Every race fan can likely say that they’ve dreamed of becoming a NASCAR race car driver at some point in their life, but very few manage to achieve that dream.
Just 18 miles away from the Next Gen test at Daytona on Wednesday, ARCA Menards Series driver Rajah Caruth made his personal history by turning his first laps in a NASCAR Xfinity Series Camaro for Alpha Prime Racing. The 19-year-old will make a handful of starts for the team while also contesting a full ARCA Menards Series schedule for Rev Racing.
The private but approved test by NASCAR took place at the historic New Smyrna Speedway. The sanctioning body allows a driver to have a one-day test if they have never driven an Xfinity Series vehicle at any event, pending approval from the sport.
Caruth strapped a GoPro camera to his helmet and gave fans a front-row seat to his day at New Smyrna.
This is from my third run. Second time I’ve ever wheelhopped. These @NASCAR_Xfinity cars have so much power! pic.twitter.com/QjVhmEwkzb
— Rajah Caruth (@rajahcaruth_) January 12, 2022
A milestone moment for the 19-year-old, many on social media chimed in to share their happiness for the Xfinity Series rookie, including his mentor Bubba Wallace and the popular service iRacing. Caruth has been an avid endorser for the platform, as his racing career likely wouldn’t have seen such fast growth had it not been for the service.
Just FaceTimed him and you could tell he was holding in his excitement 😬😬😬
Nothing like your first time! Congrats and enjoy the moment homie👊🏾 https://t.co/2VYTo9qz0L
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) January 12, 2022
so proud of you. 🥲 pic.twitter.com/5dIFXtlMaA
— iRacing.com (@iRacing) January 12, 2022
RJ Starcevic of the NASCARReport was at the test with Alpha Prime Racing to get a first-hand account from Caruth regarding his debut test.
@rajahcaruth_ recaps his first 3 runs in a @NASCAR_Xfinity car with @TeamAlphaPrime, getting ready for another few runs in the car here at New Smyrna.#NASCAR pic.twitter.com/M6cx2elmXd
— RJ Starcevic (@RJStarcevic) January 12, 2022
“I think the biggest thing I’ve had to learn with these Xfinity Series cars is not only the power, but the difference in the tire,” Caruth told Starcevic. “It’s not a General Tire radial; it’s a Goodyear radial – they have some difference and some similarities, so it’s been something I’ve been paying attention to.”
At the track were members of the Alpha Prime Racing team, including general manager Tommy Joe Martins and team owner Caesar Bacarella.
“He did a great job. Really impressed with the feedback and how quick he got up to speed,” Martins told TobyChristie.com. “Threw a couple different setups at him, and he adapted to that really well.”
Wednesday marked a significant milestone for not only Caruth but for those who can compare their dreams to his. Caruth began his racing career on iRacing through the eNASCAR Ignite Series, a short-lived series designed around the ages 13-16 bracket to help young drivers take the first steps into a real-life career in motorsports.
It was when he got spotted by the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program that everything changed. The addition of Caruth to the program, including graduates such as Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, and Bubba Wallace, showed the true potential Caruth showed. With his iRacing experience cementing the first steps of his NASCAR career, the unique path Caruth walked had very few footprints before him.
As if his age or his road to NASCAR needed any more individuality, Caruth is prepared to enter the Xfinity Series as only, as of now, the second African American driver in the series for 2022, joining Jesse Iwuji. With that comes potential pressure, but more so negative and sometimes hurtful comments in the social media space.
“It’s an elephant in the room a lot of the time, obviously, but I don’t necessarily pay any mind to it,” Caruth previously told TobyChristie.com. “Especially for the negative stuff.
“I didn’t know how to deal with it. I’m going to be completely honest; I just haven’t cared. Why am I going to worry about someone else’s opinion? I know I’m doing my best; I know that I’m doing good, there’s no point in reading into it. With the negative stuff, I truly do not care.”
None of that will matter once the helmet gets strapped on and Caruth fires his engine for his first-ever Xfinity Series start. Caruth is expected to handle the short-tracks for APR in 2022, matching nicely with his ARCA Menards Series experience.