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Anthony Alfredo Eyeing Improvement Through ‘Challenging’ Rookie Season

Anthony Alfredo is in the midst of his first season as a NASCAR Cup Series driver.

But 2021 also marks the first full-time ride Alfredo has gotten in any of NASCAR’s three national touring series.

One year after competing on a part-time basis for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Alfredo sits 30th in Cup Series points in his No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, with three top-20 finishes and four DNFs.

Alfredo, a native of Ridgefield, Conn., finished 32nd at his home track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday (July 18), falling behind after an early spin backed him into the frontstretch wall.

Before heading back to New England, Alfredo spoke with Frontstretch about his performance, the physical and mental toll of a full season, iRacing, his future and more:

Zach Sturniolo, Frontstretch: You’re heading into what’s being called a home track this season. But I was doing my research and, at least according to Google Maps, Pocono Raceway is a lot closer to Richfield than it is to Loudon. Do you consider this race a home race for you being up in New England?

Anthony Alfredo: Yeah, I do. For sure. It’s definitely convenient that it’s close enough to home for a lot of my friends and family to come, and I think that’s what gives it that home track aspect to me. I was fortunate enough to race there twice in the K&N Pro Series East — now the ARCA East Series [in 2018]. Got a little bit of track time, and it became one of my favorite tracks and one of my best tracks that year. I was hoping to go back with the Xfinity Series last year, but with all the restrictions, only the Cup Series went. […]

I’ve had this one circled all year just because it’s a hometown crowd close to home. We’ve got a week off after, so I’m going to go hang out with the family. I’d love to go into that break after a really successful run with my team at Front Row Motorsports in our Dude Wipes Ford Mustang.

Sturniolo: Your trajectory has been interesting to follow. You haven’t completed a full season in any of the three national touring series, but you jumped in full bore this year with Front Row. Have you noticed any sort of physical toll or mental toll on your body as we sit here mid-July?

Alfredo: Honestly, I’ve felt really good. I’ve been training harder than ever leading into the season and then obviously throughout the season, and I’ve been feeling surprisingly well. I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s not that I was expecting to be unprepared or not feeling well at this point in the year, but I put a lot of work into being prepared as much as I could. And I just hoped it was more than enough and I was going to be doing well. Like I said, I didn’t really know what to expect, but so far it’s been going well. I’ve been feeling well, working really hard, still just grinding it out every week on and off the track. I’ve been loving every minute of it, just doing what I love. And it’s been rewarding and refreshing to know that what I’ve been doing training wise has been beneficial to where I do feel good.

I will say it’s been harder mentally than physically this year — not the step itself, but because of the year we’ve had. So many ups and downs, and I just feel like we’ve been tested as a team of our resilience and discipline and things of that nature because of all the bad luck: wrong place, wrong time, mechanical issues and just so much misfortune. But we keep getting back on our feet and going at it the next week, and we had a really nice string of races and are getting back into a rhythm.

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Like I said, it’s been it’s been challenging mentally, but I will say I don’t want a break. I want to keep digging. I want to keep racing every weekend. However, I know subconsciously it’ll probably be good for me, both physically and mentally, that little bit of a reset before the second half of the season.

Zach Sturniolo: Some fans don’t really know your story because you spent so little time relatively in the Xfinity Series. So for someone who is new to you, how did you find your passion in the sport? And then once you found that passion, how did you end up going from picking up some sparse part-time opportunities in those lower series to landing what is a full-time Cup ride?

Alfredo: Honestly, I think I’ve put so much work into it. As you mentioned, running part-time is so difficult. It’s really hard to perform. There’s almost more pressure on you because you don’t get to go race week in and week out. And what I’ve done is just surrounded myself with good people [and] networked. I’ve had amazing people from the beginning — just my family, my friends and all the great partners I’ve met and developed relationships with along the way. I feel like I’ve worked really hard for it, but I’ve also been very blessed. And about those part-time opportunities, the biggest thing I did was just try to make the most out of each one. That’s one thing I learned to do is I run not just every race like it’s my last but every lap like it’s my last. You never know when the last one could be.

And running part-time — and even now still — you’re just stressed out not knowing what the next year will bring. And that was from [Camping World Trucks Series] to Xfinity and then from Xfinity to Cup. I had an excellent season, last year with Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series (two top fives, nine top 10s in 19 starts). And at the end of the year, it got super late. A lot of teams had their seats filled, the drivers had contracts signed and there wasn’t much out there. And I didn’t know what was next for me.

And this amazing opportunity with Front Row Motorsports to advance to the Cup Series and graduate up into that level [to] take that next step was just surreal. I don’t think I even ever expected that, to make that leap that fast. It was just circumstantial I think. Obviously, they didn’t expect their seat to open up that late either. And I just so happened to be one of the guys that was available.

But saying that, neither of us were settling. It actually has been a great fit. I think we knew that after a few meetings in the beginning. So like I said, I think just making the most out of every opportunity. I’ve been so heavily involved with my off-track activities, as far as the business side of things and marketing and all that. And going through college and so many things, it’s just been so tough.

To be honest, the last few years, I’ve been working so hard and dreamed of an opportunity like this. And I just think it was all of that coming full circle. I feel like my hard work didn’t go unnoticed by the people at Front Row Motorsports. And God blessed me with this opportunity as well. So like I said, it went from super stressed not knowing what the next year had in store, when the next race would be, just trying to make the most out of each one to not just finally getting a full-time ride, but getting the full-time ride at the highest level. I mean, it’s incredible.

Sturniolo: You mentioned college. Have you completed a degree?

Alfredo: I actually haven’t because as of last year, I just got too busy with racing to be able to continue that. I did make it as far as junior year at UNC Charlotte, studying engineering, and even though I didn’t complete it yet, I’d love to obviously get my degree at some point. But I do think what I have learned so far, I’ve actually been able to apply to racing, on and off the track and in life.

Sturniolo: You talked about the mental toll of this season. Best finish this year of 12th at Talladega Superspeedway, 17th at Nashville Superspeedway, but I know the last couple weeks have been tough (with three finishes of 32nd or worse in the last four races). How would you evaluate your first 21 races as a Cup Series driver?

Alfredo: To be completely honest, they haven’t gone how I’ve wanted them to, and I don’t mean by results. I just wish we’d been able to complete more races. I think the finishes will inevitably come with that. But I’m not saying our finishing position is what I wish was better. I just wish we got more laps, more experience for myself, because that’s been the goal coming into it. But as I was saying earlier, so much of it has just been circumstantial. We’ve been taken out numerous times. We’ve had our fair share of issues mechanically and stuff like that. And I think honestly, part of that is what’s making me a better driver because I’m learning how to fight that adversity and grow from it, learn from it and make mistakes.

And obviously that’s expected not only as a rookie, but you see the best of them speed on pit road and stuff like that and seeing the Xfinity Series with the much shorter final stages and stages themselves. […] You usually don’t see many green-flag pit stops. I can count on one hand how many I made last year. And this year, you make multiple a race. So there’s been a lot of new challenges and ways I’ve been pushing myself to get better and just execute. Learning to execute these longer races with more competition and all that has been so much fun.

The races, I wish they could have gone better. However, on the positive side of things, I think I’ve learned a lot and we’ve grown as a team from all of it. I think that’s why we’ve really come into our own here recently and have just gotten better.

Sturniolo: I think most people who follow your social channels know how deep into iRacing you are. So I’ve got to ask about Monday Night Racing. We’ve got our Frontstretch content director, Michael Massie, in that league. Have you raced around him at all? If so, any thoughts about him?

Alfredo: Everyone in that series does a really good job. Actually, I think the ones that cause the most issues are probably us real-life guys trying to be a little bit too aggressive and stuff like that. But man, the Monday Night Racing league has been so much fun just to get industry members together. And I live stream it on my channel obviously to broadcast that as well. And then, of course, my own iRacing endeavors, competing in leagues and bigger events and streaming. And I think that’s been a big part of what’s gotten me to where I’m at, as far as just learning a lot from iRacing, building my brand. And I had a lot more time when I was running part-time to be on there as frequently as I used to be. But it’s definitely still part of my roots.

Sturniolo: There’s a lot of Silly Season movement, as emphasized by the recent Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing news. Do you have any idea what 2022 looks like for you at this time?

Alfredo: I’d love to re-sign with Front Row Motorsports and continue growing with this organization. It’s been a good fit for me, great people, an owner in Bob Jenkins that believes in me as well as everyone else at the team and a great teammate in Michael McDowell. I think him and I are on similar pages of what we both want even though we’re in different stages of our lives. We just work well together. This year is a building year, especially with the new car coming out. I’ve learned the competition, hopefully, gained some respect from the competitors and will continue to do so. And all the things I learn I could apply next year.

Everyone’s saying, “Oh, the new car is a blank sheet for a everyone, which is why it’s a great opportunity for a rookie.” Well, I feel like I’m almost a little bit ahead, right? I’m getting that rookie season — I don’t want to say out of the way, because it’s really special; you’re only a rookie once. It’s really cool. But I’m getting that accomplished now. So when the new car comes, I think I’m just a little bit of a step ahead. Even though it does level the playing field out, I’m racing this current [generation] Cup car that these guys have been in for so many years. And trying to catch up to that experience is a huge challenge.

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It’s just funny. Like Ryan Newman won Rookie of the Year in 2002 when I was three years old, but now I’m racing against him. So aside from the current gen car, just his racing experience, not just his overall racing experience, but his Cup Series experience in general is hard to match. Even Michael. Michael’s been in series for 14 years as well. So the new car is exciting. And I think that that was even part of what led to this opportunity at Front Row and why they took the chance on me and were willing to put me in a car.

Sturniolo: Do you feel like you’re earning the respect of the competitors around you? This is the highest tier in stock-car racing. Do you feel like you’re earning that respect from your peers?

Alfredo: I do think so. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of guys, not just on the track but from people actually confronting me before and after [races and] saying polite things. Fortunately, I haven’t had a bad experience or a bad conversation. But it’s been pretty cool to have compliments from veteran spotters, drivers and team members. And even when they say hello to me at the track and just acknowledging my presence, it means I’m doing something right. I feel like I’m not just there. I’m there to race. I’m racing with them, against them, and I think I’ve earned a lot of respect from those guys so far and hopefully even more by the end of the year.

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