Beginning at the Talladega race on Oct. 3, 2020, TikTok will be officially sponsoring a NASCAR Xfinity Series team. Driver Ryan Vargas will pilot the No. 6 machine for the final six races of the year, and even if he doesn’t finish at the front of the field, he does have one big advantage: His car looks damn good.
TikTok has been at the forefront of international news lately, as the US Justice Department looks to ban the program from app stores. Basically, TikTok is a platform for amateur video sharing popular among teens and younger audiences. It’s become a hot topic lately because TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which has sparked the fear that the app is farming data on its users.
Whatever your feelings on the TikTok debate, the app filled the short video market left by the demise of Vine, and it’s become a popular social media site with an estimated 800 million users (that’s about 500 million more than Twitter). Securing it as a sponsor is a pretty big deal for NASCAR, which has struggled to attract younger audiences.
And it’s a big deal for 20-year-old driver Ryan Vargas. He’s a graduate of both the Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs, but he’s he hasn’t had much luck trying to cobble together a stock car racing program despite a successful 2018 season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (now known as the ARCA Menards Series East). But he was only able to secure three of 2019's 33 Xfinity Series races.
With three races already under his belt in 2020, Vargas will have a great opportunity to showcase his skills in a well-sponsored car. He has a best finish of 13th despite only racing sporadically, so he has what it takes to race. He’s just needed a consistent platform on which to show what he can do.
The sponsorship is part of TikTok’s Latinx Heritage Month celebrations, which looks to highlight its content creators that are able to trace their roots back to Latin America. Vargas, who has a 40,000 user following on the site, qualifies as one of those creators. TikTok is also seeking to use its platform to highlight Vargas’ story.
Vargas was born with craniosynostosis, a condition in which a baby’s skull fuses together too quickly, before the brain has had an opportunity to fully develop. According to Vargas, TikTok has allowed him to open up on social media and tell his story.
“If you can take a moment to joke about yourself or joke about what you do, it brings you down to earth a little more and helps you relate with those who are watching,” he said.
Vargas will contest races at Talladega, the Charlotte ROVAL, Kansas, Texas, Martinsville, and Phoenix.