By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
Rarely does a ‘full circle’ moment come early in a NASCAR driver’s career, but for Rajah Caruth, he’ll return to a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team, Spire Motorsports, filled with connections from his climb up the racing ladder.
The Washington, D.C. native made his Truck Series debut with Spire in 2022. Caruth finished an impressive 11th at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in the team’s No. 7 Chevrolet Silverado. In total he made four starts with the team before moving to GMS Racing last season. Following Caruth to Spire is his crew chief Chad Walter.
As Spire Motorsports picks up the reins from Kyle Busch Motorsports, the team will assume the alliance with Rev Racing, where Caruth competed in the ARCA Menards Series as a NASCAR Drive for Diversity participant. His former ARCA teammate Nick Sanchez will drive the Rev Racing truck.
“We’ve talked about seminal moments for Spire Motorsports in the past, and I think this is another one of those moments,” said Spire Motorsports co-owner Jeff Dickerson. “Rajah Caruth is an exceptional young man. He’s a very talented driver with a bright future. He’s obviously young in his career but he’s mature beyond his years. You hear people talk about an ‘it’ factor and when you talk to him and get to know him, it’s pretty obvious he has ‘it.’
“We’re exceptionally fortunate to be able to bring Rajah into the mix and pair him with Chad Walter. Those guys worked together last season so to be able to keep them together should go a long way in terms of chemistry and being competitive. Outside of that, this is just a good situation for everyone. It’s as simple as that.”
The 21-year-old will also have a familiar sponsor onboard his No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado for 10 races, HendrickCars.com. In the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway, he drove the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro SS for Hendrick Motorsports and finished 14th.
To date, the up-and-coming driver has four top-10 finishes in 27 Truck Series starts with a best finish of sixth, twice at Darlington Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway. The 2021 recipient of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award’s first career top-10 came fittingly as he drove a throwback to Wendell Scott at Darlington.
“HendrickCars.com is the digital home for everything our company offers, including vehicles, career opportunities, service locations, and more,” said Gary Davis, executive vice president, Hendrick Automotive Group. “We are thrilled for Rajah to get this opportunity. He’s a bright and talented individual who will represent HendrickCars.com very well.”
The Winston-Salem State University senior has advanced up through the ranks quickly. After starting on iRacing, he moved to Legends Cars, Late Models, ARCA, and now the Truck Series. Caruth’s career path mimics that of Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron.
The significance of the opportunity, the sponsorship from Rick Hendrick’s company, and his pairing with crew chief Walter is not lost on Caruth. He considers the support from his crew, partners, and those around him to be special.
“I’m usually a pretty stoic guy, emotionally, but it’s hard not to tear up a little bit thinking about this opportunity,” said Caruth. “There was a lot of uncertainty over the winter in almost every sense of the word. I just feel really blessed to be able to drive for Spire Motorsports and to be able to have Chad (Walter) come with me. I’m flattered to have the support of HendrickCars.com and, of course, Mr. H and the whole Hendrick family.
“It’s a dream to be here and to have a full season and to have a place where I can grow is pretty special. I’m ready to get back to work and continue what we’ve done over the last few months. Huge thanks to Spire, Chevrolet, General Motors and everyone who supports me and my family for making this happen. I can’t wait for Daytona, Hopefully, I can make everybody proud.”
Among those that have supported Caruth is his crew chief Walter. The veteran crew chief has worked as a crew chief for 20 years, scoring five victories in the Xfinity Series with Justin Allgaier, Kyle Busch, Ron Fellows, Sam Hornish Jr., and NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin. Walter has worked for a variety of teams either as a crew chief or an engineer including Dale Earnhardt Inc., GMS Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Team Penske, and Michael Waltrip Racing.
Remaining with Caruth for a second consecutive season marks the first time since 2012 that Walter has worked with the same driver as a crew chief for two consecutive years when he led Hornish to a fourth-place finish in points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (now Xfinity). After working with a wide variety of teams and drivers since 1996, the Albion, NY native sees the potential that Caruth has and recognizes how special his driver is.
“Personally, that kid, Rajah, has changed my life,” commented Walter. “I don’t know of anyone else who I’d want to work harder for, or have wanted to work harder for, over the last 15 years of my career. He’s so uplifting in so many ways. He works hard and he wants to get better.
“I’ve worked with some really good drivers in my past, but Rajah really stands out. He goes about things the right way and his passion for this has really made an impact on me. I jumped at the opportunity to work with him again. It’s kind of a crazy business we work in but when I found out that this could come to fruition – that we could do this again together – there was no other option for me.”
Caruth’s first race in the No. 71 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet Silverado will be the Truck Series season opener, the Fresh from Florida 250 at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Friday, February 16, at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.