Ryan Vargas Survives European ‘Big One’ at Valencia

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

When Ryan Vargas hopped ‘across the pond’ to compete in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (EuroNASCAR), one aspect of the traditional American NASCAR stock car racing series he didn’t anticipate bringing along was ‘the big one.’

In both races of the opening round of EuroNASCAR Pro, Vargas’ No. 30 Critical Path Security Chevrolet was swept up in accidents. In the first race, contact in Turn 1 ripped off the left front fender and dropped the NASCAR Next alum down to 22nd. He clawed his way up the running order to take the checkered flag in 12th but was credited with 11th after post-race technical inspection.

The 11th-place finish overall also netted Vargas a podium in EuroNASCAR Pro’s Junior Championship. In the process he became the first of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity alum to finish on the podium in their respective championship class in EuroNASCAR competition.

Ryan vargas earned podiums in class in both races of the opening round of the nascar whelen euro series (euronascar) season in spain.
Photo by NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Japo Santos.

Race 2 at Circuit Ricardo Tormo felt a little too close to home for the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular. Sebaastian Bleekemolen was turned into the ARMCO barrier on driver’s left just after the start-finish line. In the chaos behind, Vargas, who started 18th after the first lap damage in race one prevented him from setting a fast lap for a better starting spot, was sandwiched in the melee.

When the smoke and dust settled, nine cars were damaged or destroyed just 100 yards past the start-finish line. Vargas limped his mangled Chevrolet back to pit road as EuroNASCAR officials immediately displayed the red flag. His 3f Racing team immediately went to work, removing body panels and making repairs, something that is allowed under red flag conditions in Europe.

“I thought I was at Talladega for a minute,” recalled Vargas of the incident. “The whole field was flying apart. It looked like the Big One and it really was one. I was in the middle of it, had a good start and was in the pack and once they started flying apart, I was just ricocheting off from everybody.”

After the repairs, Vargas’ Chevrolet resembled a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car compared to the EuroNASCAR stock cars around him. When the race restarted, he was 18th, exactly where he had started, but was the final car on track with multiple out of the race. The La Mirada, Calif. native once again climbed up the running order in a battered car. He held onto 11th until the final lap, taking the checkered flag in 12th, and scoring another Junior Championship podium.

“At the end of the day, we look like a Modified car, which is fitting since the series is sponsored by Whelen and they sponsor the Whelen Modified Tour in the United States,” joked Vargas. “I’m glad everyone’s okay, Sebastiaan took a big hit, and it was scary to see him go back into the traffic.”

While all of the drivers escaped major injury in the melee, Vargas sprained his wrist. The 23-year-old powered through the pain, partly on adrenaline, and partly on determination to recover from the crash at the start of the race. Powering through the pain ultimately paid off as he scored his second podium finish of the weekend in his class.

Next for Vargas in Europe is Autodromo di Vallelunga in Italy on May 18 and 19. The races in Rome, Italy, as with all EuroNASCAR qualifying sessions and races, are streamed live on the series’ YouTube channel. EuroNASCAR all posts highlights of their events on their YouTube channel and keeps the broadcasts available for fans to watch on demand.

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