While some teens dream of owning their first car to freely ride around the District and not depend on a parented escort, 16-year-old Rajah Caruth dreams of tooling his car, a race car, around a speedway in NASCAR.
Caruth’s dreams are getting closer as this past weekend he had a chance to participate in NASCAR’s 2019 Drive for Diversity Youth Driver Development Combine, in Charlotte, N.C.
Dozens of youth between the ages of 12 -17 from across the country competed in the trail for one of four coveted open slots on NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Development Team, which develops drivers for NASCAR’s professional racing series.
This year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Youth Driver Development Combine assessed participants’ on-track skills through a competitive driving experience. Each competitors’ combine performance, as well as recommendations and feedback from NASCAR and Rev Racing, which hosts the combine, factor in to the final decision on who is selected to become a member of the 2019 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Youth class.
For Caruth, racing has been on his mind and in his heart since he was little.
“I’ve been in love with racing for just a long time- it’s honestly just second nature to me,” Caruth said, adding that the Pixar Movie Cars was his first memory of liking racing- and that since then there wasn’t much about the sport he didn’t like.
I love everything about it,” Caruth said. “It’s not just about the cool looking cars and the cool tracks. It’s the drivers going head to head each week.”
Caruth, a junior at School Without Walls and residents of the Capitol Hill area of D.C., took part in the Autobahn Indoor Speedway Summer League, a high-speed indoor go-kart racing league, and has been an active participant in the NASCAR iRacing Series for just over a year.
The iRacing Series (NiS) is an online racing series that mirrors the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and follows the real-world NASCAR schedule each week. In his 18 iRacing Series stats in 2018 and 2019, Caruth won two races, placed in the top five four times, in the top 10 ten times and led his races for a combined 197 laps.
Caruth practices at least a couple hours of iRacing during the week and then as much as he can on the weekend.
His parents have been behind his journey as a racer, saying, “they really have been supportive and I can’t thank them enough.”
And even though he has been hitting curves on race tracks, he is not yet licensed to drive on the District’s streets. He plans to take his permit test hopefully on the next spring break, but ironically isn’t rushing jokingly adding, “there’s no place to park in D.C.”
Don’t worry parents, because they have varying age categories and skill sets, you don’t need a license for this particular sport.
Competition was stiff but Caruth was excited to compete.
“It would be amazing,” Caruth said, “to even make it to this point is even mind blowing to me. There are kids who were born into racing families and I am just this kid from the city.”
At the end of the exciting weekend, Caruth tweeted, “Almost back home from the [Rev Racing] [NASCAR Diversity] Youth Combine. What an amazing experience! Was an honor to compete against such talented wheelmen and women. I’m so grateful for all the support from back home and everyone else. No matter the result, still gonna grind it out!”
Curuth acknowledges that racing has made an indelible impact on his life saying. “[It] is all I want to do, honestly; I just want to race. Even if I don’t end up racing after high school, I plan on going to college in North Carolina and doing a sports related major. I wouldn’t do anything else.”
To find out more about Rajah Caruth’s racing journey, please visit his YouTube or website.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.