There’s just something about a good underdog story that really moves the needle. For Ryan Vargas, who is set to compete in his 50th NASCAR XFinity Series event Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway, the milestone start will come from his milestone best starting position ever, seventh.
After an incredible qualifying session, which Vargas was able to top his previous best qualifying effort, eighth set back at Daytona International Speedway in February, the 21-year old praised his JD Motorsports team for their tuning of the car — the same car he took to the eighth-place start at Daytona.
“It’s just these guys. They put in so much time into the Superspeedway cars, Vargas explained to TobyChristie.com. “We spent the whole offseason getting ready for Daytona. Made it through Daytona, for the most part, clean. We were able to take that same car and just kind of nurture it and get it ready for this race. It worked. Kase, Berg, Gabe, Spud, Dave from Green Bay. They all — everybody does a great job here at JD Motorsports.”
While a seventh-place starting spot doesn’t mean much to some, for an underdog like Vargas, any time spent atop or, in this case, near the top of the speed charts, in any session is a BIG deal. The driver, attempting to hold back his emotions, explained the feelings.
“My interview on TV was all over the place because I was just so excited, but it feels good,” Vargas stated. “We haven’t had any luck this season. It means a lot to me, especially my 50th start. This really means a lot.”
So, what is it about this car in particular that makes it so fast? Why is this No. 6 car able to do what Vargas needs at Daytona and Talladega to secure a top qualifying spot?
“It just drives good. It drove great in the pack at Daytona. Drives real good by itself,” Vargas said. “It doesn’t get bound up. That’s the big thing, when it doesn’t get bound up like that, that’s what you need. This car, it just rolls. It feels great. It’s a testament to those guys.”
Not only is Vargas driving a fast No. 6 car, but you couldn’t help but notice a new sponsorship partner on board as Hempvana Maximum Strength Pain Relief Cream brought a bright and bold green paint scheme to the track. The partnership yielded a bright race car, and now, Vargas hopes it can yield even more for his budding NASCAR career.
“The team at Hempvana came on board this week. Obviously, we announced it today. Just been an amazing opportunity there,” Vargas said. “They’re obviously one of the fastest growing pain relief creams in the United States — actually, No. 1 fastest growing — it’s a great feeling to represent a brand such as them. Just kind of knowing the potential that’s there. That’s the big thing. Very excited about that. They’re available at Walmart. I literally went to Walmart and grabbed myself one. Go to Walmart. If people go to Walmart and buy their product, that directly supports us. And I’m not kidding. If people went to Walmart and bought product, that shows that this works.”
While qualifying up front is great, the focus now shifts to Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 race. Vargas, a native of California, knows he has a fast car. What is the key to taking that fast car and using it to secure his career-best finish on Saturday?
“We just need to be there on the white flag. That’s the big thing. That’s been the story of what we need to do at these Superspeedways,” Vargas explained. “We’ve been in position now for the last few races, problem is we haven’t had the track position. We’ve been running at the end of all of these except the fall race here, we got caught up in someone else’s mess. But that’s the key. If you’re running on the final lap and you’re in that lead group, you have a shot. At Daytona, we had a great opportunity there and tomorrow, we have just as good if not better.”
While Vargas is confident in the car, he doesn’t hold back in knowing that he still has a thing or two to learn about big pack Superspeedway racing.
“I don’t know,” Vargas responded when asked if he’s learned what it takes to maximize his finish in the closing laps. “I’m still so novice to this Superspeedway racing and it’s crazy to think how many I’ve done to this point and yet it still feels like I haven’t done really any. It’s still such a unique type of racing for me. I’m still learning the kinks. Honestly, my qualifying lap today was so sloppy on my part, I felt. So, I’ve just got to work on some different things myself. Be smoother on the wheel, understand where these runs come, study the footage and just do what I can.”
If there was anywhere that an underdog could rise to the occasion, it’s the wildly unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway. And after an underdog-heavy qualifying session on Friday, which saw Jeffrey Earnhardt score his first-career NASCAR National Series pole, it just feels like maybe the planets are aligning for one of the journeyman hard workers in the garage to break through.
Vargas will look to make it to the end of the race, and if it all plays out well, you’ll see a bright green No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet in the mix for the win in the closing laps.