Rajah Caruth picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s A-Game 200 at the Dover Motor Speedway when his #44 Circle Chevrolet fell out with suspension issues after 58 of 200 laps.
The finish came in Caruth’s second series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 22nd from suspension issues, the 27th for the #44, and the 592nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 49th from suspension problems, the 67th for the #44, and the 1,836th for Chevrolet.
One of the sport’s rising talents, the 20-year-old from Washington, D.C. made the move from iRacing to the real thing, and proved a quick study in late models. He’s won at some of NASCAR’s most historic short tracks, including Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Hickory Speedway. This caught the eye of Max Siegel, who brought him on board for his first full season in the ARCA Menards East Series. There, he ranked 3rd in the series standings behind Sammy Smith and Daniel Dye. His best run in five additional ARCA national series starts was a 3rd in Salem.
This year, now teamed with championship crew chief Brad Parrott, Caruth has moved ever closer to his first career victory. He’s finished no worse than 11th in all three of his ARCA Menards Series starts, including his first ever at Daytona and – just last week – Talladega. The Dover weekend would see Caruth run double-duty between both the ARCA Menards East Series and XFINITY. The former would see him finish 4th. The XFINITY race would be his first since his series debut at Richmond, also with Alpha Prime Racing, where he earned a 24th-place finish.
At Dover, Caruth impressed in practice, ranking 8th of the 39 entries despite running only 13 laps – which was fewer than all seven drivers ranked above him. He then qualified 15th, clocking in at 153.807mph (23.406 seconds). The lone driver who failed to qualify was Brennan Poole, who had rejoined with Mike Harmon Racing in the #47 Chevrolet.
Lining up 38th and last was “Dash 4 Cash” competitor Ryan Sieg, whose #39 A-Game Ford carried the same brand as the title sponsor of the race. A mechanical issue late in the practice session kept Sieg from turning a lap in qualifying, the only driver not to take time. Subsequent unapproved adjustments incurred Sieg a redundant tail-end penalty – the same reason listed for another five starters: 16th-place Brett Moffitt in the #02 Half Off Wholesale Chevrolet, 24th-place Jeremy Clements in the #51 All South Electric Chevrolet, 25th-place Myatt Snider in the #31 Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet, 33rd-place Josh Williams in the #78 Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet, and 35th-place Chad Finchum in the #13 Garrison Homes / UNITS Storage Toyota.
In addition, Caruth himself would also be sent to the back for a tire change along with his Alpha Prime teammate Ryan Ellis, originally set to start 28th in the #45 Costa Oil Chevrolet. Caruth, who would also carry one of FS1’s on-board cameras for the television broadcast, dropped to the rear on the inside line as the field came to the one lap to go signal. Entering Turns 3 and 4, Ryan Sieg pulled to the high lane with Caruth around the 32nd spot, the 38th spot now belonging to Williams in the #78. Sieg slotted into line before the start with Williams last across the starting line.
By Lap 3, Patrick Emerling took over the 38th spot in his season debut driving the #35 Chevrolet. Caruth, meanwhile, earned some screen time. Already up to 28th when Emerling took last, Caruth swept past a stalling Kyle Weatherman in the #34 SELE Foundation Chevrolet, then while racing J.J. Yeley in the #66 CW & Sons Infrastructure Toyota, made a stunning save in Turns 1 and 2, his car locked sideways for several tense seconds before he straightened it out.
|Caruth (upper-center) on pit road.|
PHOTO: No Tires Just Gas
On Lap 20, Caruth was now 27th and working on Brett Moffitt for position when two cars in front of them came together. David Starr’s #08 Children’s National / Ticket Smarter Ford crossed the nose of Kyle Weatherman’s #34, putting both into the outside wall. As Caruth escaped to the inside, Starr spun down the track, forcing a closing Jeremy Clements to spin into the outside wall. Starr incurred two concurrent tail-end penalties for speeding on pit road - pit road that was also closed before he entered. With Starr now in last behind Emerling, Caruth was up to 24th.
When the race restarted on Lap 27, Starr was 3 laps down in last and Caruth had climbed to 23rd, still fighting a visibly loose car. By Lap 43, Starr was down a fourth lap, and remained in last when Stage 1 ended soon after. Caruth wiggled his car on the track before he followed the rest of the field down pit road, and lined up 22nd for the restart on Lap 55. But the next time by, Caruth suddenly slowed in Turns 3 and 4, and was struggling to keep up the pace down the frontstretch. He rolled to the apron, the race still under green, for what was originally believed to be a flat tire.
On Lap 60, he returned to the track 3 laps down, just one lap ahead of Starr, but returned to pit road the next time by to serve a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire. This time, he went behind the wall, taking last from Starr a moment later. According to Jonathan Fjeld at TheRacingExperts.com, the team tried to repair a right-rear shock, only to discover the lower shock mount had been sheared off. This ultimately ended Caruth’s day.
Finishing 37th was John Hunter Nemechek, whose #18 ACME Toyota suffered a flat tire after the hub or brake rotor failed during the ensuing run. Bayley Currey’s #4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet was the day’s only other DNF, losing the engine in the final stages. Starr climbed to 35th as a result, just behind Mason Massey, the left-front and left-rear of his #91 A-Z Companies Chevrolet damaged in a wreck at the end of Stage 2.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #44 in a XFINITY Series race since October 30, 2021, when Tommy Joe Martins fell out after 36 laps at Martinsville due to rear gear issues. The number hadn’t finished last in a XFINITY race at Dover since October 1, 2011, when Jeff Green took the series’ last-place record from Jeff Fuller after a vibration 1 lap into the OneMain Financial 200. Green is also the most recent driver to finish last in a XFINITY race at Dover due to suspension issues, which occurred on October 3, 2015 after four laps of the Hisense 200.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #44-Rajah Caruth / 58 laps / suspension
37) #18-John Hunter Nemechek / 83 laps / brakes
36) #4-Bayley Currey / 154 laps / engine
35) #08-David Starr / 189 laps / running
34) #91-Mason Massey / 191 laps / running
2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Alpha Prime Racing, Mike Harmon Racing (2)
2nd) Big Machine Racing, JD Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Sam Hunt Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)
2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)
2022 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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