LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor
Friday at Road America was a busy day, with voluntary pre-practice tech as well as two practice sessions. Throughout the course of the day, we caught up with three drivers in varying scenarios: Ryan Vargas, making his second-ever XFINITY start; Chad Finchum, in his second full-time season for MBM Motorsports; and Josh Williams, who drove most of the season last year but did not attempt an XFINITY road course race until this year. The following interviews have been slightly edited for clarity.
|ALL PHOTOS: William Soquet, @WilliamSoquet|
Q: YOU’VE BEEN ALL OVER THE PLACE THIS YEAR, RACING LATE MODELS ON BOTH COASTS, NOW XFINITY. WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE BALANCING THAT DIFFERENT RACING SCHEDULE?
A: It’s been honestly really cool. Racing out west with Alec Martinez Racing and out east with Lee Faulk Racing and now I have an opportunity to make a couple starts with Johnny Davis, it’s really neat. It’s a lot of racing this year that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. Once this offseason came around, I had zero races planned. I didn’t know what this year was going to be, I didn’t know if I was going to be racing, period. It’s really cool to be able to have these type of opportunities.
Q: HOW DID THE CONNECTION WITH LOMBARD BROTHERS GAMING COME ABOUT?
A: So I knew Joseph for about a year or two, met him for the first time in person 2018 in July at the July 4th race and just became really good friends with him through there. Once the Rev announcement came out and I had the opportunity to race at Irwindale, I knew that wasn’t something we could afford, but Joseph and his family were kind enough to step up and they wanted to do the whole season. Now we have a couple wins to our name this year and it’s been an awesome ride so far.
Q: YOU’VE TURNED SOME LAPS IN FIRST PRACTICE. HOW IS XFINITY ROAD RACING DIFFERENT THAN K&N ROAD RACING?
A: It’s definitely more competitive, and everybody is on their game. I have a lot more to learn, and I figured out a lot of the places that I needed to pick up a lot more speed, and this car definitely has that speed. I just need to go out there and learn more about the car, because I’m not just out here learning the track, I’m also learning the car. This is my second time ever in an XFINITY car. I’m having a lot of fun doing it, you know, learning. That’s the whole thing.
Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER RACES PLANNED WITH JD MOTORSPORTS THIS YEAR?
A: Yeah, we’re working on a couple other things, but it all comes down to sponsorship. We’re working hard to get something rolling, and hopefully son we’ll have some more done.
Q: I’VE NOTICED YOU’RE A PACKERS FAN. YOU’RE FROM KNOXVILLE. WHAT LED YOU TO BEING A PACKERS FAN?
A: Oh man, I love the Packers. One of the first Super Bowls that I watched growing up was when Aaron Rodgers stepped in and overtook the Steelers. That was a cool game to watch. Growing up racing, I was so busy racing that I never got super time-invested into football, but when I did have time I would watch it and that was the only Super Bowl that I watched from the first snap to the last snap and I’m like ‘you know what, I’m sold. I’m a Packers fan.’ And ever since then, I have been.
Q: THE CAR YOU ARE DRIVING THIS WEEKEND HAS BEEN DUBBED THE “BANANA SPLIT”. DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER COOL NAMES FOR CARS YOU’VE DRIVEN THIS YEAR?
A: No, I wish I did. The Banana Split is probably top of the charts. Carl (Long, team owner) decided to bring that little old throwback scheme out, he ran something similar to that scheme years ago when he used to race, so when that car needed to be re-wrapped we wrapped it with one of his throwback schemes. We put it online, and people started naming it. No better way than to name it than a banana split, because they taste good too!
Q: LOOKING AT THE REST OF THE SCHEDULE, WHICH TRACKS DO YOU HIGHLIGHT AND SAY ‘THESE ARE TRACKS WE CAN RUN REALLY WELL AT?
A: Well I think any time, for me at least, any time we go to a short track we have an advantage. I have a very strong short track background, a lot of success at short tracks, so of course Richmond, Phoenix, Dover, it’s not necessarily a short track but it has the characteristics of one. I think we’ll be pretty strong at Kansas. We’ve shown a lot of speed at Homestead but haven’t been able to put together a flawless race yet. We showed a lot of improvement from year one to year two of the aero package at Indy, so we’re looking forward to going back there, I think we finished twenty-first or twenty-second last year, so if we could finish top twenty, that would be another improvement. There’s a lot of races left on the schedule that we’re looking forward to.
Q: WITH A YEAR OF ROAD COURSE RACING IN THE XFINITY SERIES UNDER YOUR BELT, HOW DO YOU TAKE THAT KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU GAINED IN YEAR ONE AND APPLY THAT TO YEAR TWO?
A: The biggest thing is that when I came here last year, the only practice I had was iRacing. The difference in translating that to real life was a pretty big learning curve. When I came back here this year, I have on track experience, so I feel a lot more comfortable. You know where your braking zones are, where the bumps are at, you can actually feel it, see it and remember it. It still took a couple laps to get the memory refreshed, and everything’s kind of jiving together, hand-eye reflexes and everything. I think any time you come to a track the first time, when you come back the second time, if you can build an improvement. If you go the first time and get a baseline, say you finish twenty-fifth, if you can come back there and do twenty-fourth or better I think that’s an improvement.
JOSH WILLIAMS, NO. 36 DGM RACING CHEVROLET
Q: YEAR ONE OF XFINITY ROAD COURSE RACING FOR YOU, I’D SAY IT’S BEEN EVENTFUL TO SAY THE LEAST, WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON IT?
A: It’s always fun. I think the road courses, everybody’s like ‘alright, it’s time to go hard’, so it’s fun, it’s a blast, I like it. Everybody’s a little bit rougher here than they are at other tracks, and it makes it interesting.
Q: YOU’RE A TENURED VETERAN OF THE ARCA MENARDS SERIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO GO ABOUT THE ARCA/K&N MERGER FOR NEXT YEAR?
A: I think they need to pick a motor, in my eyes. I think you need to stick with the Ilmor motor, it’s more popular I think. I think it’d be cool to get them all under one roof with a similar rules package, but the motor deal is going to be really tough. Other than that I think it’s going to be fun.
Q: YOU’VE GOT HARKIN CONSTRUCTION ON THE HOOD THIS WEEKEND. HOW OFTEN DO THESE SPONSORS COME TOGETHER AND HOW LATE IN THE GAME DO THESE DEALS COME TOGETHER?
A: Oh man. It just depends. For us being a small team, sometimes it’s the same day we get here. Harkin Construction, they’re real good people, I’ve known them for a pretty good while now, I used to build some Bandolero and Legend cars for his son and daughter, so I’ve kind of got a long-lasting relationship there. Sponsors, I think, is the hardest thing about racing. Getting to the track and making the cars go, it’s all irrelevant if you don’t have the money to get there.
Q: SO YOU OWN BANDOLEROS AND OUTLAWS AND WHAT ELSE?
A: Yeah, I’ve got some Bandoleros. Sold all my Legends cars, I got to get another one of those. We got a couple things in the shop we play around with, I still got all my ARCA stuff too. If it has four wheels and a motor, we work on it and make it go fast.
After I finished interviewing Williams, he went back under the hood on his own car, just like the independent legends of the past.