By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A top-five finish in the Podium 500 helped Front Row Motorsports rookie Anthony Alfredo learn for the Daytona 500.
The NASCAR Cup Series driver, and XSET Gaming content creator, ran much of the Podium 500 from inside the pack. Alfredo worked with his Lockdown Racing teammates, as well as XSET’s Casey Kirwan throughout the 500-mile race at the virtual Daytona International Speedway.
Alfredo and Kirwan often marched their way from the back to the front on the outside. When the 21-year-old pushed the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver on the outside, the duo failed to clear Spacestation Racing’s Malik Ray and Vicente Salas. However, after Alfredo and Kirwan swapped roles, the NASCAR driver successfully led his virtual counterpart to the lead.
In both his Duel race and the Podium 500 itself, Alfredo was forced to make massive saves. In the Duel, the virtual No. 38 Speedy Cash Ford mustang dove through the grass to avoid the big one. Alfredo was clipped and he drifted through the tri-oval before regaining control. In the main event, He was clipped once again and had to drift down the backstretch to avoid hitting the outside wall.
The damage slowed Alfredo’s virtual Ford. On the overtime restart, he lined up fifth. Unable to help Ray in front of him, Alfredo used the draft to make a move for both third and fourth. Coming to the line, the fight for the win became a brawl. As Kirwan spun across the line for the win, Alfredo slammed the outside wall. His virtual No. 38 Speedy Cash Ford crossed the line backwards and on its’ side in fifth.
“Definitely was a great first run in the Podium 500,” admitted Alfredo. “I was able to finish. Thrilled to be a part of the event. Pretty solid run, I wish we were able to win. I was really close to getting third at the line, but that role was all door slamming. We weren’t going to be able to win it, didn’t have that much momentum, and needed more help out back.
“Saw Malik (Ray) go below the line and try to get inside of Daniel Eberhardt. I knew I wasn’t going to have a shot if I was on the bottom, especially if I was behind someone. Had a little bit of damage that 100% slowed me down. It was one of those saves again, I was heading head-on to the outside wall. If I could have had someone behind me, I think we could have had a shot. We made the most of it.”
The various incidents that Alfredo avoided, and runs that both he and Kirwan made, helped the Ridgefield, CT native learn what to expect in the real Daytona 500 on Feb 14. Echoing Dale Earnhardt Jr’s infamous statement, ‘huge-ass spoilers.’ Alfredo found it difficult to see exactly what was going on up ahead. He determined he had to watch several cars ahead to be prepared for what was about to come, whether it was a checkup or a run.
“Honestly, the biggest thing is how big the spoilers are,” Alfredo explained about what he learned in the Podium 500. “It’s just difficult to see. It’s all about holding your line, not moving around too much, and looking ahead of the guy in front of you to see what’s going on. Especially if they start wrecking.
“Just got to put yourself in a good position, be patient. If you see a run coming, be prepared to go with it, and how they’re built up, developed in all the lanes. Just got to be calm in those three-wide traffic jams. At 200 MPH, there’s nowhere to go. Stay confident and think about the big picture.”
Alfredo was one of over 350 drivers that attempted to make the field for the Podium eSports-promoted event. He started 21st after narrowly avoiding disaster in his Duel race. Alfredo also avoided disaster in the main event while four of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers were swept up in the first incident on lap 21.
“It was a pleasure being a part of this event,” stated Alfredo. “A lot of great racers. I hate that a lot of my Lockdown Racing teammates got taken out early. I was kind of by myself there, Casey (Kirwan) was my XSET teammate though. Pretty cool to be a part of that team forming up in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series. He was able to get the win though. All in all, a good day, and I was able to get myself mentally prepared for next week.”
Alfredo’s XSET Gaming teammates, Kirwan and Ryan Luza will now prepare for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season opener at Daytona. Meanwhile, he will now focus on the season opening NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500.