GAFFNEY, S.C. — Team owner Johnny Davis was so impressed with Ryan Vargas’ NASCAR Xfinity Series debut for his organization that he’s bringing the California young gun back for another go-round.
Vargas will pilot JD Motorsports’ flagship No. 4 Chevrolet Camaro during Saturday’s CTECH Manufacturing 180 at Road America, the 23rd of 33 races on the Xfinity Series calendar.
The four-mile Wisconsin road course is a fan-favorite track on the schedule and will mark Vargas’ second-career start.
The 18-year-old is not only grateful that he got the call for an open race on the No. 4 car’s schedule, he recognizes the impact his solid debut last month at Iowa Speedway had within the garage area.
“This is really huge for me, to not only be asked to come back to JD Motorsports, but to do it in their flagship car this weekend and work with the No. 4 team,” Vargas told SPEED SPORT. “With all the hype around the (No.) 4 car, with what Ross was able to do with it last year and even what Landon (Cassill) was able to do at Bristol on Friday night with it … running inside the top 10. The car’s very competitive and Johnny knows the deal and knows the sport better than anybody.
“It’s really awesome to be able to go out, especially after Iowa, and show that I belong in the sport.”
In reflecting on his Iowa debut, Vargas was quick to note how much fun he had behind the wheel, staying out of trouble en route to a 17th-place finish, one lap off the lead pace.
“Iowa was honestly just a really awesome race,” said Vargas, who drove the No. 15 Chevrolet in that event. “You know, we ran up inside the top 15 at one point and battled with the lead pack; it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot, spent a lot of time working on my lines and just adapting to such a different race car, but to end the race with a P17 finish with that car was a really big deal, maybe bigger than I realized.
“We tied the best finish of the year for that (No. 15) car, so it was honestly a really successful night and something that really all hit home after the race, when I pulled into the pits and I heard Johnny come over and say, ‘Great job bud. You did awesome,’” Vargas added. “I knew that, you know, it was a good day … but that was still really special for me.”
A former California late model regular, Vargas is self-admittedly not a road racer, but he’s eager for the challenges that competing at Road America this weekend will bring.
He’s also keeping his goals very realistic going into the weekend as well.
“I’ve been watching a lot of video and doing a lot of iRacing trying to get ready for the race, getting used to hitting the marks and where they are, the braking points, the shifting points … there are a lot of technical nuances that go into road racing, but especially there,” said Vargas. “Really, for me, the whole plan is just to stay on the track and avoid the messes. This weekend is not about me trying to run and do really well and try to pass people and all that fancy stuff. It’s another race of getting experience.
“That’s the mindset I took into Iowa, and we ended up being really competitive. Who knows, we could be competitive, but if not, the whole goal is just to stay on course, keep the car clean and learn.”
As far as the pressure of jumping in the most recognized of the four JD Motorsports entries, Vargas isn’t focusing on that either. He’s worried about himself and about minimizing mistakes.
“Of course, there’s always going to be a little bit of pressure in a situation like this, knowing that Ross (Chastain) put that car up front and did a lot of good stuff with it last year,” Vargas admitted. “But the whole premise of this weekend, like I said, is just trying to keep the pressure off and learn.
“If we can do that and finish, you’ll see me smiling like usual after I get done on Saturday.”