s media center to use the restroom before Cup Series practice when he spotted Caruth sitting alone rewatching his Truck Series race from the night before, taking notes.

“He was down there watching the race and he had his notebook right in front of him and he had all these handwritten notes and stuff, and I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve never done that,’” Larson said. “So I thought that was just really cool. He obviously wants it, works really hard and wants to make it happen.”

“There’s no way around the work,” said Roger Caruth, Rajah’s father, a professor at Howard University. “I don’t care even if you’re talented, you don’t put in the work, at some point someone will work harder than you and will probably be more successful.”

After an uneven rookie year, Caruth is now seeing tangible results from that work. Beyond the win in Las Vegas, he also scored his first career pole that weekend and led a career-high number of laps. He’s currently fifth in the Truck Series points standings after five races.

But it’s how he won the Las Vegas race that stood out. It was more than speed. His race craft played a big part, as he successfully navigated a green-flag cycle of pit stops at the end while more experienced contenders made mistakes.

“He just did a really good job staying patient,” Larson said. “There were many points where he could have gotten frustrated, but he settled in.”

Between normal duties that go along with being a full-time driver, his studies at Winston-Salem State University, where he’s a senior, and the onslaught of media obligations that have come his way since becoming just the third Black driver to win a NASCAR national series race, Caruth has found himself in a whirlwind these past few weeks.

Helping Caruth navigate his newfound stardom and budding career is his family.

His younger sister, Liyah, is Caruth’s go-to when he needs a sounding board. Both mom and dad are actively involved in their son’s life as well. Typically, every Sunday, Roger Caruth and his son will chat for about an hour to go over the week ahead, determining what’s essential, what can wait, and making sure Rajah has time for himself.

“Every time we talk, first I want to make sure he’s going all right emotionally,” Roger Caruth said. “Then there are learning curves, opportunities and things that are going to happen, and it’s just kind of being mindful of the things that have been asked of him and making sure that I am aware of them. I just try to tell him to make sure there’s a balance there in terms of what needs to get done and to think about everything he can do.”

Rajah Caruth’s career trajectory is still to be determined, but he certainly has caught the attention of team owner Rick Hendrick, whose automotive company, Hendrickcars.com, signed on to sponsor Caruth for the full season. Both Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports executive Jeff Gordon believe Caruth has the potential to advance to the Cup Series someday.

That support extends beyond Hendrick’s sponsorship. The ice cream truck parked in front of Spire’s headquarters is there because it is Hendrick’s favorite, and he sent it over.

“It’s very weird,” said Caruth, eating a scoop of strawberry and reflecting on the situation. “Hopefully we can make this a regular thing.”

(Top photo of Caruth earlier this month at Bristol Motor Speedway: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images)



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