Imagine zooming around a racetrack at speeds around 200 mph. You’re constantly pushing forward to take the lead, knowing a difference in speed of just one-tenth of a second – literally the blink of an eye – can create a significant disadvantage. You’re laser-focused, because at speeds that high you don’t even need to touch another car to crash; air flow alone can cause a devastating wreck. Now imaging doing that for three hours non-stop, inside a car with interior temperatures above 150 degrees. NASCAR driver and Ridgefield native Anthony Alfredo does this full-time. For him, it’s just another day at the office.
When Alfredo was a child, he and his two siblings raced go-karts at Grand Prix New York Racing in Mt. Kisco, New York. “It was so much fun; we were all good at it. You didn’t have to own any equipment, you’d just buy a ticket and race,” Alfredo remembers. Fast forward a decade and Alfredo is still having fun racing, but as a professional NASCAR driver.
Birth of a Passion
Racecar driving may not seem an obvious sport-of-choice for a Connecticut youth, but NASCAR is the leading spectator sport in the United States. It’s also the second most-watched sport in the nation, second only to NFL games. Although Alfredo wasn’t born into a legendary “racing family” like the Pettys or Earnhardts, his parents had been huge NASCAR fans long before he was born. He credits their fandom for his foray into the sport. “Watching NASCAR races was a ritual for our family,” Alfredo says. “Dale Earnhardt Jr. was my childhood hero.” Little did he know, he’d one day be racing for JR Motorsports, the race team co-owned by Dale Jr.
During middle school, Alfredo excelled at snowboarding, skateboarding, and lacrosse, even playing on the Ridgefield High School lacrosse team during his freshman year at RHS. But he was always drawn to things with motors. “My father was a big “gearhead” and he was always teaching me about motors,” Alfredo says.
It was during his freshman year that Alfredo decided to pursue racing more seriously. He started with legends car racing; legends cars being scaled-down, motorcycle engine-powered replicas of American automobiles from the 1930s and 1940s. Alfredo entered the legends car season at Bethel Motor Speedway in White Lake, NY driving a replica of a ’34 Ford Coupe he had rented. He excelled, and next set his sights on the legends car season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the “home track” for NASCAR.
A Leap of Faith
In Charlotte, he caught the eye of Lee Faulk, NASCAR driver turned driver development professional. Faulk suggested Alfredo test out stock car racing, which uses the standard size cars you see in NASCAR races today. “Before the test drives, Lee said to me “I’m either going to tell you to go buy golf clubs or I’m going to tell you that you can do this.” And he didn’t say I should go buy golf clubs!” recalls Alfredo. “That was when I made the difficult decision to step away from Ridgefield High School (RHS) and shift to online education, which was hard since I had so many friends at RHS,” Alfredo says.
Over the next few years, Alfredo climbed the ranks, driving for JR Motorsports, Lee Faulk Racing, Richard Childress Racing, and Front Row Motorsports. He picked up the nickname “Fast Pasta” along the way. He’s now driving for Our Motorsports, founded by Massachusetts businessman Chris Our, and has sponsors including Dude Wipes, Speedy Cash, and Deathwish Coffee Company. His honest, articulate, and entertaining recounts of races, training, and life both on and off the track have earned him a loyal social media fanbase, affectionately referred to as his “Sauce Mafia.”
The 2022 NASCAR season is comprised of over 30 races – and thanks to different track lengths, shapes, surfaces, and whether it’s day or night, no two races are the same.
One of Alfredo’s favorite races is the Coca Cola 600, which takes place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It’s the longest race of the year – 600 miles and 400 laps – so it requires a totally different approach,” he says. “But there’s a certain intensity that makes short track racing special, like at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway.” Alfredo also dispels the notion that racing is nothing more than driving really fast in a circle, saying “this
season we’re driving more road courses than before, so we’re taking both left and right turns.”
As I took my seat in the grandstands to cheer on Alfredo at the Daytona 300, the 300-mile, 120-lap opening race of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, I thought about how similar a NASCAR race is to life. The race I was about to watch was the perfect example.
The green flag dropped, signaling the start of the race, and Alfredo had a problem almost immediately. We’d later learn his right-side window blew out on lap one, forcing him to make a pit stop. By the time his window was replaced he was three laps behind the other drivers. “I thought, wow, this is not a good start to the year,” he says. But Alfredo and his team never gave up. “We tried to mind our own business, run our own race, and take care of the car.” Alfredo was so far down that he didn’t catch up to the lead lap until there were just 20 laps to go. “It kind of worked out because it kept us out of trouble,” he recalls — “trouble” being multiple crashes that didn’t affect him because he was simply too far behind. “We felt defeated at lap one, but we kept grinding it out and ended up placing 7th out of 40 drivers,” Alfredo recalls.
Alfredo says the two biggest lessons he’s learned from racing are to never give up and focus on the things you can control. “Many things in life are out of our control but we can’t harp on them. You can do everything right and still lose,” he says. “That’s part of racing. And life.”
Alfredo races on a weekly basis. To find his next race and cheer him on, refer to his schedule here: nascar.com/nascar-xfinity-series/2022. •