By Dustin Albino
On Wednesday (Jan. 6), Anthony Alfredo was announced as the full-time driver of the Front Row Motorsports No. 38 NASCAR Cup Series car for the 2021 season.
Yes, the same driver that has just 32 NASCAR national touring series starts to his credit, all coming since early 2019. Alfredo, however, is coming off his best career Xfinity Series finish in his most recent outing, placing third last October at Texas Motor Speedway.
In an emotional post-race interview following his top-five run at Texas, Alfredo said he was hoping to run full-time come 2021, allowing him to compete for a championship. Little did he expect it would be in Cup.
But in mid-November, FRM announced John Hunter Nemechek would not return for a sophomore season in Cup after finishing 27th in the championship standings. That led to a full-time opening and Alfredo got the nod.
"Front Row Motorsports was looking for a young driver that they could work with for years to come and develop a future with," Alfredo told Jayski.com on Thursday (Jan. 7). "It was the best opportunity that presented itself and a great one for me to take that next step in my career."
In 19 Xfinity starts with Richard Childress Racing last year, Alfredo earned a pair of top-five finishes, scoring seven additional top-10 finishes. He had an average result of 12.6, still finishing 18th in points despite not competing in 14 events.
But his brief Xfinity stint, just like 2019 in the Camping World Truck Series, was to gain experience and prepare him for the next step.
"I got into both of those series with very little experience and managed to hold my own and do pretty well at times, especially last season," Alfredo said. […] "To take to that challenge and still accomplish what we did I think stood out to the people at Front Row Motorsports.
"I want to make [Front Row] proud for believing in me and live up to those expectations. As far as the Cup Series itself, the new car is coming out in , so for me to go up there and get used to running these longer races and grow with this team, build chemistry, learn the Cup cars as much as possible and the strategy that goes into a Cup race is going to play huge dividends when we go racing when the new car comes out."
Front Row is coming off its best season to date, with veteran driver Michael McDowell scoring a career-high four top-10 finishes. Nemechek added three, giving FRM seven for the season — the most its ever scored in one year.
Because of the team’s recent success, plus the No. 38 team has been in tact for a few seasons, led by crew chief Seth Barbour, Alfredo is thrilled for his immediate future.
"This isn’t like a newly assembled team, it’s more so me coming in and fitting in with them," Alfredo added. "That’s why I’ve been spending a lot of time with the crew before the season starts, just so that I can establish that chemistry and gain easy and understanding communication before we even get to racing, just to limit that learning curve as well.
"I’m excited to work with a group that’s already been together. If anything is new to this group it’s just me."
Alfredo noted he’s "stayed in touch" with McDowell, and the new teammates plan on getting lunch together for the first time next week. With seven road course races on the 2021 Cup schedule, the rookie fully intends on leaning on the road course ace to help soften the learning curve, having ran just one road course race in his career (finished 20th in the inaugural race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last July). But entering his first year in Cup, the Connecticut native believes wholeheartedly road courses are his weak point.
As for expectations, Alfredo has had to limit them because of his inexperience, but still plans to set out season-long goals prior to the Daytona 500. After all, he believes in order to push himself to be the best racecar driver he can be, he must have goals to challenge himself.
But what are those goals and expectations?
"In the beginning we’re just going to be focused on finishing the races, doing our best to stay on the lead lap," he said. "There’s going to be some racetracks where that might be more difficult than others and we have to change up our strategy for that reason. For me, just to complete the races, keep the car in one piece. There’s some tracks that I haven’t even been to yet, not to mention tracks that are completely new to the schedule."
With his limited racing experience, Alfredo knows there’s going to be hurdles he’s never faced before. it was just three years ago he ran the full K&N Pro Series East schedule prior to moving to Trucks and Xfinity. Prior to K&N, he spent 2017 running the CARS Late Model Stock Tour with JR Motorsports.
Meanwhile, it’s safe to say he’s looking forward to the opportunity, one that he’s dreamt of since attending races as a kid with parents, Rob and Veronica.
"I’m excited for the challenge," Alfredo said. "There’s no doubt it’s going to be a big step in my career. I know it’s going to be difficult physically, mentally and there’s going to be a lot of growing as a team, but that’s the point of taking this step, becoming a better racecar driver.
"I hope this is what’s just the start of my career, hopefully a long and successful career at this level."