With much of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season being fixated on many of the top teams including Penske and JR Motorsports, lost in the shuffle is JD Motorsports.
The organization has seen great growth over the past few seasons, with four full-time drivers in 2021.
One of the newest members to the full-time schedule is California’s Ryan Vargas, who spent 2020 in a part-time role with the team, bouncing between the No. 15 and No. 6 entries.
Coming off the heels of the Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega, it was a historic day personally for the California driver, leading his first career laps in his NASCAR touring career .
“It’s super cool to have that under my belt, and to say that I led laps in a race,” Vargas said. “It’s still crazy to think about, even though it was a pit cycle, at the end of the day it still counts and that’s something that we all needed on our team.”
The 20-year-old driver led a total of three laps after JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry spun in Turn 4 at Talladega.
“I didn’t really believe it,” Vargas said. “I was doing all I could to hold a pretty wheel. My mind was still on the task at hand, to keep the car going straight and make sure we were there at the end.”
While the FOX television feed failed to show on-camera Vargas’ achievement, one of his team members wanted to make sure that the rookie remembered the achievement with a unique memento form the track.
One of my crew guys handed me this after the race & it made me feel a whole lot better.
Last year I was on the sidelines hoping for a shot. Today, I led laps in a @NASCAR_Xfinity Series race (yes I know with fuel cycle, but cool nonetheless).
The results will come. I know it.🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/1lFv7ExZ6X
— Ryan Vargas (@RyanVargas_23) April 25, 2021
“It was really cool, it was actually a piece of the pit road wall I believe,” Vargas explained. “It was my car chief that did that. It’s really cool to see that… We’ve had some real bad luck the last few races, so to go out there and to put that under our belt and have ourselves a clean race, and leave there knowing we had laps lead, I think that goes a long, long ways.”
The aforementioned bad luck that the No. 6 team has shown in 2021, has been especially rough over the past few weeks. A strong start to the season in Daytona with an 18th place finish is the highest he has placed thus far in 2021. Since Daytona, Vargas placed 23rd at Las Vegas, but has failed to finish better than 30th since Phoenix. Martinsville in particular was a dreadful race for JD Motorsports, with all four Camaros finishing 36th or worse in the field of 40 cars.
“There are so many things that have been out of our control and it’s unfortunate,” Vargas explained. “It’s part of racing unfortunately. Even without practice and qualifying, it is tough to make sure everything is right and going. When’s it’s all out of your control like this, it’s tough. These guys are working really, really hard and I know we are bringing some really good pieces of equipment to the race track. I have a good feeling about Darlington, we ran well there last year, and I think we can go there and do it again, and get our momentum going again.”
For a rookie driver, it can be difficult to pinpoint specifically what tweaks need to be made to ensure a positive result. It’s apart of the learning process for Vargas, but his confidence in JD Motorsports hasn’t faltered.
Explained Vargas, “Everyone is firing on all cylinders, everyone is busting their butts in the shop, and that’s something I am very appreciative of. I am appreciative to be on a team that works as hard as they do, and puts forth the effort that they do. It’s all about believing in each other, we all support each other, we are all there for each other. I know we can go out there and perform.”
The organization is more than capable to deliver results for Vargas. During his part-time schedule in 2020 driving the No. 15 and No. 6, he finished in the top-20 three times with a best finish of eight coming at Texas late in the season. Even more impressive, one of those top-20 finishes came at the near monsoon that was the Charlotte Roval race, Vargas’ first trip to the track as a driver. Additionally, his first start for JD Motorsports in 2020 was a 13th place finish at Pocono, accounting for one of five starts where he finished better than where he started.
Darlington is a track that Vargas is putting plenty of faith into to help turn his rookie season around. He’ll honor one of his favorite drivers in Mark Martin with a special throwback to his 1994 Valvoline colors.
I’m so excited to announce a new partnership with Myrtle Beach, SC’s @Monarch_Roofing and do so in STYLE.
— Ryan Vargas (@RyanVargas_23) April 23, 2021
To add to the occasion, it’ll be the primary sponsor debut for a brand new name to the sport in Monarch Roofing. It took some convincing on Vargas’ end to make it happen, but the sponsor was more than happy to conform to the NASCAR Throwback celebration.
“I, myself, am a pretty big Mark Martin fan,” Vargas explained. “I’ve met him a handful of times, and he’s a guy that I like to listen to, and hear from. I grew up watching him win races driving the Hendrick cars. the Roush days were before I was even old enough to remember. I knew if we were to show up with a really cool throwback, it would make the race more special. Everyone loves Mark Martin, the scheme is gorgeous, and Monarch Roofing is excited to be in the sport.”
Driver No. 6’s mentality for racing can mirror classic drivers of days gone by. Vargas has orchestrated a number of his own deals in 2021, including securing sponsorship from NFL Running Back Alvin Kamara and his juice bar brand, the Big Squeezy. He admitted that he makes plenty of cold calls, e-mails and other forms of communication to help bring new sponsors into NASCAR. Monarch Roofing is one of those cold calls that became a reality thanks to driver initiative.
“When you don’t have the funding, or the last name behind you, it takes just about everything else you got,” he said. “You have to put your best forward to make these deals happen. I am very fortunate where I get to work with the team at JD that helps facilitate these deals, and help understand what I need to do. But if you look back on the deals so far this year with the Alvin Kamara deal, and the TikTok deal, the Swann Security…it’s a big deal. I still have a lot to sell too, just before I got on this call, I was looking up companies for these race coming up. I have to do my part.”
Vargas admits that even with the times of hardship due to lack of funding, his driving career was moving to the point of uncertainty, with funding being a crucial component to how a team performs. However, he has been able to shine even without funding. His first road course race in 2019 at Road America for JD Motorsports was an unsponsored race, with Vargas driving his Camaro home 18th. While funding is necessary, he has proven that he can drive the car and keep it clean.
Said Vargas, “I know that I have to put my full effort into everything that I do. If that means spending five, six, or seven days a week hunting for sponsors, or working on the cars, going to meetings… then that is what I am going to do. I believe in myself, and that’s a big thing.”
Despite only one start in Xfinity at Darlington, Vargas is ready for what he calls a “h
“For myself, I just really lean on those around me, I lean on Landon (Cassill), Jeffrey (Earnhardt), and even Colby (Howard), he’s got more experience than I do at Darlington,” said Vargas. “I’ve got to lean on these guys. You’re always learning every time you hit the race track. It’s going to be a hot, slick race track and that fits my driving style.”
With every driver formulating their own unique driving style, some become vocal with smaller details such as paint scheme style. Vargas decided to offer his thoughts on the sponsored spoilers debate, a staple in the ARCA Menards Series.
— Ryan Vargas (@RyanVargas_23) April 24, 2021
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I feel like it has to be a flat color. It has to be one color – either black, white, or with what Xfinity does with the red spoilers, but they don’t plaster their logo on the spoiler.”
Regardless of his driving style, or his paint scheme takes, the fan-favorite Xfinity Series driver is only at the first steps of his NASCAR career. But he isn’t letting the validity of a full-time ride hinder his appreciation for the position he is in now, and what his future holds for 2021.
“I am so appreciative of all they do, I’m appreciative of Johnny Davis and everybody at JD Motorsports for believing in me and allowing me to drive their race car.”