In what was probably one of the most stacked NASCAR Xfinity Series fields at Daytona International Speedway in the last decade, or longer, 47 cars laid down laps in hopes of locking their way into the 38-car field.
Following the session, there was a wide-range of emotions in the Xfinity Series garage.
Among the highest of highs was Ryan Vargas and the No. 6 JD Motorsports team, who clocked in incredibly with the third-fastest lap in the first round of qualifying, and ended up eighth after NASCAR re-racked the top-10 drivers from Round 1 for Round 2 of qualifying.
According to TobyChristie.com’s Joseph Srigley, Vargas’ Herculean effort in qualifying is the best qualifying spot for the JD Motorsports organization since Mike Wallace’s seventh-place starting spot at Daytona… 10 years ago.
Following his run, Vargas was stoked, but thought he could have even timed in even better than third in Round 1.
“I honestly thought I ruined it with a little bobble off of turn 4, everyone is saying the wind changed and maybe that did it, but I just bobbled a little bit,” Vargas explained. “It was weird. But that just shows what this JD Motorsports team can do.”
While Vargas felt his car was decent following final practice, he had no clue just how good it would be in single car qualifying.
“We knew we had a good car yesterday, I was going to say it wouldn’t be too far fetched for us to qualify top-20, but to be eighth, like we are, I am mind-boggled, flabbergasted, hoodwinked, all of the above,” Vargas quipped.
Vargas, 21, credits his sponsorship partners Swann Security for the elevation in performance this time around at Daytona International Speedway.
“That shows what happens when we have funding behind it,” Vargas stated emphatically. “Swann Security, they stepped up for a handful of races this year. There’s still a heck of a lot of races to sell. Anyone who sponsors these cars will get a quality car.”
Another incredible wrinkle in Vargas’ run is the fact that unlike drivers on mega NXS teams like Richard Childress Racing, Kaulig Racing and others, Vargas — the driver — also serves as a hand on the actual team back in the shop. The California-native says he actually helped put his Daytona car together.
“I helped build this car. I helped drop the motor in it. I helped all of this stuff. All of these guys worked insanely hard and this is a testament to what they do,” Vargas exclaimed. “I am blown away. It’s so neat to see everything that has gone into this car and just knowing how much goes into this and seeing it come to fruition is so insane. And I’m just so thankful.”
While there were exuberant feelings of joy on one end of the garage, there was a somber, dark mood on the other side.
Alex Labbé, who is running a part-time schedule for DGM Racing this season, was on the wrong side of the qualifying cutline. For Labbé, this is the first-ever DNQ in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career.
“It’s rough. I have about 112 starts, this is the first time we’ve ever missed the show,” Labbé anguished. “We were trying — I am not going to say let’s put it on me, but we were trying to scale back and do a little less races and be a little more competitive.”
However, Labbé explains he plan wasn’t originally to run Daytona and that plans for this race came together very late in the game. Ultimately, Labbé feels that is what led to him packing up the car and going home.
“We were not planning on coming here and we turned it around like three weeks ago, decided to build a car to come and I think that’s probably what hurt us a little bit,” Labbé explained. “It’s a brand new car, it’s the nicest looking car we have, but all of the little bugs we had to work on yesterday, I feel like we were a little off. Brake problems, engine problems. We were six hundredths out of the cutline. It’s nothing, it’s rough.”
While it’s frustrating missing the show, Labbé explains that he and the DGM Racing team certainly aren’t to blame. The team spent practice cleaning up a slew of mechanical gremlins on the No. 90 Chevrolet Camaro.
“Never fun. But that’s racing. Everyone worked their ass off yesterday,” Labbé stated with emphasis. “We rebuilt the car, we changed calipers, we changed exhaust, We changed everything trying to make it better for the show.”
So, what is the process like for a driver who is relegated to missing the field?
“Not sure yet,” Labbé answered. “First time it’s happened. I think it’s going to be a little rough seeing the cars on the track, when we should be out there. We’ll see. Try to gather our stuff up and look at some data and try to figure out where we were missing those six-hundredths. Just always trying to know what you can do better in the future, but it’s rough. It sucks.”
In addition to Labbé, there were eight other drivers and teams that failed to make the 2022 Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at Daytona. The other DNQs included: David Starr, Stefan Parsons, Mason Massey, Natalie Decker, Gray Gaulding, Ronnie Bassett Jr., Harrison Rhodes and Tim Viens.