Ryan Vargas is planning to hit the books this summer.
Not literally but figuratively.
The 18-year-old raced full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East last season and admittedly took his fair share of lumps. He enjoyed a handful of good runs, endured some bad luck and had some overall bad races too.
He’s not back with Rev Racing this year.
But while some might have treated this adversity as a road block, Vargas views it merely as a detour, and plans to use his 2019 schedule as a means to improve his craft and get back to a NASCAR touring division by 2020.
To that end, he will race on the West Coast with Alec Martinez Racing and on the East Coast with Lee Faulk Development. For Vargas, it’s an opportunity to get additional seat time, race more and clean up some of the rookie mistakes that bit him last year.
“I just want to win races,” Vargas told Short Track Scene last week at Las Vegas. “I want to prove to myself, and to others that I deserve a spot … that I deserve to be in the upper levels of racing. Being with Rev Racing last year was an absolute blessing and I’m going to carry that for the rest of my life.
“But this year, to go back to Late Models, it’s going to help me gain confidence and get my repetition in. Last year, I only ran 14 races and this year, we already have 26 on the schedule, total. And we’re adding to that. It’s going to be a big year.”
It’s already been a big month as Vargas opened the season with a win on Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway in California with AMR.
There’s a chance Vargas could be back with Rev next season, and it’s not impossible that if all things go well in 2019, that it might open up a wider NASCAR national touring schedule for the ‘The Rhino.’
But again, it comes back to seat time.
“Here’s a good example for why I’m so focused on getting seat time,” Vargas explained. “Take me and Chase (Cabre, Rev teammate) who had a back-and-forth battle for sixth in the points. And then you take Ruben (Garcia, Rev teammate) who had an entire Mexico Series season under his belt once we got to the summer and he’s had a lot more experience in general.
“He’s in a car pretty much every week. That proved itself when he went to Dover and won, Memphis and won. He was a threat at a lot of races. Being in a race car helps a ton.”
What Vargas doesn’t need much homework on his brand awareness.
The La Miranda, California native might be the best overall young prospect when it comes to engaging with fans and creating a public persona on social media.
“One man team,” Vargas proudly quipped.
As a result, NASCAR often asked him to handle their Home Tracks social media or Snapchat takeovers throughout the 2018 season. He’s a natural.
“It’s a little natural,” vargas said. “I just like to talk about racing. I like doing interviews. We could sit down and talk about racing for hours. I love this sport. It’s all I think about and all I do. I posted a video to Twitter today of me in the K&N car on a restart because that’s how much I miss it. I want to be back in a big car.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I get back there. We’re going to try to win races and get people to pay attention.”
After one race weekend, it’s mission accomplished so far.