In his penultimate NASCAR Xfinity Series start of the season at Kansas Speedway, Anthony Alfredo had a hot rod, running inside the top five for the majoirty of the race in his No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. On a lap 172 restart, it all went awry.
Entering turn 1, Justin Allgaier made a bold move onto the apron, though when the No. 7 car came up the racetrack, he collected Alfredo, who flipped onto his side after hard impact into the outside wall. Riley Herbst also had heavy damage.
This past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Alfredo followed that scary scenario up by rounding out the podium, – his career best finish – just behind Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson. In 19 starts for RCR in 2020, the Connecticut native scored a pair of top fives and a total of nine top-10 finishes with 15 laps led.
Prior to his third-place result at TMS, Alfredo was a part of a small media tour, talking to outlets within the industry. He chatted with Frontstretch about the Kansas incident, his first season in Xfinity and outlook for 2021.
Editor’s Note: The interview has been condensed for clarity.
Dustin Albino, Frontstretch.com: Obviously you were involved with a big wreck at Kansas. From your vantage point, what went wrong there?
Alfredo: Just not a good angle of attack for the corner. Everyone is going hard there and I was on the racing surface, so I knew I was going to make the corner. The last thing I expected was to be clobbered last second. We had some other cars on differing strategies ahead of us on older tires and the [No.] 98 and I were side-by-side with the first two on new tires. We had some others behind us as well and everyone was eager to get through that traffic because whoever got through those slower cars first was probably going to have a good shot to win the race.
Nonetheless, I’m thankful that I’m alright. We had a really fast car at Kansas.
Albino: How were you feeling on Sunday morning?
Alfredo: I wasn’t feeling too good, but not as bad as I expected. That being said, I was way worse Monday morning. It really hit me two days after. It’s kind of like going to the gym and if you do a heavy lifting workout, it’s usually the second day that gets you. That’s what exactly what happened.
Albino: Prior to that had you ever flipped before in anything?
Alfredo: I actually had not. The closest thing I had ever gotten is tipping over a four wheeler, but I was able to bail off before [it flipped]. I’ve never been upside down like that strapped in, other than a roller coaster. Just imagine being upside down in a loop on a roller coaster and just hanging there for 15 minutes until they can get you down. It was definitely a little bit nerve-wracking, but the roll-over wasn’t the worse part. It could have been a lot worse if I was on fire or barrel rolling really badly.
Albino: 2020 has been the first laps you’ve turned in the Xfinity Series. Overall, how would you say the season has gone?
Alfredo: I would say it’s gone really well because five of those top 10s were actually sixth-place finishes, so just imagine if all of those were one spot better, that would be unbelievable. We’ve ran up front inside the top five, top three pretty often, almost all of our races.
The main focus has been to improve, get better, better communication, just learn every race and get better as a team. I think we’ve done that, and we’re in a position to be contending for race wins now. Especially with the capability of our team; we’ve got great people, great equipment and I know I’ve got all the tools necessary to do so.
Albino: What’s been the most valuable thing you’ve learned this season?
Alfredo: It’s difficult to answer with one thing, but the biggest thing that stands out is the competition standpoint. You could put together what might be a perfect race and still finish fifth or sixth. The reason I say that is when I raced in the lower levels of racing, if you put together a perfect race you typically won the race. But when you get up to the national level, it’s so much more competitive, so much more difficult to win and the races are a lot longer. There’s a lot more that goes into them, not only strategy-wise, but as a driver.
One of the things that I could add to next year – if I get to run for a championship – is how the track changes throughout a race, the tires, the car, racing from day into night. All of those things, you don’t really know until you’ve actually done it. A couple of races I might have gotten us behind on an adjustment or something because I had never raced from day to night before. Now that I’ve done it, I know.
Applying all of those things next year is going to be crucial for sure and that’s been the biggest thing, taking away those things and being able to apply it each week and learn something, go back to the track whenever I’m in the car and remember it for next season, so if I go into a championship season I’ve learned all these things that rookies have to learn. Going into a championship year, having that learning curve is a huge advantage.
Albino: Would you say you’ve met your goals from the beginning of the year?
Alfredo: I think I exceeded my own expectations and everybody else’s, for sure. I’m never satisfied and every time I achieve a certain goal or reach a certain point, I try to set new expectations and new goals.
For example, we started off the year at Auto Club and I was just trying to finish top 12 or something like that and I finished side-by-side for fifth at the line, ended up sixth. I was in disbelief and I believe the team was too. Right after that I proved to myself, ‘OK, I just checked a couple boxes off the list in the first race, I’m going to have to set some big goals this year.’ I’ve tried to do that every single week.
We’ve been very consistent and that’s the important thing in racing, especially when it comes down to running for points and running for a championship.
Albino: You keep saying you want to run for a championship. Is that what you’re looking at for 2021?
Alfredo: That’s definitely what I hope to do. There are some great opportunities; I would love to come back to RCR and stick with my team and everyone at this organization. It’s not really an organization, it’s a family. To come back would be huge, because I don’t think ever in my career – other than my first two years of racing – worked with the same group of people. To have all that chemistry and relationship built going into a full-time, championship-contending year would be a big deal, especially for a driver like myself who is still pretty green.
That’s all going to come down to what we can secure sponsorship-wise and hopefully we’ll get enough to be able to go do that.
Albino: Your name has been linked to trying to get a ride at Kaulig Racing as well. How accurate is that?
Alfredo: Kaulig has been a great partner of [Richard Childress Racing], obviously an affiliate team. They’ve got the same notebook we do and very similar equipment. Going down there of course is an option, but I would love to work with the same group of people I have around me right now if possible.
Either way, the biggest thing is being on the RCR campus and driving these cars that I’ve been learning to drive this year and having the same group of people around me.
Albino: As it stands right now, do you have anything concrete?
Alfredo: No, I do not. I wish I was lying when I said that, but I don’t.
Albino: It comes down to funding, but talent still matters. How much does running a partial season this year affect you going after rides for 2021?
Alfredo: I think the biggest thing from a performance standpoint is, you run a race or two in a row and you get a couple of weeks off. Losing that momentum, both mentally, performance-wise and communication with the team, they’ve got a different driver in the car and they need to learn how they communicate. It’s hard on everybody.
It’s hard to go out and be really consistent, although I think we have been regardless. I think it’s been tough for next year, [but] I don’t think it’s hurt us for exposure. We’ve got some great conversations going on and I’ve already got some awesome people around me who have gotten a lot of new partners this year. As many people know, I’ve almost had a different sponsor on the car every week (13 different primary sponsors in 19 starts), which is a true testament to how many people believe in this team which means a lot to me and I’m very thankful for that.
I think the biggest thing that’s hurt is the coronavirus because there’s less practice, that makes it harder on me as a driver. The other thing is exposure for sponsors: there’s no television time for practice or qualifying, all of those things that add up. The [sponsors] can’t be at the track every week, can’t setup some [activation] for the fans or have any interaction like that. I can’t go around and travel and do any meet and greets, we can only do virtual stuff. That’s probably been the hardest part, but I can’t really complain because there’s a whole lot going on in the world. I’m just thankful for the opportunity I do have either way.
Albino: What do you think you’ve proved this year to yourself?
Alfredo: I’ve proved – probably going back to talk about experience, I don’t think I’ve let that cripple me mentally because I’ve proved to myself mentally that I can do it. I can run with the best even with a third of the experience, or less, than some of them. That’s something that stands out to me and keeps me humble because [though] I came from a family of race fans, nobody in my family races. To have my name on a Richard Childress car in that shop that my parents walked through 25 years ago before I was born because they came down from New York to watch the Coca-Cola 600 and were touring race shops…. Now I’m driving one of those racecars, it gives me goosebumps every time.
It’s been surreal and at the same time. I’ve been working really hard to make the most of it.