Rajah Caruth liked the animated autos of “Cars” as a kid, got hooked on the race scene after a trip to the track and sharpened his driving skills as a teen via online racing.
Caruth might one day earn his shot at inspiring the next generation of drivers.
The 18-year-old Caruth is a NASCAR prospect, a young Black driver and one of a half-dozen youngsters participating in the Drive for Diversity program tasked with finding and developing drivers for a sport lean on women and minorities behind the wheel.
“Ideally, I’d want to be in the Cup Series in the next decade,” Caruth said. “Hopefully, by then.”
The program has developed few drivers for the elite Cup Series over nearly two decades in existence — Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez are among the former members and the only ones currently with rides — but a renewed push at scouting younger drivers and promoting them has NASCAR optimistic more recent classes will reverse the trend.
Wallace’s extraordinary season and his emergence as a social activist, in fact, have put a bright light on the program, which wobbled for years between a public relations exercise and a meaningful avenue toward a Cup Series career.
There are 56 graduates of the Drive for Diversity pit crew program actively working across the three national series, including 27 at the Cup Series level. Cup rides for program graduates are scarce, though. Kyle Larson, who is half Japanese, was the most successful alumnus until he used a racial slur during a live-streamed virtual race and was fired by Chip Ganassi.
“There needs to be more resources available for that program,” said Brad Daugherty, the lone Black team owner in NASCAR.
The task of turning the program into more of a driver factory is on the agenda