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By Seth Eggert, Editor-in-Chief
Each new year, new NASCAR season, marks another ordeal for drivers to race and find sponsors. Among those looking to secure their future for the upcoming 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is Ryan Vargas.
In 2021, Vargas competed in 29 of the 33 races of the Xfinity Series season. The sponsorship ultimately sidelined the La Mirada, Calif., Native for four of the road events during the season. Despite this, the 2021 season marked the highest number of Xfinity races Vargas competed in in a single season. His best result of the 2021 season was 14th at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the middle of the year.
As the 2022 season approaches, optimism is at its height for JD Motorsports 2021 with driver Gary Keller. Despite all the ‘no’s’ in seeking funding, Vargas has always found companies that say ‘yes’. It is these approvals that allow the former NASCAR Drive for Diversity to continue pursuing their dream behind the wheel of a race car.
âThings are looking good,â Vargas admitted. âIt was probably like the best situation I’ve been in. I never started a season and I was just in a good enough position to be able to control my destiny a bit. That’s what’s been really good this season, is that I got into the offseason knowing that I have X in sponsorship and that I’m able to figure out what I can do and try to find more.
âI’ve heard thousands and thousands of ‘no’s’ to sponsorship. But those yeses are the ones that keep you going. I can name all the yeses on maybe four or five percent hands, but it’s those yeses that are what I’m here for. Those yeses are the reason I am able to get into a race car on Saturday and pursue this dream that I, at 17, was not supposed to pursue.
While several companies have joined the group over the years, Vargas’ first chance came when JD Motorsports, in his eyes, took a bet on him. The Johnny Davis-owned team first hosted the 21-year-old at Iowa Speedway in 2019. Vargas finished 17th in his debut. Since then he has won one of the organization’s 45 top 10 in nearly 1,500 starts. It also counts for three of the 110 laps the company has led on the track.
Since its inception, Vargas has been an integral part of the JD Motorsports family. He raced a touching tribute car at Pocono Raceway last year, in honor of the late crew member Brian Lear. Early racing accident swept through his No.6 Chevrolet Camaro SS Every life is worth saving. Emotions overflowed during an interview outside the care center which resulted in a surge of support for the aspiring driver.
“They’ve really believed in me since I first started,” Vargas recalls. âWhen I made my first start in 2019 it was really a risk to allow myself to drive a race car because in my opinion I was a failed K&N driver who didn’t really have much to show. . It was really an opportunity for me to go out there and make a last ditch effort to see if I fit in. And this race changed that opinion of myself and allowed me to have opportunities like I do now in the NASCAR Xfinity series.
âWe’re all working out the details. There is still a lot of work to do. Nothing is ever guaranteed in racing, but I have a big home here at JD Motorsports.
Emotions on the track, the family atmosphere also extends to the virtual world. On iRacing, Vargas often competes with Gabe Wood, a tire specialist at JD Motorsports, and his team leader, Kase Kallenbach. The trio compete in several leagues including Monday Night Racing, CORE, among others. Wood helped Vargas adjust the paint scheme for the first round of the Monday Night Racing qualifiers at Talladega.
An added benefit of being a regular on the iRacing platform is the continued relationship building with sponsors. Earlier in the Monday Night Racing season, Vargas signed Get Wet Sports as a sponsor. Although the partnership was first attempted on the real car, it eventually resulted in an opportunity in motorsport simulation.
âIt was pretty cool that came out with a tweet,â Vargas explained. âIn fact, I had contacted them a bit to do stuff on the real car. But they just couldn’t do it back then. They wanted to make sure we kept in touch and stuff like that. A little out of the blue, I was sitting at my desk at home, like I had done all this Monday Night Racing stuff and I was like “what if I have a sponsor for this?” So I sent them a message, sent them a fair price. There you go, it worked. “
Vargas is not the only one signing sponsors for the leagues on iRacing. Other NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers Anthony Alfredo and Rajah Caruth have also signed sponsorship agreements for Monday Night Racing. With the iRacing League attracting an audience in the thousands, the value for sponsors is tangible.
âIt’s definitely something, but at the end of the day it has to be tangible,â Vargas continued. âYou have to be able to transmit to the partner who sees it the number of eyeballs, etc. For me, I’m able to go to a partner and say, okay, 40,000 people are watching this iRacing race and you were in the foreground. We led a lap and so on, it’s tangible. It’s something that these partners can look at and say, âokay, we’ve got some value out of itâ. Ultimately, yes you can, but it’s still pixels. You have to put the value there somewhere.
While Vargas has signed sponsors for Monday Night Racing, he also runs cars that match his real Xfinity series cars. The additional in-sim sponsorship tool is attractive to sponsors because the attention they receive on iRacing is effective.
Vargas not only manages paint schemes in leagues, but also in official iRacing races and those he has hosted for additional practice. In the hosted races, which he broadcast on his Twitch channel, he invites the iRacing community to participate. Vargas often posts the server name and password on social media for anyone who wants to join the session.
âI think it’s one of those things where maybe you can use it as a tool. I use it a lot to drive my real cars. As I run Swan Security, Cars, MaintenX, Monarch Roofing. Whenever I have a sponsor every weekend, I try to keep my iRacing car, similar to the car I will be driving this weekend. I did this a lot last year, every race we had a different partner or something like that. So I would change the paint scheme over the weeks.
âIt was a pretty cool thing. The sponsors, they saw it, and they loved it. They got that extra value that they really didn’t buy into. It wasn’t something they paid for, but they got some extra exposure. It was something they really liked, and it turned out to be a pretty effective tool.
Ultimately, Vargas has found this sense of belonging over the years at JD Motorsports. The circle is closed, between those of the team with which he competes on iRacing, those with whom he works every day at the store, and those on the track, it is a group that believes in him. While the results, so far, don’t show it, Vargas has already gone further than the NASCAR Next alum might have imagined about five years ago.
âThere are days when it’s tough, but I had an amazing opportunity here,â said Vargas. âThe folks at JD Motorsports are like family here. Everyone here knows each other, are good friends with each other and look out for each other.
âIt’s a great group of people who believed in me. They have allowed me to drive race cars far beyond where I would have thought to go. I should have done away with Late Models when I was 17 because we ran out of money. But we’re here and it’s thanks to all the partners, fans, people who kind of keep pushing this. “
While Vargas’ plans for the 2022 season are still underway, he remains optimistic. Until his plans are finalized, he is competing for the Monday Night Racing Rowdy Energy Pro Season 4 Championship, and keeping his NASCAR future in perspective.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo.