"We did it. Let’s go! We won," Anthony Alfredo exclaimed from the cockpit of his Sim Seats Racing Simulator after an intense battle with Alex Labbe in the closing laps at the virtual Dover International Speedway on Saturday night. It was Alfredo’s first virtual win of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Saturday Night Thunder Series after coming so close to winning in the previous weeks.
"We won a Pro-Invitational Series Saturday Night Thunder race," said Alfredo. "I am so pumped. It means a lot to me just because I put in a lot of work in every single one of these races. We have run up front in all of them and had a shot at them, which is all I can ask for. Last week at Talladega, we were leading at the white and I said it’s only a matter of time until we get one. Well, Dover was our place and it feels good to win."
"I’m thankful for iRacing and NASCAR allowing us drivers to have fun doing this, learn some things before we go back racing, and most importantly keep the fans entertained. It’s certainly been something to look forward to on the weekends during these tough times in the world. We’ll be back real racing soon, which I’m really excited about, but this is some great momentum and great excitement."
Alfredo takes a great deal of pride in iRacing and is a huge advocate for eSports and gaming, which made this win that much sweeter. After practicing throughout the week, which led to winning multiple official races at virtual Dover, Alfredo’s confidence was high heading into the Saturday Night Thunder Event.
Alfredo began his night starting in the second position in heat number two, from which the top six would advance to the 125-lap feature event. Alfredo wasted little time before driving his No. 33 Tribute to a Hero – Wally Yocum Chevrolet Camaro to the front, claiming the heat win.
The top ten drivers were inverted for the start of the race, which meant Alfredo lined up in the ninth position. Alfredo, along with his fellow Richard Childress Racing teammate Kaz Grala, steadily began making their way through the field in the early stages of the race. After stellar driving and a lightning-fast pit stop from the virtual crew, Alfredo asserted himself as an early race favorite as he spoke with the commentators from the third position during an early caution.
After picking up another spot, Alfredo quickly settled himself into the second position and focused on saving his tires over the course of the long run behind leader Donny Lia. With 43 laps remaining, Alfredo brought his No. 33 Tribute to a Hero – Wally Yocum Chevrolet Camaro to the attention of his virtual pit crew for the final stop of the night. When Alfredo emerged back onto the racing surface, he was in the third position. With only 25 laps remaining Kaz Grala surrendered the lead after staying out on track with old tires. In second place and two seconds behind race leader Alex Labbe, Alfredo began slowly chipping away at the lead until the No. 33 Chevrolet was on the back bumper of Labbe, battling for the lead with only 12 laps remaining. Thanks to a big run, Alfredo passed Labbe for the lead with 11 laps to go. It was not over yet. With eight laps remaining in the race, Alfredo got loose and slid up the racetrack in turns three and four, which handed the lead back to Labbe. After a deep breath and collecting himself, Alfredo stayed focused and drove under Labbe with seven laps remaining and did not look back this time. After coming so close to victory in the prior weeks, Alfredo was able to park his No. 33 Tribute to a Hero – Wally Yocum Chevrolet Camaro in victory lane at the virtual Monster Mile.
"I had my work cut out for me in the race," said Alfredo. "The strategy was difficult just because we ran green for so long. Obviously we had a green flag pit stop, that went super well, and we were able to take the lead at the end. I messed up and gave up the lead, but we got it back and drove away with smooth sailing from there. That was crazy. It’s amazing how on iRacing, the mental side of things is so realistic. It’s not just the fact you’re on the simulator getting better, and honing your skills, but you’re practicing mentally. The way I was trying to keep myself focused battling for the lead and get it back after I gave it up. That’s all the same things you go through in real life."
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series heads to virtual Martinsville Speedway May 9th and 10th. Check eNASCAR.com for more information.