Last fall, Ryan Vargas and JD Motorsports mutually parted ways. The driver wanted to step up his competitiveness, even if that meant running a partial season in one of NASCAR’s top three national touring series.
Vargas got his wish.
Earlier this week, Vargas announced he would be running select Craftsman Truck Series races for On Point Motorsports in 2023. It’s an organization owned by Steven Lane, which is underfunded compared to many teams in the series. It’s also a team that thrives on being competitive, earning 11 top 10s in 87 starts, including four in 2019 with Brennan Poole. That same year, Poole finished runner-up to Kyle Busch at Charlotte.
Vargas will make his first start at Atlanta on March 18. He has seven races confirmed, but he really wants to add in the Bristol Dirt Race on Easter weekend.
“It was something that made sense,” Vargas told Jayski.com earlier this week. “What [On Point] has done in this time period is nothing short of impressive. It’s something that I knew if I put my name and attached it to it, it’s something I could be very proud of.”
When Vargas buckles into the No. 30 Toyota for qualifying at Atlanta, it will be his first time driving a truck. The mystery of not knowing what he’s getting into is an exciting feeling.
“There’s no better opportunity to make my jump into the Truck Series than hopping in a competitive race truck with a competitive organization and see what you can do,” Vargas added. “It’s a series I’ve always had the desire to do.
“I never thought I would get the chance, so to have the opportunity to go over there and bring all of my fantastic partners with me and have such a diverse lineup of races: Short tracks, road courses, intermediates and superspeedways. I couldn’t have handpicked a better schedule if I tried.”
While Vargas will be busy on the Truck Series front, his primary focus in 2023 will be shifted towards the rebranded CHK Racing, formerly known as Mike Harmon Racing. CHK is a partnership between Michael Clayton, Mike Harmon and Gary Keller.
Vargas is unsure of how many races he will drive the No. 74 Chevrolet, but he will be the the anchor driver for the team, as it tries to improve on a frustrating 2022 season. Last year, it qualified for just one-third of the races. Vargas’ first start of the year will be at Daytona, in an effort sponsored by Leargas.
“Ryan brings high energy and passion to the team,” Harmon said in a statement. “He’s worked hard to get to this level. We will be working with him; not against him as a driver. He is a very good representative for CHK, our sponsors and NASCAR as a whole.”
Of Vargas’ 67 career Xfinity Series starts, just one of them has been in a car other than a JD Motorsports entry. It came last June in the inaugural race at Portland, when the California native drove for Mike Harmon, delivering the team its best non-superspeedway finish of the season (23rd). He also failed to qualify for last year’s race at Road America with Mike Harmon Racing.
Having that prior relationship and seeing how hard Harmon’s small team works is something that Vargas wanted to be a part of. Aside from racing, Vargas will help CHK where he can internally, whether it be working on the car or wherever the team needs him.
“When it got brought my way, I knew it was something I had a lot of interest in,” Vargas said. “They are going through a rebuild period, and to play a part of that and a role outside of just driving a racecar, that to me is very advantageous. While I get to do these opportunities in the Truck Series, I get an opportunity to be a part of something and help grow it outside of just that.
“I’m going to be able to do some stuff on the Xfinity side and stay fresh and help continue to grow their program and hopefully knock off some more solid finishes for them as they continue to restructure and continue building for a competitive future.”
Not long ago, Harmon had his best years as an owner. Kyle Weatherman and Bayley Currey delivered top-10 results for the small team in 2020 and 2021. Now the team is trying to get back on track.
“From my experience there, having raced with them at Portland, I enjoyed myself a lot,” Vargas said. “I loved working with Mike and all of the crew guys. It was a fantastic experience getting to learn how they do things.
“Now getting this shot in the arm, that’s a big thing for them. To see where they go from here is very exciting. With me being able to play a little role in what I get to do behind the wheel, but also what I get to do outside of the racecar, that’s only going to help what I do going forward. It’s going to legitimize who I am besides being a NASCAR driver.”