HBCU Student Rajah Caruth To Make NASCAR Debut In Car Sponsored By Virginia State University

HBCU student and professional racer Rajah Caruth is fulfilling a childhood dream and making his NASCAR debut on Saturday, April 2 at Richmond Raceway in a car sponsored by HBCU Virginia State University.

Though Caruth will drive a Virginia State-sponsored car, he is a student at fellow North Carolina HBCU Winston Salem University. His foray into the professional racing world will make him just the third Black driver within NASCAR’s current national racing ranks, ABC8 reported.

Taking to the track in the Xfinity Series at Richmond International Raceway is a full circle moment Caruth, who attended his very first NASCAR race there when he was 12 years old. His parents surprised him with a trip there after years of being asked by their son.

It’s a moment the Washington, D.C. native still remembers.

“The sun sets right out of Turn 4, and they still had that Ferris wheel at the entrance of Turn 3 and it just resonates in my mind,” Caruth told NBC Sports. “I remember having my pizza in my hand and my backpack on and just race cars (on the track)… and the sun is setting. It’s a beautiful scene.”

Caruth said he was a die-hard NASCAR fan before he made his first trip to the Richmond Raceway as a 12-year-old.

“But I think that race, seeing everything, it emphasized it,” he said. “As a kid, you don’t think about having to have a job. Sometimes you know what you want to do, but you don’t understand you’ve got to work. From (that) day forward, it was like, ‘OK, this is what I want my life’s work to be … OK, this is my purpose.’”

The 19-year-old driver implied that he was still processing his upcoming NASCAR race when he posted an image of his name on his car accompanied by the caption, “This is real.”

He echoed the same sentiment about his rise in the sport while talking to NBC. “I really can’t grasp it. … It’s pretty bonkers,” Caruth said.

What a rise it has been. Caruth went from iRacing, which is a simulation driving program, to performing well on the track. He entered NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which provides training and opportunities for Black people, people of color and women in the driver’s seat and on pit crews in the industry. Prior to that, he had no formal on-track training.

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Now he is signed with Alpha Prime Racing, a stock car racing team that competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, for the 2022 season.

Many have high hopes for him. VSU President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah is one of them.

“At VSU, we are known for being a conduit for greater trailblazers. That’s why we are pleased to support our fellow HBCU student who is expected to make history this weekend,” Abdullah said. “We take pride in providing a pathway to greater (things) for our VSU students and we expect that the VSU sponsored car #44 will be Mr. Caruth’s literal vehicle to continue on his road to greater successes.”

Saturday’s race will begin at 1:30 p.m.

PHOTO: Rajah Caruth looks on prior to an ARCA Series auto race at Dover International Speedway. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

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