CONCORD, N.C. – The Hendrick Motorsports No. 17 NASCAR Xfinity Series entry will make one final start in 2023 and Rajah Caruth will be behind the wheel at Phoenix Raceway.
Caruth, a 21-year-old driver, will work with crew chief Greg Ives for the 200-lap race. In a bit of a full circle moment, Caruth met Ives five years ago at a race at Richmond Raceway.
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"It’s pretty awesome to work with the 17 group just because it is people I grew up watching on TV that were part of some of Jimmie (Johnson’s) championships and stuff like that," Caruth said. "I feel confident going into the race."
For the weekend at Phoenix, Caruth will get a little extra seat time with a standalone 50-minute practice on Friday (7:05 p.m. ET). Qualifying will take place on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET) before the race that night (7 p.m. ET). What is his goal for Phoenix?
"Having a clean practice and qualifying sessions to running the whole race and keeping the fenders on it," Caruth said. "Being there at the end is my thought process. I can’t control the outcome as much as I ensure that I do my part and I know the team will. There is no reason why we can’t go and finish up front."
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Caruth is a regular in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series and has 18 Xfinity starts to his name. One of those Xfinity starts has come at Phoenix and manufacturer Chevrolet helped connect Caruth with the opportunity for this start. The 2023 season is in his first full-time season in any national series and that has provided the Atlanta, Georgia-born competitor with several lessons he carries with him into this start.
"One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is how to make the most out of the day," Caruth said. "If I got something that will finish 12th or 15th, don’t crash it trying to get a little bit more. Maximize the good days and salvage the not-so-good days."
This weekend’s start will mark the sixth for the No. 17 team. NASCAR Cup Series regulars Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman have each made at least one appearance in the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro with a combined three top-five finishes, four top-10s and one pole position. The starts came at Circuit of The Americas, Sonoma Raceway, Pocono Raceway, Watkins Glen International and Darlington Raceway. In its history, Hendrick Motorsports has earned one Xfinity Series championship (2003) and 26 race wins in the Xfinity Series. The organization’s last win in the series came in 2009 when Tony Stewart took home the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway.
The No. 17 car number carries a rich history and special significance to the organization. NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip drove it to nine Cup Series wins for the team from 1987 to 1990, including in the 1989 DAYTONA 500. The car number was also driven by Ricky Hendrick in various races, including in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series in 2000 and 2001. This year, the HendrickCars.com paint scheme is again based on the No. 17 truck driven by Hendrick during his 2001 rookie season.
Tune in to watch Caruth and the No. 17 compete at Phoenix on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).