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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Caruth Finds New Home With GMS Racing

(Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

Rajah Caruth is ready for the next chapter.

Caruth, 20, will join GMS Racing in 2023 to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. It’ll be his first full-time opportunity at the national NASCAR level after a full-time campaign in the ARCA Menards Series last season.

And GMS, Caruth said, feels like a place where he’s wanted and can grow.

“It wasn’t a situation of they wanted me for what I could bring to the team and a funding standpoint,” Caruth told¬†The Podium Finish. “It was like nah, we want you as a driver for us for now and hopefully the future, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get you here.”

That support will be crucial for Caruth, who has taken a unique path into the sport. A Drive for Diversity graduate, Caruth began his real-life racing journey in 2019 after aspirations on iRacing as a teenager. After driving bandoleros and late models, Caruth ran full-time ARCA East in 2021 before shifting his focus to the main series in 2022.

Caruth also did four Truck Series races for Spire Motorsports and seven races for Alpha Prime Racing in 2022 to continue to develop. He recorded a top-12 finish in each series.

Caruth has preached the importance of seat time and learning each time he’s on track. Sometimes, it’s learning the hard way.

On July 23 at Pocono, in his third Xfinity start of the season, Caruth made contact with Alex Labbe exiting Turn 3 on just the second lap. Both drivers spun and hit the inside wall, ending their days.

Caruth took full blame for the accident. Though it was just one mistake, it was something that stuck with Caruth for a long time.

(Photo: Molly Gastineau | The Podium Finish)

“I didn’t really handle it the best way mentally for really like the month, month and a half after,” Caruth said. “It really just messed up my swagger. I had no confidence. Like, I was just at kind of a low point … that was really hard because I’d never really had a mistake like that. I know I will make ones from time to time, as does everybody. But that was my first time really doing it on a big stage, with the in-car [camera] in an Xfinity race.

“I think now, I wouldn’t have changed it just because I learned so much from not only driving, in terms of being situationally aware of what lap it is, what my balance of my car is and where I am spatially on the race track. Just to not even be in that spot again, when inevitably, I will be in situations similar to do so. But just to act upon it a little bit differently and be present.”

But if something like that happens again, Caruth will be in a different environment to handle it. He has expanded resources, including seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who purchased an ownership stake in PettyGMS last month.

“I just have a lot of depth and people I can rely upon for information and advice just because, you know, pretty green in this,” Caruth said. “I’ve got to go through some experiences on my own, but at the same time, I mean, I’ve got one of my heroes, Jimmie Johnson, that is not only a co-owner of the team but a driver here. That will be invaluable.”

Caruth will have Daniel Dye and Grant Enfinger as teammates in the Truck shop. He competed against Dye for the 2022 ARCA championship and has formed a strong relationship with Enfinger. In 150 Truck Series races, Enfinger has won seven times.

Caruth will lean on Enfinger as he develops as a driver in 2023.

(Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

“It’s huge to know that [Enfinger] has my best interest in mind,” Caruth said. “We’re competing [against each other], though we’re also racing for one team and we have one goal … I can tell all the things that he knows and it’s going to be very, very awesome just to have his expertise and advice.”

Caruth will go into his first full-time season with Chad Walter calling the shots. Walter, who has five Xfinity victories, spent 2022 working with Jeb Burton and Our Motorsports.

“I feel great working with him,” Caruth said of Walter. “Having conversations with him, I feel like we’re equals in the sense of like, he’s not talking down to me and I feel like my opinion has value whenever we discuss off the bat. I feel like that sets us up for having a good year — a great year, actually.”

Things are slowing down around the shop with the holidays approaching, but Caruth is taking note of the little things. He said the feel of a professional race team excites him, from the commodities of a nice pit box and hauler, to having veteran crew members with experience and seeing some of the Cup cars at the shop.

After the new year, it’ll be time for Caruth to buckle down and start preparing for the season opener at Daytona. He’ll have to balance schoolwork as a student at Winston-Salem State, which isn’t new. Regardless, Caruth said his approach is to just execute.

“I have all the resources, all the bells and whistles and all the assets that anyone could ever need to be successful at this level and competitive,” Caruth said. “The only thing I can do is just do my best, and that means doing my preparation, giving my all on the simulator and the DIL (driver-in-the-loop simulator), getting up on time, going to workouts, eating properly, getting to sleep on time and just making sure my mental is right.”

“I know that I have a work ethic second to none and so I’m going to continue that increase it more over this little break. Come January 2, we’re going to hit the ground running and keep moving. You’ll see it throughout the year that I don’t play around.”

 

Nathan Solomon is a junior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Bona Venture, and as the sports director for the campus radio station, WSBU 88.3 FM. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute baseball content, and he started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021 and became managing editor in the spring of 2022. He is recognized as an NMPA journalist. You may reach out to Nathan anytime at NSolly02@Yahoo.com.

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