HICKORY, NC– Rajah Caruth is an 18-year-old, soon-to-be freshman at Winston-Salem State University. But unlike most of his class of 2024 peers, Caruth isn’t getting settled into his new home on 601 South Martin Luther King Drive this Saturday. He’s getting settled into what he hopes will be a long career in motorsports.
The pinned tweet on his twitter account is a photo of a triumphant Martin Truex Jr. Two words describe his drive and goals: “One Day.” That is his goal, ambition and drive.
Birthplace of the NASCAR stars
It’s a typical hot early August day in Hick-ree (that’s how you pronounce “Hickory” in the NC foothills) North Carolina. I’ve made the trip to Hickory Motor Speedway to watch Caruth in action.
The storied 60-year-old track is something of a legend in stock car racing. At just .363 miles, it is the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Famous Short Track.” It earned the name The Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars” by helping drivers like Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett (father of Dale) and Ralph Earnhart (father of Dale, grandfather of Dale Jr.) earn their stripes.
It dawns on me that though the track is less thirty minutes from my neck of the woods, I’ve never felt compelled to come before. The young brother from D.C. is already having an impact on the sport.
By the time I get in the grandstand, Caruth is already humming along in the first of two races for the evening. It takes me a second to find his black Toyota Camry late model stock car. Turns are sharp on the asphalt track, as you can imagine due to its brevity. Caruth holds his own, though, finishing eighth in his first run.
Race over, I get down to the pit area as Caruth emerges from his RevRacing car. He takes off his racing helmet and tosses on a red WSSU cap as he gets encouragement and coaching from his crew. I’m snapping pictures, but I’m sure I’m smiling too.