Earlier this week we have got an opportunity to talk with the driver of the no.6 JD Motorsports car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ryan Vargas.
Ryan Vargas is a 20-year-old driver from La Mirada, CA. Throughout his racing career, he has driven in different championships and reached success. At the moment, he competes in his first full-time Xfinity Series season together with JD Motorsports, the team, with which he has started his career in the championship.
Ryan Vargas’ career in racing started back in 2012 when he started driving Bandolero cars. He reflected on that period of his career and spoke about how he started driving race cars and what was the inspiration that drove him at that moment, stating that racing was his real passion.
“I just didn’t like other sports. I didn’t like. I tried baseball, I tried basketball, I tried football and I just didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t have fun doing it. I loved cars. I loved anything with four wheels and a motor. And once I found out that kids could race in a division called Bandoleros, where kids get their start, I knew right away it was something that I wanted to do. And from there on, you know, we just kind of chase this dream that we didn’t really find, we didn’t really think we can make it this far,” he said.
“So the fact we’re, I’m sitting here talking to you, talking about racing at Talladega [the article to come out soon], it’s something that is beyond what we could have ever expected,” he added.
Speaking about early years, Ryan also spoke about the first impression that he remembered about driving a race car. Though it was not the most pleasant one, it gave a lot of motivation to his family and himself.
“I remember for me, my first ever memory of driving race cars, the first time I ever drove a race car, racing, driving a Bandolero (…) I struggled and I hit the wall, but it was the first time I ever drove a race car. And it was something that kind of lit a fire in me, lit a fire in my family. We jumped into this with no expectations, but however, we did set out a goal that when we did it, we were going to be champions and our first year of racing in Bandoleros we became champions. So it was something that we knew we wanted to take, take on, and take seriously. And I personally am very excited to see where the future takes us.”
Throughout his career Ryan Vargas drove different kinds of race cars – Bandoleros, super late models, and stock cars. He told which one he liked driving most.
“I love the Xfinity cars right now, and frankly, I think they’re my favorite cars to drive, but a close second would probably be street stocks I really enjoyed racing. Those things are very heavy, very underpowered, but they were very tough to drive. They’re very tough to get a handle on. And you had to drag those things on the ragged edge every single time you’re on the racetrack. And it taught me a lot about how I need to drive race cars. And it’s something that I apply to race Xfinity cars crazy enough, as it sounds to this day.”
A first win is always a special feeling and it was the case for Ryan Vargas. He remarked his first late model victory as the most remarkable moment of his early career. He mentioned that as a child, he would not have believed that he would be up there at the victory lane several years on.
“I would say the biggest one [moment] was when I won my first ever late model race in the early portion of my career. I remember watching in the stands being a fan, watching the late models run around the track, being the kid in the grandstands, watching them.”
“And sure enough, I think it was probably seven or eight years later I was out there and I was racing against a lot of those same guys and beating them. And it was kind of like one of those moments for me, where I was able to look at it and be like, this is cool. I’m proving to myself and I’m proving to others that I can go out there and race and be competitive.”
2019 was an important year for Vargas as he made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Iowa Speedway. He spoke about the experience he had during his first weekend in the championship, which definitely was an emotional and important one for him.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Prior to that I had lost my K&N ride, and I basically lost everything that I worked for at racing. I never thought I’d be able to come back from it. So really I went into Iowa, but the mindset of this was kind of make or break for me. You know, I was an 18-year-old washed up driver, plain and simple. I was washed up. I had no nothing set up. I didn’t have a big budget. I didn’t have anything, no sponsors backing me. It was just me taking a chance on myself. And I’d say it was probably one of those races that I look back on very fondly as a race that shaped the rest of my career.”
Though Ryan Vargas had some Xfinity Series experience, we never got to see him racing in the Truck Series. However, the 20-year-old shared his desire and hope to drive the truck one day and considered that it would be a fun expeirence. He also did not regret going straight to the Xfinity Series.
“Oh yeah. I’d love to make it make some Truck Series starts. I feel like the Truck Series is probably one of the most competitive series in NASCAR. But with how everything lined up sponsorship-wise, funding-wise, opportunity-wise, it just seemed like the Xfinity Series was the place I need to be. And the folks at JD Motorsports have really opened up their doors and have really just kind of given me my first shot. And it’s something that I’m very excited to be a part of. I definitely would like to do a Truck race here and there and try it out. It looks like a ton of fun.”
2021 is the first time that Ryan has a full-time season in the Xfinity Series. Ryan explained how it felt from the driver’s perspective to have a secured seat for the entire season.
“It’s super rewarding. I’ve gone most of my career with a lot of my races being a very big question mark as to when the next one would be. So I’m very excited.”
Despite having a lot of misfortunes at the start of the season, Vargas considered having a lot of time behind the steering wheel as a positive.
“We’ve had a very, very tough start to the season. Just a lot of bad luck, a lot of things out of our control that none of us really have control over. But I’m getting so much valuable seat time and I’m learning so much about race cars and learning about how I want to be not just as an athlete or a driver, but as a person that I’m excited to see where this all can be.”
Ryan Vargas has been driving with JD Motorsports throughout his entire Xfinity Series career. He commented on what was special about their cooperation as well as how it would feel to make a trip to the victory lane together.
“Like I said, they took a chance on me. They believed in me and they’ve opened up their doors to me when I was washed up. And I think that’s something that I’ve always been very grateful for. JD Motorsports, it’s a smaller organization, but when they put a lot of the time, they put very good pieces of equipment on the racetrack and we go out there and perform.”
“You look at Texas last year, you look at Daytona this year, you look at Pocono last year, you look at Iowa, you look at Road America, you look at all these races, where we ran well inside the top 15, even Darlington, we got caught up running through someone’s oil there, but we were running up in 14th when when we hit it. So, we’re able to go out there and perform very, very well.”
“And I think that’s something when you’d go out there and have those performances, people see that. We went to Texas and we finished eighth, a lot of people saw that and took note. They saw that JD were stepping up, I’m stepping up as a driver. And it’s something that I think is just gonna help propel my career in the direction that needs to go.”
“It would be special [to win]. I mean, they haven’t won a race. So if there was an opportunity to slay at Talladega or we played a good strategy or we just have a really good race car, where we were to have those kinds of days, it would be something that would definitely catch a lot of people. But it would also mean a lot to kind of deliver those kinds of results to Johnny [Davis] and his organization.”
Ryan Vargas made the headlines last year by teaming up with one of the most quickly grown social media platforms TikTok. He recalled the process of setting up the deal and would like to have this partnership one again.
“It was super cool. A friend of mine, Ryan Pistana, who’s a very talented graphic designer, put together a concept scheme of what a TikTok car would look like, and it got a lot of likes and shares and stuff like that. But that ended up kind of getting to the people at TikTok. And I saw that and they looked at it like a ‘why not?’ situation, ‘why don’t we do this?’ ‘Why don’t we just kind of jump in and have some fun?’. And that’s what they did. They jumped in.”
“I handled a lot of the meetings and I learned a little bit more about how to handle business, what companies look for, especially partnering up with a giant, such as TikTok. It was so cool just to learn all that and to be able to be the one that is responsible for bringing such a large entity into the sport.”
“And I look forward to what I’m able to do with TikTok on, you know, in the future, as well as, you know, what opportunities just open with other partners. So, um, it was just such a cool opportunity.”
“You know, we’re just working on it [new cooperation]. We’ll see. Um, you know, obviously, you know, it comes down to just know what happens sponsorship-wise, but, um, we’re working on it and hopefully, that will happen.”
While speaking about TikTok and its influence, Ryan also shared his insights on how good would it be for NASCAR to have such social media giants in the sport.
“It’s big, it’s a massive part of the sport’s future. It’s massive for drivers as well, for myself. I worry about going out and if we have a tough race like we did this past weekend at Martinsville, people don’t look at it as ‘man, that guy sucks.’ They look at it as ‘Well, we know Ryan’s established, we know him, we follow him, we understand who he is.’ Obviously, there’s more to this and people understand when you have these bad days, they understand a little bit more about that versus those who kind of don’t focus on social media or don’t kind of get their name out there.”
“If they were to go out there and have the same day we had, a lot of people would look at it and be like ‘oh, what’s this guy doing?’ It’s a lot about getting your name out there and telling your story so that it helps your progression through the industry.”
In continuation of the conversation about sponsors, Ryan had another important sponsor in 2021 in NFL’s star Alvin Kamara and his company The Big Squeezy. Vargas also shared that story, which started from a usual tweet, and the impact it had on him and his performance. He also shared the experience of working with Alvin right on the race day.
“I was blown away. It got me on SportsCenter, got me on all of these massive outlets, and Alvin, he’s such a big fan of the sport. He is such a big fan of NASCAR. And when he responded to it [the tweet], I knew right away it would be something that would be a lot of fun. And with his help, we were able to run very well.”
“Unfortunately we had that mechanical failure that put us behind the wall for a few laps, but before that, we were running 12th at a road course. And I think that’s something that needs to be noted. We have that in our back pocket. We know that we’re good at road courses. We know that we have the speed necessary to go out there and compete.”
“And with Alvin Camara’s The Big Squeezy, he’s trying to grow that company. They’re trying to spread their message of having tasty but healthy beverages. And I’m excited to kind of being a small part of that. And hopefully, we get to work with them a little bit sometime in the future.”
“(…) It was just super neat to talk with him and learn a little bit about him. Obviously, he’s one of the best running backs in the game right now. So, it’s interesting to learn about what makes an athlete like him tick, learning about what makes him who he is. And it was an honor to have him in his brand on our race car.”
More than that, Ryan expressed that he did not expect to have such big sponsors as TikTok and Alvin Kamara’s The Big Squeezy.
“It’s crazy. I never expected to kind of be the guy who has these massive sponsors come in like this. Because that’s basically how it is. I, I’m not a big name, I’m not, I don’t have a famous last name. I don’t come from a lot of funding, which isn’t a bad thing.”
“A lot of people try to associate people who come from money as it being bad, but I don’t come from that. I don’t have a famous last name. I don’t have any of that in my back. And I don’t have long ties in the racing industry. I’m here simply on a will and a prayer. And we’ve made it this far. (…) It goes a long way.”
With 7 races done and dusted in the Xfinity Series, there was a lot to analyze and think about. Ryan did it and shared his impression about how the no.6 team and himself had started the season alongside the goals for the remainder of the season.
“As a whole, I gotta be better. We’ve been having some failures here and there that we need to work on, but that’s what this team’s all about – kind of coming back from these things and digging our heels in and fighting. And that’s something I don’t have any doubt in my mind that we can do. I believe in myself, I believe in this organization, and if I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t be trying to be here. And I’m just super excited to try and turn the season around.”
“I definitely want to just try and make a rebound in points, continue to make back up the ground that we’ve lost as well as continue knocking down top 20s, top 15s, top 10s. I have no doubt in my mind that we can get back to where we should be. And like I said, I believe in this organization and I know that we can go there and perform. And I think that that’s exactly what we’re going to do for the summer stretch coming up.”
Xfinity Series has always been a competitive championship and this year proves it like never before. We talked with Ryan about how much that helped him grow as a driver and improve his racecraft and how he felt being a part of such a strong grid.
“It’s a very stacked field. The field has got, I would say, five cars more competitive this year than it was last year. And I enjoy it. I’ve never had this much fun driving race cars. And I feel like we’re going to have a lot of fun this year. I feel like once we get into the summer stretch, we kind of get some of these kinks worked out and we get it a little bit more luck coming our way. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to start knocking down those results that I talked about earlier and start turning some heads.”
In the recent years NASCAR has been doing a lot of radical changes to the schedule as well as the tracks. Ryan spoke about possibly driving on a street course in case that would happen in the foreseeable future.
“If it’s a market and it’s something that NASCAR feels that they need to do to kind of help grow the sport and keep it healthy, then I think it’s a move that we need to make.”
“I don’t want to just do a street course for the sake of doing a street course. I want to make sure that if we’re doing that, it’s in a viable market, that it has, long-term benefits for the sport and keeps us, race car drivers, with the job. And I think it’s cool. I think it’s going to be unique if it happens, it’s just going to be what happens.”
With only few races made in the 2021 season, the drivers start building their plans already for the future, including next year. The JD Motorsports driver shared how the 2022 plans looked like as of now.
“I definitely want to race. But as of right now, 2022, it’s kind of just a question mark right now. I’m working hard to try and secure everything to keep my long-term goals inside and keep my long-term place in the sport. And it’s all about those people who believe in me and who have gotten me to this point. And I’m just super excited to see how this year finishes out really.”
In the end, we got to talk with Ryan about the possibility of joining the NASCAR Cup Series in the future. He wanted to join the pinnacle of the stock car racing, though he admitted that the needed to gain more experience.
“That’s a tough one because I never thought I’d race Xfinity. So now we’re here. My goal, obviously, is to race in the Cup Series, but I definitely just got to play at case by case. I know for a fact I am 110% not ready to race in the Cup Series. And I don’t want to go out there and run last and put myself and any team’s equipment in a compromising position. So I’m going to make sure that if that they were to come and if the opportunity was to present itself, I were to go out there and to perform and was able to put a respectable result on the table.”
Ryan Vargas looks more energetic and motivated as ever as he prepares for the next weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega, about which we will talk in the coming days.
We want to say thank you to Ryan Vargas and the JD Motorsports PR/Marketing manager Leighton Sibille for making this interview possible.