Engine started: Alfredo making strides in NASCAR pursuit

If Anthony Alfredo runs into any of his former Ridgefield classmates when he comes home to visit during the upcoming holidays, odds are that his catching-up tale will stand out.

After all, he is the only one trying to become a full-fledged NASCAR driver.

“I’m probably at least four years away from that level, but I’m working on getting there,” said Alfredo, an 18-year-old Ridgefield native now living outside Charlotte, N.C. “A lot of things still have to go right, but so far I feel good about where I am.”

This is how he got there. When he was six years old, Alfredo discovered that he liked to drive things fast. He started racing go-karts, winning multiple events on oval and road courses before taking five years off to play more familiar sports. The break helped Alfredo define his passion.

“I missed racing,” he said. “I knew I needed to get back into it.”

At age 15, Alfredo returned to the track, driving spec-specific, 140-horsepower Legend Cars at the Bethel (N.Y.) Motor Speedway. His performance at several events down South — the Winter Heat Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Winter Nationals at Orlando (Fla.) Speedworld — led to an invite for Alfredo to join Lee Faulk Racing, a driver-development team based in Denver, N.C.

Moving up to the Limited Late Model series, Alfredo drove two years for Lee Faulk Racing, winning once and adding 15 top-five finishes en route to the Southeast Limited Late Model Series Pro Division championship in 2016.

That success caught the eye of JR Motorsports — the professional stock car racing team co-owned by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Following an interview last December, Alfredo accepted an offer to compete as the developmental driver for JR Motorsports’ Late Model team in 2017.

“That was a big break and an amazing opportunity for me,” said Alfredo. “JR Motorsports has a track record for producing great drivers.”

Alfredo primarily competed in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour this year, winning two races and finishing in the top 10 in all but two of 13 starts. Both of Alfredo’s victories came in 75-lap races at the Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, where he also placed second in a 138-lap event.

All those top-10 finishes added up to 344 points, leaving Alfredo second (among 69 drivers) in the CARS Tour final standings behind JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry (351 points).

Alfredo also competed in several NASCAR Whelen All-American Series races, getting his biggest victory of the year with a first-place finish at the Fall Brawl on the Hickory Motor Speedway. Starting eighth in the field, Alfredo worked his way into the top five and went ahead to stay with 22 laps remaining, getting a win in what is considered one of the most prestigious Late Model races on the East Coast.

“All we did was put right-side tires on the car for the final 100 laps,” Alfredo told a reporter after the race. “We didn’t really want to risk making any significant changes to the car, but we felt pretty confident in the car’s ability, and we just stuck with it and it paid off. I’ve had this race circled on my calendar all year, and I’ve always wanted to win it.”

Alfredo, who spent one year at Ridgefield High School before finishing his degree online, is in his freshman year at UNC Charlotte. After several years of commuting between Ridgefield and North Carolina, Alfredo moved full-time to The Tar Heel State in 2016, living in a condo that his family rents.

“I missed out on some social things by leaving Ridgefield High and not graduating with my class,” said Alfredo, who hopes to transition into ARCA and Camping World Truck Series competition in 2018. “But it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. At first I felt like an outsider down here — there aren’t too many stock car drivers from the Northeast — but now I’m just one of the drivers. I fit in.”

Alfredo even acquired a new nickname this year.

“The announcer at the Hickory track called me Fast Pasta. Then it spread through social media, and other announcers started calling me that,” said Alfredo. “I’m not sure I like the nickname that much, but if people are referring to you for doing something well then I guess it’s a good thing.”

Ridgefield resident Anthony Alfredo hopes to become a NASCAR driver.

Ridgefield resident Anthony Alfredo hopes to become a NASCAR driver.

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