When Anthony Alfredo was an infant, his parents, Rob and Veronica, were fans of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Childress Racing. Fast forward 20 years, and Alfredo is competing for RCR in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Last fall when Alfredo interviewed for the vacant part-time ride at RCR, his parents weren’t able to be in attendance for the interview. For the driver, that was “unfortunate,” as his parents have helped him out a great deal during his racing career, dating back to 2008 in karting.
Entering the 2020 season, Alfredo had no prior Xfinity experience, running only 13 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races last season with DGR-Crosley Racing and earning a best finish of eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway. One race into his tenure at RCR, and the Connecticut native posted his career-best NASCAR finish at Auto Club Speedway (sixth).
“If you would have told me I was going to finish sixth leading into the weekend, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” Alfredo recently recalled to Frontstretch of his first Xfinity start. “But we battled side-by-side for fifth for the last 10 laps, and I got out of the car and was very frustrated that I didn’t get a top five, even though that was an incredible run and a sixth-place finish was really, really rewarding and exceeded a lot of expectations, including my own.
“We went into that race thinking a top 10 was going to be a win and we just about had a top five. I’m proud of that effort.”
Alfredo knows RCR has some of the best equipment in the Xfinity garage; hell, it won the championship last season with Tyler Reddick. In fact, he’s leaned on Reddick quite a bit since becoming one of the primary drivers of the No. 21 Chevrolet (he shares the ride with Myatt Snider and Kaz Grala).
Because the organization won six races a season ago with Reddick, Alfredo puts a lot of pressure on himself to perform well for the team, knowing the long-term goal is securing a full-time ride next season.
“The biggest thing is going to be learning,” Alfredo said. “This is a building year for me because our ultimate goal is to be competing full-time next year and competing for a championship. We’re going to many of the more difficult racetracks, which is going to make it challenging to get good results, because obviously everyone would like to pick the races that they know they would run well at or have been to before.
“The expectations are high because of the equipment we have and the people I have around me. Based on prior years of my success, we want to have a really solid year, but we are focused on a championship season next year, so we’re doing everything we can to make that happen on the partnership side off the track, but also on the knowledge gain and experience side on-track.”
Through his first seven starts, Alfredo has been sporty. He scored a best finish of fourth in the first race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, even passing his childhood hero Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final restart. His average finish is 10.1, and he spent five laps leading the field at Talladega Superspeedway.
Competing for a team owner that has 108 NASCAR Cup Series victories, 85 Xfinity wins and 31 Truck wins can be stressful. Not necessarily in a bad way, though – just that the expectations are high for a 21-year-old driver in his first year. But Alfredo remembers that if Childress didn’t believe in him, he wouldn’t be part of the organization – even if he questioned his own decision, not knowing if he was ready for the jump.
“It was surreal and the big confidence booster was having someone like [Childress] believe in me,” Alfredo said. “You’re talking about the same guy that hired Dale Earnhardt Sr., a legend in our sport. I get goosebumps thinking that.
“I second-guessed the decision a little bit, but ultimately at the end of the day I sat down with [my] parents and partners and was like, ‘Look, if Richard Childress and everyone at RCR believes in me enough for this position and to run this many races, we need to have the confidence in my ability as well.’”
Despite having limited experience in the NASCAR ranks, Alfredo is confident in his skills, especially when the pressure is on.
“One of my strong suits has definitely been the ability to adapt to new environments, and learning new cars, new tracks and also having the willingness to learn and the effort I put in,” he said. “I think that’s what has propelled me in my career and got me to this point in such a short amount of time. I would think Richard sees that in me, and that’s what he saw when this opportunity came about.”
Alfredo has admitted that he isn’t comfortable settling for 10th every race. His original goal at the start of the season from a results standpoint was to keep moving up the scoreboard, potentially winning a race at some point during the year.
Along with the fourth-place finish last month, Alfredo has three additional top-10 finishes through his first seven starts this season. The end goal, though, is to secure a full-time ride for 2021, meaning he needs to impress potential sponsors on the racetrack.
“It’s definitely to gain full funding for next year so we can compete for a championship,” Alfredo said of his ultimate goal. “I know we can do it with the organization I’m with. To do that, I feel like I just have to perform well, take full advantage of the opportunities and be contending for wins. I know we’ll continue to get top 10s, top fives, top threes, but if we can be contending for wins and hopefully get a couple of wins, that would put us in a really good position.”
The series heads to Kentucky Speedway this season, a track Alfredo has never competed at.
- As noted above, the Xfinity Series heads to Kentucky this weekend for its second doubleheader of the season. The first race will be held on Thursday, July 9 with the second event on Friday, July 10, both beginning at 8 p.m. ET. There are 36 cars on the preliminary entry list for Thursday’s event, meaning all drivers will compete.
- On Wednesday (July 8), NASCAR announced the next chunk of races, spanning from Aug. 7 through Aug. 30. Xfinity will head to Road America on Saturday, Aug. 8, while visiting the Daytona International Speedway road course on Aug. 15. The following week, the series will have a doubleheader at Dover International Speedway (Aug. 22-23), lining up with the Cup Series. The following Friday (Aug. 28), it will return to Daytona for the superspeedway race.