By Cole Cusumano
Anthony Alfredo’s rookie season has been a challenge, but that’s exactly what he expected when transitioning into the NASCAR Cup Series. Marred by misfortune for a bulk of 2021, inklings of speed have been evident in recent weeks. Through the adversity, work ethic never waivered, and as a result, the No. 38 camp has developed a rhythm heading into a significant weekend for the Connecticut native.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway sits just over 200 miles from where Alfredo grew up, yet it’s the place he calls “home” on the NASCAR circuit. This homecoming of sorts will hold more sentimental value than a routine stop, and for good reason.
Not only will Alfredo be making his National Series debut at “The Magic Mile,” he’ll be doing so at the premier level in front of many familiar faces.
“Every time I’ve been to the track this year has been a really cool experience, but I think New Hampshire’s got that different aspect, because it’s what I consider my home track,” Alfredo told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I know I’m going to have a ton of family and friends that are going to be there watching and I hope to make them all proud.”
While his initial National Series debut was wiped away by COVID-19 rescheduling last year, Alfredo admits this is an even greater opportunity. The 22-year-old didn’t get acquainted with New Hampshire until 2018 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
In what Alfredo called “arguably my best track” in 2018, he placed third with a shot at the win in his first start, and sixth after trouble on a late-race restart later that year. As the most important weekend of his career nears, he’s hoping comfortability translates to speed in his Cup debut at New Hampshire.
“I’m not sure what exactly it is about [NHMS], but it fits my driving style,” Alfredo said. “It’s not intermediate racing, but it still has a little bit of aero-effects and pretty good racing. You can even still do some beating and banging there.”
After decades of monotony, Alfredo believes the 1.058-mile facility restored fragments of its short track magic with the application of PJ1 in 2018. He reflected back to that year, when Kevin Harvick moved Kyle Busch for the win in thrilling fashion.
This moment, courtesy of the traction compound, is what gave Alfredo faith the physicality and short track feel was on a path of revival in Loudon. While PJ1 isn’t the most revered practice from the masses, he feels NHMS is a track that’s benefitted from this treatment, and it presents more options in a racing environment.
“The way they’ve applied the PJ1 traction compound has made for an exciting race, because you can run the middle groove or the very bottom of the track,” Alfredo explained. “It’s like a high-speed short track in a way that provides exciting multi-groove racing.”
Even being almost as green of a rookie as his Speedy Cash Mustang, Alfredo feels confident in his team’s abilities entering the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. He understands he’ll have to learn under green-flag conditions, but thinks general familiarity of New Hampshire will help him adapt quicker than other tracks.
“I think some of the basics and track characteristics are going to translate, but the Cup cars are a different animal and it’s the low-downforce package — which is a lot of fun,” Alfredo said. “Historically it’s a decent track for our Front Row Motorsports team and I think we can do something well there.”
A top-20 finish would be enough to satisfy Alfredo, but that doesn’t mean he’ll settle for nothing more. Short tracks have a history of rewarding unsuspecting teams with results due to resilience, and no one will be working harder than the driver of the No. 38.
Alfredo is eager to feel the energy of a full capacity crowd and his focus will be to put on a respectable show in front of his loved ones at his home track. The one-off event prevents him from extracurriculars around the area with friends and family, but he’ll be driving up to Connecticut after the race to spend time with them — hopefully with a lobster in hand.