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Ryan Vargas cherishes Drive for Diversity opportunity to climb NASCAR ladder

CONCORD, N.C. – Making a name in racing isn’t always easy; 2018 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class member Ryan Vargas learned that lesson this year.

The 17-year-old experienced the “highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” as he won races in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, but also was forced to cut events off his schedule and even work out of his personal garage at times.

“It’s been a really tough journey,” Vargas said Tuesday at the Rev Racing shop in Concord, North Carolina. “Everyone says racing has its ups and downs and you’ll have more bad days than you will good. And we experienced a lot of bad days this year but we experienced a lot of good ones as well. We have a couple wins to our name … and that just comes from working hard — we’ve just got to keep digging.”

The fruits of his labor have paid off; Vargas, along with five other drivers, was named as a member of the 2018 Drive for Diversity Class on Tuesday and has the opportunity to drive for Rev Racing full-time in the K&N Pro Series East, as well as Late Models.

It’s been “unbelievable,” the La Miranda, California, native said.

MORE: Meet the entire class

“I’m so blessed with the opportunity that Rev Racing and NASCAR (Drive for) Diversity has given me … I know what it’s like, I know how much work goes into it, so to be able to have this and hopefully use this to move up the ladder of racing is a really good opportunity and I’ve just got to thank everybody who’s been a part of my career,” he said with his characteristic broad smile.

Vargas is a bit of a throwback driver, as he seems to be just as interested on working on the cars as he is driving them. The young racer says he wants to learn as much as he can about the cars he’s running in order to be the best driver he can.

“(There’s been) a lot of time at the shop spending time underneath the car, working on the car, learning about the car so when I come off the track I can say what the car needs and so I can diagnose what needs to happen,” Vargas said. ” … I still have a ton to learn — there’s a lot that I don’t know and I want to learn as much as I can. And I know spending time here at the shop will be a really great opportunity for me to learn about these cars.”

A charismatic individual with drive and talent – he won two races in the Whelen All-American Series this year as a rookie and was awarded the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2016 – Vargas just needed an open door. A door that the Drive for Diversity program has helped opened, just as it did for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr.

“I look at it as the opportunity … to progress through the sport at a lot of different levels,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president, racing operations. “I think when you look at the Monster Energy Series, next year it will have three of our graduates on the drivers’ side running for championships at that level. Also knowing that the complexion of pit road has changed dramatically over the last number of years and many of our graduates are now up and down pit road winning races on a regular basis. And that’s very, very fulfilling.”

After a string of interviews, Vargas’ mother draws him in for a long hug; it’s been quite the journey, and he’s ready for the next step in his career. Vargas looks around the room that has launched the careers of three of the sport’s rising young stars.

He hopes that he’s in that conversation one day.

“There’s a ton of banners hung around the shop of Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace, as well as other drivers that have raced for them,” Vargas said, looking at the win banners of each of the drivers displayed on the walls. I hope by the end of the year, maybe I can have a banner or two up there.”