It happened on turn No.3 at the Daytona International Speedway. After Rajah Caruth faced delays from pesky drizzles of rain, NASCAR had decided to push through the sleet with air dryer trucks inserted into the equation to periodically attempt to remove the precipitation from the track. The Next Gen Energy 250 was in the final of three stages with just over 40 laps remaining on the 2.5 mile on the track considered one of NASCAR’s two “superspeedways.”
Directly in front of what is known as “photographer’s row” because of the propensity for accidents, Rajah Caruth would be embroiled in the night’s biggest accident. The trucks were comfortable in three-wide formation in many of the levels, drafting off of each other. Driving the GMS Racing No. 24 Wendell Scott Foundation Chevrolet Silverado, Caruth wiggled just a bit entering the very difficult three wide formation and his truck appeared to catch a draft and with the trucks bottled in together, several vehicles were spun out in the accident. Caruth would regain control and make it to the garage with significant damage, but the crew was not able to repair the vehicle to the point where he could finish the race.
It was a bitter end to not only a good practice round and qualifying, but a good race despite the conditions. Caruth started in the No.17 position. He craftily had moved over the 57 laps he had completed of the 100 laps, into the No.8 position. He had methodically taken opportunities in the race to engage in passing other cars and backing off when necessary.
For the junior at Winston-Salem State University, it was not the finish he had worked for. It was his first NASCAR Truck Series Craftsman Tool event. He finished at No.29 in the race, earning eight series points. In a pre-race interview with HBCU Gameday, Caruth was particularly concerned about the gusty winds that were prevalent in Daytona Beach on Friday. With the close
proximity trucks traveled in during the race, any slight adjustment in motion could lead to a big pile up. Coupled with the slick conditions, it simply was not ideal traction for these drivers who are constantly within centimeters of each other traveling in excess of 180 mph.
Three wide is a typical race formation where the vehicles are running virtually parallel, just inches apart from each other. Additionally, drafting from the car or cars in front of them, it creates a group of cars that are inches away from each other in the front and both sides. In this popular scenario, one wrong move by either of the drivers and there is a huge pileup.
Zane Smith would take the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway. The race marks the return of Craftsman to the sponsor position of the truck series after a brief absence. Caruth will try to regain his form in the Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 in Las Vegas, NV on Mar. 3.