Rajah Caruth, driver of the #71 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Victoria's Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 01, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR News: Vegas Truck Race Post-Race Press Conference

Post race press conference with Las Vegas NASCAR Truck Race Winner Rajah Caruth

THE MODERATOR:  We are now joined by our winner of tonight’s race, Rajah Caruth.  History-making performance in the 20th anniversary of the Drive for Diversity program, becoming the third African American driver to win a NASCAR Series race, joining Hall of Famer Wendell Scott and of course Bubba Wallace.  

What is it like to hear that and make history like you did tonight?  

RAJAH CARUTH:  Yeah, man, I’m pretty speechless.  It’s been a tough journey so far.  A lot of people have helped me get to this point.  Thank you to every single one of y’all.

Definitely ups and downs.  But this journey has been fruitful at times and testing at times.  I’m just super grateful for Mr. H because he’s the only reason why I got in this thing full-time.

This winter was a lot of uncertainty about where I’d be driving, not having a bunch of funding behind me at the time.  I just stayed true to my faith and my family.  Fortunately a lot of people put a lot of stuff together for me to be in this spot.

I’m glad I made the most of it tonight, to be locked into the Playoffs.

THE MODERATOR:  If you have a question for Rajah…

What were the final laps for you?  What was going through your head at the time?  

RAJAH CARUTH:  Honestly, I was just like thinking what I needed to do if a caution came out, you know?  Just trying to make it to the end with how the balance of my truck was all night.  Just being prepared for anything, right?

It’s easy to get really excited and stuff, miss your marks, just get caught up in the moment.  I just tried to execute.  Fortunately a yellow came out and it worked out for us.

As a kid in D.C. doing this on iRacing, how feasible did you think this moment was? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Man, there was a lot of days, especially in high school, that I did not think I could get here.  I can’t tell you how many times I was at internship in my junior year working at the GW, like their basketball court, whatever, in the box office, just working on my website when I was just iRacing.  A lot of those days I didn’t think this would be at all possible.

I just got to thank my dad, my mom, my sister, just because they’ve sacrificed a lot to move me to North Carolina to be a part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program.  That’s really cool that it’s 20 years.  Shout-out to them, Max Siegel in NASCAR for believing in me from jump just because I think not a lot of people did.  Hopefully they start now.

Do you know what happened to your name on the back of the truck?  Have you seen it? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  I’ve not seen it.

Looks like it said ‘Carut’.  

RAJAH CARUTH:  That thing was so good, it just blew the decals off, I guess (smiling).

Without Rick Hendrick and HendrickCars.com, would you have raced the full schedule?  Would you just have had sponsorship for those 10 races? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  It would have been tough.  Not having a family that owns a team, not being born into this, right?  I got really lucky and fortunate that we started that relationship last year, that they believed in me enough to have me represent them not just here at the racetrack but at the things that I do away from the track.

I’m just super thankful, excited for more.

Obviously the win is huge, but you have had a really spectacular start the first three weeks of this season.  In general, how do you take in the start of this year? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Man, I don’t know.  I’m glad it’s an off week next week.  Get to spend some time with some really good people in my life.

I don’t know.  It’s just a testament to my team.  Everybody has been pulling one direction.  They’ve done a great job for giving us four fresh trucks, but also getting the Cup stuff where it needs to be, closer to where it needs to be.

Everyone has been working hard.  The decal shop has been busting their tails, same with our marketing department, our PR folks, obviously everybody at the shop.

I’m really grateful for today and just trying to take in the moment.  Like I said, people start writing me off.

You said you weren’t born into this.  What would you tell other kids that maybe come from a similar background that one day would like to be in your shoes? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Well, I think for me, I guess it’s not easy, right?  If you think you’re just going to wake up and be in front of you, it’s not.

You just got to put in the work and listen.  Emphasis on ‘listen’ because I think about my first years racing on iRacing, learning how to be fast on there, making a lot of mistakes.  Honestly it was kind of the same when I started in real life.

I just listened to people that wanted to help me.  I put in the work, late nights, early mornings, showing up.  I caught some breaks, for sure.

I tell those kids, because I know there’s a lot out there that are in similar spots than me, y’all can do it.  You just got to put in the work, pay attention, just do the right thing, and it will work out.

Getting a win so early in the season, how does this change your mindset to the rest of the regular season? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  It doesn’t really.  I just feel relieved, right, to be locked in a Playoff spot.  Besides that, man, I mean, it doesn’t change.  We prepare just as hard, do all the little things right the best way we can each race, adjust accordingly.

It doesn’t really change my outlook for the rest of the season.  I feel relief because I haven’t won anything since I’ve been racing late models.  I’ve been really close.  The ARCA stuff I raced over the last couple years, obviously a couple times last year, to finally get a win, it’s been a long time, but it feels special.

Bubba Wallace has been a mentor to you.  Have you been able to chat with him yet? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Nah.  We will at some point.  No biggy.

As all the chaos was unfolding just before you took the lead again, what are you thinking as you’re hearing all the penalties?  Was that your opportunity, your moment to try to get to the front? 


What was the thinking? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Was those speeding penalties?


RAJAH CARUTH:  Did the 98 speed?


RAJAH CARUTH:  So, man, I waved off of two.  I was like, Okay, so he’s judging how far he was away from me.  I could try to sneak up to him to get to the line.  We’re going through three and four, I’m at my hot point.  He’s still going.  Okay, I just need to back it down.

I had to give back a lot in my first section or two to make sure I didn’t speed.  Honestly, I was just like no way.  I didn’t expect that to happen.

I’m just grateful that the work kind of paid off there.  I’ve really put in the effort to be good at the pit road stuff from learning in my Xfinity races, to practicing it on iRacing.

I’m just glad it all worked out, for sure.

Rajah, can you just speak a little bit more to what it’s like to have the support of your family, especially here while you get your first win, such a huge win? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Yeah.  I’m really glad both my parents are here.  Especially my dad.  I know my sister’s watching, too.  They’ve been my rock.  My dad took me to my first race.  Both my parents did, with my late granddad.  Got me that first experience.  Really enabled me to put in the work and chase the dreams, like I said, of living by myself in North Carolina.

I can’t imagine for a mom, for a dad, to send their 18-year-old kid to a completely different culture, a completely different lifestyle, to live on his own, work at a race shop, and be in a completely different environment.

I’m glad they’re here.  They’ve been with me every step of the way.  That’s honestly a blessing I’ve really had, is having my parents, my sister, a lot of really good close friends and others that have helped elevate me, helped me during the tough times and helped me celebrate for the good ones.

I want to let you know, within the betting community, you’ve had a lot of supporters these first couple weeks.  

RAJAH CARUTH:  Yeah, funny you say that.  So many people would be like, I bet on you tonight.  Hopefully you didn’t put a house on me, but we’ll see.

There are lots of people celebrating tonight.  Do you have any special plans to celebrate this monumental victory? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Well, I had a bet with my tire specialist, Peter, that I was going to shotgun a beer in Victory Lane, but nobody got me a beer, which I’m not complaining.  I don’t really drink anyway.

I don’t know.  Hang out with my peeps tomorrow.

We’re in Vegas. 

RAJAH CARUTH:  I’m going home, bro.  I am flying back, yeah.  I am a homebody.  I stay inside.

I don’t know, may seem docile.  I’m trying to take everything in.  Like I said, last time I won, I won two or three races in a row.  I thought it was going to be easy.  Then I was struggling for a lot of times.  Had it close, slipped through my fingers a couple of times.  I’m just trying to take it in.

You joked during qualifying, looks like you have some dust in your eye or something after you got the pole.  

RAJAH CARUTH:  That was totally the truth.  That was the truth.  I was not lying.

How come you got emotional for the pole I was thinking? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Exactly.  That’s what I’m saying, bro, I mean, that would be kind of weird, I think, this whole race.

I don’t know, yeah, it was dust.  I was not lying (smiling).

Do you still go to Winston-Salem State? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Yeah, I’m a senior.  Hopefully I don’t have any homework.  I’m going to graduate in the fall.  It will be nice to walk across the stage.  It will be after the season ends so it’s great, I can go, see some of my classmates, some professors.  But I’m almost done.  I got some credits left I got to take care of.

Will this make it any easier to get some delay? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  I hope so.  I hope so.  I’ll probably ask.  Tell an official, I’m a little busy.  Maybe I can get some extensions.

It’s been really cool having the support of Winston-Salem State.  They’ve been behind me since really I started driving when I was in late models as a freshman there, supporting me in the Xfinity races, the ARCA car, other things I’ve been doing off the track.  It’s been great to represent them.

What did you do tonight that you haven’t done for a few years since you last won? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  I don’t know actually.  Like I said, I’m just trying to take it in just ’cause, I mean, it’s my first, right?  You never know when it will happen again, so…

(No microphone.) 

RAJAH CARUTH:  I’m sorry.  I didn’t really do anything different.  I think the last 10, 12 races that I’ve done, I’ve just kind of tried to be pretty calm and just do the race the best I can, not let my guard down.  Daytona, I let my guard down off of two.  That led to all the things there.  Otherwise, I think I’ve been keeping the same energy.  It just worked out tonight, so…

Now you see what happens when I get in good stuff.  I’m thankful for that.

You had a lot of criticism after Daytona for the ending of that race.  Tonight it seemed like a very well-executed race on your part, racing clean.  What does it mean to be able to have such a performance like that after Daytona? 

RAJAH CARUTH:  Man, I think personally it’s great in my own mind, right?  Like, after Daytona, I got a lot of flack, man.  I feel like I really didn’t deserve it.  It wasn’t something I did on purpose.  Similar things happened in the Xfinity race and the Cup race.

A lot of that stuff, I didn’t really appreciate ’cause it was, again, not something I did on purpose.  It’s racing, right?

But I think tonight, earning the win tonight, racing clean, like you said, I learned a lot.  Hopefully just some validation, right?

I think for myself it helps just because obviously you have your own doubts.  Self talk is a really important thing.  It’s great to kind of get over that hump a little bit.  So I just got to keep going, lean on my circle.

THE MODERATOR:  Rajah, congratulations on this win.  Good luck in the rest of the season.  Here’s to many more.  

RAJAH CARUTH:  Does anyone with a beer (smiling)?  I’m open to beer sponsorships, even though I don’t drink (laughter).

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