By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Some things remain the same at Kentucky Speedway. Not because Austin Cindric swept the doubleheader, but another sweep occurred as Anthony Alfredo just nabbed a sixth place finish on the last lap of Friday’s Alsco 300.
The Richard Childress Racing rookie’s result had to be earned following a mistake on the final stop that knocked him out of contention of a possible career night which saw him collect 16 stage points due to a fourth and a second-place run during the first two stages.
The 10th place starter felt that long runs and proper adjustments favored No. 21 Alsco Uniforms Chevrolet Camaro, but there was room for improvement as shown in the final stage as he ran between fifth and sixth.
“Our car had tremendous speed that was almost as fast Xfinity internet. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too tight so we tried to adjust on it,” said Alfredo. “The start of the final stage is where I fell behind on the start because we lacked short run speed, but came right back at the end and had plenty of speed. We nailed our green flag pit stop and drove our way back to fifth.”
Aside from a green flag stop, the other pit stops would come to define Alfredo’s overall night as he struggled gaining a pit advantage, citing Joe Gibbs Racing as a reference point of how well they exit compared to him.
Crew chief Andy Street expressed his concern over the radio that he doesn’t want him to speed on pit road that would set the entire RCR team back.
Unfortunately, something did halted Alfredo’s progress and that’s a driver error when the race came down to the wire.
After Brandon Jones backed into the Turn 1 wall with 22 laps remaining, everyone pitted for the final time. Alfredo gained a spot from Jones’ late-race exit, putting him in the fourth spot but any shot of scoring his second Xfinity Series top-five was gone as he slid onto his pit stall after trying to avoid hitting Daniel Hemric’s right tire changer.
“I came in for my final pit stop and the right front tire changer ran out. Like they do, they kind of run out of the box and I was already turning in,” Alfredo on his final stop. “So I pulled the wheel to go around him, I wasn’t going to clean the guy out and I slid into the box sideways. I screwed up our whole strategy.”
The costly mistake saw his No. 21 Camaro parked at a bad angle, making a left side tire change difficult but rather than getting it corrected, the four-tire stop was made and Alfredo exited out of the pits in eighth.
Things went from bad to worse as NASCAR penalized Alfredo for his No. 21 crew going over the wall too soon and with wavearounds, it relegated him to restart tail end of the longest line in 12th.
It led his crew questioning the call as to why the pit penalty was enforced, but NASCAR weren’t having it as the decision stood. This left Alfredo to get himself out of a massive hole and pull one big rally during the final 13 laps.
The Connecticut racer made the most out of JR Motorsports frenzy and misfortunes as he went worked his way back to the top-10 with in just five laps. Justin Allgaier, who had finally put himself back with the leaders after being a lap down for much of the night, and Noah Gragson battled for seventh, resulting the latter getting sideways in Turn 1, moving Alfredo up to eighth.
As Cindric pulled away for his fourth career Xfinity Series win, several positions were up for grabs and coming towards the final corner, some drama ensued. Michael Annett tried sending it down low in Turn 3 to pass Hemric. It didn’t worked as Annett’s car snapped, putting Hemric into the wall.
Alfredo’s spotter Derek Kneeland guided him to cross bottom and stay low onto the apron. The last few seconds saw him pass both Annett and Hemric to score another sixth-place finish.
“I drove my freakin’ butt off at the end,” said Alfredo. “We got another sixth-place finish, but I had to work really hard for that one and rightfully so.”
It’s his sixth top-10 of the season in nine starts and the fourth time he has finished in that spot, but is self-aware he could’ve had a much better result.
“I feel like we finish 6th every week, sorry guys. My fault, I’ll work on it. You guys did a great job, I appreciate it,” Alfredo to his No. 21 over the radio after completing his race.
Alfredo gained two spots in the standings as he now sits 16th, just three points behind Hemric from scoring the most points that isn’t competing in NXS full-time. RCR’s No. 21 team also moves up to eighth in owners points after 15 races.
“My guys work so hard for me. They brought a really fast car and I thought good enough to put victory lane if the chips fell our way. I just can’t make mistakes like that,” said Alfredo.
“I’m just getting better every week. I’m always hungry and I’m doing really well for the lack of experience, but I can always be better. (The last two nights) are a step in the right direction. It was great to run up front and have great speed. Just to come back and rebound once again for a great finish was good.”
Alfredo and the No. 21 will pack their bags and head to “The Lone Star State” for the running of the My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway set to commence on Saturday, July 18 at 3:00 p.m. EST on NBCSN.