FONTANA, Calif. – It was quiet, and it wasn’t always flashy, but Anthony Alfredo put together a run to be proud of during his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway.
Alfredo kept the nose of his No. 21 Anderson’s Maple Syrup Chevrolet Camaro clean all race long, and then was aggressive when it counted at the end of the Production Alliance Group 300.
A few strong moves later, the UNC-Charlotte engineering student found himself sixth at the checkered flag, becoming the eighth driver in Richard Childress Racing history to earn a top-10 finish in their series debut with the organization.
It was a banner day and one that left Alfredo, 20, beaming from ear to ear on pit road after the race, especially considering he put on a wheel-to-wheel battle with Justin Haley down the stretch as well.
“Man, we finished sixth, but it should have been P5!” Alfredo exclaimed. “I don’t know if everyone was watching, but the 11 (Haley) and I had a heck of a fight there at the end. Justin’s a great kid and someone I’ve gotten to know really well, considering he’s an affiliate of ours at RCR. We raced the heck out of each other, but it was super clean, and that’s what the fans love to see.
“I pulled the slider on him in (turns) three and four about six laps in a row; I just could not get it to hook up enough and he kept side-drafting me back,” Alfredo added. “Our car was really great in (turns) one and two, though. I could turn up from underneath him and cross the seam to get a run. That’s where I would beat him every time, but I just could not hook up off of four.
“Sixth is good, but I’m always trying to be better, and I know we had a car capable of being in the top five! It’s an honor to be up here and a great start to the year; I’m just pumped for what’s next.”
The sixth-place run Alfredo put together is the fourth-best finish all-time by a debuting rookie for RCR’s Xfinity Series program, bettered only by Matt Crafton’s third-place run in 2013 and a pair of fifth-place finishes in 2001 from Johnny Sauter and Robby Gordon.
Alfredo, who started 13th, kept himself solidly in contention all day long and showed flashes of speed early, despite finishing 14th in both of the 35-lap stages that punctuated the early going.
But as the race wore on and restarts became more prevalent, Alfredo was able to work his way through traffic and place himself in position for a big result as the laps wound down.
His pit crew got him off pit road fifth during the final round of stops, and from there, Alfredo did a yeoman’s job of holding as much track position as he could despite a crazy restart with 19 laps to go.
“I learned a lot this weekend. Our Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup Chevrolet just needed to be a little freer,” Alfredo noted. “My crew chief Andy Street and the No. 21 team made adjustments to loosen me up a few times throughout the race, but I still battled neutral to tight conditions most of the day. What a way to start out this season with RCR, though. This is exactly what we wanted when we put this deal together.
“We have the best equipment and the best team assembled; we’ve got all the capabilities and they’ve given me so much information to digest during my first race weekend,” Alfredo continued. “We are going to build on this sixth-place finish and challenge for wins this year. That’s something I feel confident in saying after what we were able to put together this weekend.
“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of this No. 21 Chevrolet in a few weeks.”