By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A quiet finish inside the top-25 in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway for Rajah Caruth was the culmination of two initiatives. The two initiatives being the concept of ‘Sim 2 Reality’ and NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.
The Washington, D.C. native made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at ‘The Action Track’ on Saturday. Driving for Alpha Prime Racing, Caruth put the No. 44 Virginia State University Chevrolet Camaro SS 17th on the speed charts in practice. The 19-year-old was on pace to accomplish his pre-race goal.
In the race itself, Caruth ran on the lead lap until the end of Stage 1. However, when the caution fell just after the Drive for Diversity competitor fell out of the free pass position. Nonetheless, Caruth soldiered on. By the time the race ended, he was 24th, two spots shy of his goal for the checkered flag.
While he didn’t meet his goal at the checkered flag, Caruth did accomplish other goals. He never sped on pit road, slid through his pit box, or spun on track. Though he finished two laps down, Caruth did complete all of the laps.
“(My Xfinity debut) was interesting,” admitted Caruth. “I feel like being in the car was the least stressful part of the weekend. Now that (my debut weekend is) over I feel good about it. Honestly it was a bit like what I expected. I wish I had finished a little bit better. Overall, not terrible and I’m ready for the next one now.”
With only 20 minutes of practice, Caruth had to rely on his sim experience. The iRacing regular is another example of the concept of ‘Sim 2 Reality.’ Caruth is one of several drivers, including Anthony Alfredo, Josh Berry, Parker Retzlaff, and Ryan Vargas that are known both for their real-world racing and iRacing prowess. Though the full-time ARCA Menards Series driver translated a sim racing career into a real-world opportunity.
Caruth’s racing career started on the motorsports simulation platform. He’s a regular in the eNASCAR iRacing Road to Pro Qualifying Series, which he won the race at Richmond earlier in the week. Caruth also competes in various leagues including Monday Night Racing. In 1,898 oval starts on iRacing, the iRacer, and real-life driver, has racked up 185 victories.
“iRacing helped big time,” stated Caruth. “I think just the grip levels are a little bit different now, iRacing’s got a little bit more grip than Richmond actually has. iRacing has two times as much grip compared to how it feels in real-life. Besides that, it was visually pretty close, line sensitivity and proximity were pretty close. Felt comfortable and the sim helped me a lot.
“I mean [‘Sim 2 Reality’], case in point, is my entire career,” continued Caruth. “Not racing anything, not knowing anybody and going straight from (iRacing) to Legends Cars and then Late Models. That’s the clearest evidence of it. It’s taken me a couple years to get it, but I get it now and iRacing is the reason why we’re talking right now.”
While Caruth’s Xfinity debut, as well as Retzlaff’s successes, are proof of the ‘Sim 2 Reality’ concept, the driver of the No. 44’s start was also the culmination of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. He is the first Caribbean-American to make a start in the Xfinity Series. Caruth is the 10th Drive for Diversity participant to reach the Xfinity Series.
Though some question Caruth’s rapid ascent up the NASCAR ladder, his on-track success has spoken for itself. The young driver laughs off much of the criticism that is directed towards him. Rather, he focuses on the job at hand on the track while also being representative of the Drive for Diversity program. By doing so, Caruth leads the next generation, likely inspiring many that may not have had someone representing them on track.
“I think more representation is important,” explained Caruth. “Just to do my part (at Richmond Raceway) itmeant a lot. I’m excited to do that for years to come.”
For Caruth, his next race is the ARCA Menards Series General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway with Rev Racing on April 23. His next start in the Xfinity Series is scheduled to be the A-Game 200 at Dover Motor Speedway with Alpha Prime Racing on April 30.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Rachel Schuoler / Kickin’ the Tires.