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Ryan Vargas on Irwindale Speedway fast track

IRWINDALE >> High school students can study for final exams anywhere.

Ryan Vargas chose Irwindale Speedway on Saturday. But the La Mirada High School freshman was not studying algebra or English composition. He was studying the fine art of the racing line as taught by Irwindale veterans such as Nick Joanides and Trevor Huddleston.

“I should be studying. … But I’m here,” Vargas said.

Vargas, who turns 16 in September, has finals at school this week.

He is at least scoring an above-average grade in his NASCAR education. The Pick Your Part Late Model series rookie scored his first podium on Saturday at Irwindale with a second-place finish. He missed the Twin 30s two weeks ago when he raced at Madera. He has five top-five finishes at Irwindale this season, including a fourth in the first Twin 30 Saturday.


“It’s a whole different story from anything I’ve done,” Vargas said. “There is so much more power to get used to. It is a real big learning process, but I’m starting to get a hold of it.

“Not in a million years did I think I would be performing as well as I have. A few years ago I didn’t think I could keep up with these guys.”

Vargas won 14 races in Bandoleros, starting in 2013. He raced in Irwindale’s Race Trucks last season.

“Going from Bandos to Trucks to Super Stocks to Late Models on this big half mile is a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been a learning curve every race.”


Rip Michels, the winningest driver in Irwindale history, said he misses racing. But the San Fernando resident said he enjoys helping drivers just as much.

He was helping Late Model rookie Alan Lawless Saturday at Irwindale. He will be in the Irwindale pits next weekend helping Toni McCray for the Spears SRL Southwest.

A celebrity race will also be next Saturday. Driving Spec Late Models will be Kelly Hu, Mark Kriski, Beth Littleford, Swampy Marsh, Frankie Muniz, Blake Michael, Adrian Pasdar, Leah Remini, Jason Ritter, and Gordon Stewart. Monster Trucks will also make an appearance.


The track avoided early sprinkles and got racing in Saturday in front of 1,299.

Joanides of Woodland Hills moved into third place for all-time wins at 46 with a .0.51-second victory over Late Model series points leader Huddleston in the first Twin 30 and then a win in the nightcap.

Lucas McNeil won the 40-lap Seidner’s Collision Centers Race Trucks main event. Robby Hornsby Jr. of Yucapia won the 30-lap Spec Late Model race. Parker Steele of Peoria, Ariz. won the 35-lap Legends main event. Kayla Eshleman of Fontana won the 20-lap Bandolero race. Allison Gay of Lakeside won Friday’s Bandolero race, but was disqualified on Saturday.


By Keith Lair, San Gabriel Valley Tribune