Now, as a 20-something hardcore DIYer, Ricky considers himself just as American as he does Venezuelan. He and his family have maintained their Hispanic culture ever since they left.
Ricky joined Valvoline in February as a special guest at the Daytona 500, where he watched the race from the Hendrick Motorsports pit box alongside Alex Bowman’s team.
In between pace car rides, the Hendrick hauler tour, and the unavoidable rain delays, Ricky sat down with us to discuss how he keeps his culture alive, whom he gained all his DIY knowledge from, and who he feels a responsibility to pass it down to.
Valvoline: Who taught you what you know about cars and DIY?
Ricky: Definitely my dad. Growing up, we'd always do our own oil changes and mods on the cars. It was always “let's give it a shot!” when fixing or modding something a little out of our league. Even without having the best tools, we always got by and made it a fun experience.
Valvoline: So, is DIY something cultural for you as well?
Ricky: Yes, 100%. Coming to the states at a young age as an immigrant, we weren’t struggling, but we saved money where we could - hence doing oil changes and maintenance ourselves. This created a passion for working on cars at home and keeping everything running smooth. Also, seeing how other hispanics were modifying their cars had great influence. It’s quite different than how Americans do it because of cultures and general taste, so I landed somewhere in the middle!
Valvoline: After being here in the states for so many years, you still feel a connection to your Hispanic roots, then?
Ricky: Yes, and being bilingual for example has been a great benefit in communicating with people from around the world. Cars are my passion, but it’s a passion that’s shared by many others, so it’s great to be able to communicate with someone across the world and immediately have that car connection.
Valvoline: What do you do in your family to keep your culture going strong?
Ricky: Our culture stays strong because our habits never left. Although of course we've picked up a lot of the culture from the states, our cooking style and food choice remains strong with hispanic ties!
Valvoline: How do those DIY skills help you in your day-to-day?
Ricky: I’ve been getting into the hobby of buying and selling a lot of cars lately, for example. And doing the work myself not only saves me money, it assures me that everything is being done correctly. I personally like cars that are a bit older, so as soon as I purchase one, an oil change and flushing the fluids is key to keeping the car running right.
Valvoline: Bet you’re working on something right now! Can you share?
Ricky: As a car guy, I feel like there’s always a project going on. Whether it’s a 2-year restoration in which everything goes wrong, like my Jeep, or quick upgrades. Right now though, there are some pretty exciting things going on. The most exciting is giving my 1930 Model A Rat Rod a makeover! We’re adding a turbo, nitrous and a Valvoline wrap to name a few things. It’s going to be a game changer!! I’m also doing minor changes to a BMW cafe racer motorcycle and air-cooled Porsche. Overall though, the Rat Rod build takes the cake!