Alfredo finds success as rookie in NASCAR series

Ask random Ridgefielders to name their five favorite NASCAR drivers and you may need time off from work before getting a complete answer.

It’s more than a tad ironic then that a place so removed from stock-car culture might soon be the hometown of one of its drivers.

Anthony Alfredo, a 19-year-old Ridgefield native, is getting closer.

After spending the last few seasons competing in the Legends and late-model divisions, Alfredo is now a rookie in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year. The division is just three rungs below the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, which features the sport’s top drivers.

In May, Alfredo was one of only nine younger drivers named to the 2018 NASCAR Next class. Now in its eighth year, the program identifies drivers between the ages of 15-25 who aspire to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and show potential to reach that goal. The selection process includes input from industry executives, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Council and media members.

Those drivers selected to the NASCAR Next program receive numerous benefits, including media training, driver-brand development, photo/video/content promotion, and incorporation into fan-facing events.

“Eleven of the 40 drivers in this year’s Daytona 500 were NASCAR Next alumni,” said Alfredo, who lives outside of Charlotte, N.C., and is a student at UNC-Charlotte. “Just to be a candidate shows that NASCAR believes in you, so being named as one of the nine drivers to make the program was an incredible honor.”

Last weekend, Alfredo got another opportunity: to race closer to home than he ever has or likely will again.

Alfredo finished sixth in the King Cadillac GMC Throwback 100 at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Saturday in Thompson, CT. The race was the eighth of 14 this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

“It will be a chance to race before family and friends who have never seen me compete in a stock car,” said Alfredo a few days before the race. “None of the races at the next three NASCAR levels are in Connecticut, so this is likely my one and only opportunity to race in my home state.”

Alfredo made the jump to the K&N Pro Series East this year after spending the last two seasons competing in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour. In 2017, he had 12 top-10 finishes (two victories) in 13 events while racing for JR Motorsports.

That success led to an offer to drive for MDM Motorsports in the higher level K&N Pro Series this year.

“The cars are heavier, have more horsepower and use different tires than those in the late-model series,” said Alfredo. “It’s much closer to the NASCAR Cup Series.”

Alfredo had an inauspicious start, getting involved in a late crash that ended his first race at the New Smyrna Speedway (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) in February.

He then finished 18th at the Zombie Auto 150 at the Bristol Motor Speedway before placing second in the Visit Hampton VA 150 at Larry King Law's Langley Speedway.

Two weeks later, Alfredo earned his first victory by winning the second of two Who’s Your Driver Twin 100s at the South Boston Speedway in Virginia.

“I made a mistake in the first race and got into an accident,” said Alfredo. “We had to roll out a backup car for the second race and I had no idea what to expect.”

Despite having the fastest lap in the opening race, Alfredo had to start last in the field for the second event because he was competing in a different car. He managed to work his way into second place before overtaking the leader on the final lap.

“I made contact with his car and bumped him out of the way,” said Alfredo. “We were side by side for half a lap before I was able to go past him for the win.”

Notes: Following his sixth-place finish on Saturday, Alfredo is fourth in the 2018 KNPSE point standings with six races remaining. Alfredo is 60 points behind leader Tyler Ankrum.