Anthony Alfredo on what iRacing’s taught him

Photo by NKP / NKP Photo

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Every driver has a different driving style, and in turn, a different learning style, which includes iRacing for Anthony Alfredo.

iRacing as a Tool

The Richard Childress Racing driver has limited experience. In his only NASCAR Xfinity Series start to date at Auto Club Speedway, he finished sixth. Alfredo also has 13 starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series with a best finish of eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With limited starts, Alfredo has leaned on fellow competitors, retired veterans, and team owners for at track advice. However, skills like tire management can only be learned on track. NASCAR already has a ban on testing, and with the COVID-19 pandemic has instituted a temporary ban on manufacturer simulators. That left iRacing as the only option.

Alfredo competed in the eNASCAR Saturday Night Thunder events on iRacing at several tracks. In the series, he picked up one feature race victory, at Dover International Speedway. That race came down to tire management and pit strategy.

Following the victory, Alfredo explained he learned how to manage tires better thanks to iRacing:

“I definitely have learned to manage tires, especially on the long run. That was my strong suit at Dover. I was very fast on the short run too, but the biggest thing was only utilizing the speed when I needed to do it. There was maybe a green-white-checkered finish or obviously qualifying, the Heat races were only 10 laps. I won my Heat race because it was a short run, but in the race, I had to be patient and remember I was focused on the long run and it paid off in the end.”

Chevrolet Simulator vs. iRacing Simulator

Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Alfredo spent time on both the Chevrolet Simulator and iRacing. Each of NASCAR’s OEMs have their own simulator program and facility. As a rookie, the driver of the No. 21 Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup Chevrolet Camaro SS had time on the simulator prior to the postponements and NASCAR’s edict temporarily stopping the manufacturer simulators.

While iRacing is the most accurate motorsports simulation available for public use, there are subtle differences between it and Chevrolet’s sim. Some of the differences are nuanced, such as graphics and visuals. Others are more dramatic. On iRacing, Alfredo can compete with multiple drivers on track at once. The Chevrolet sim can change tire compounds much more easily.

Alfredo explained the difference between the two simulators:

“I think it looks very similar visually and with the graphics, looks realistic, but the main difference is the fact that we’re putting in all the real-life data into (the Chevrolet Simulator) for every time NASCAR might say there’s a new tire we’re going to be running at a certain track.

“We have to try and get that as accurate as possible, or we put real-life setups in and tune them. So, it’s a little bit different in that sense as far as the data we’re using and placing into it. It’s kind of hand built and we’re fine tuning it all the time and always updating it and it’s just a never-ending game of trying to stay ahead of it and keep it as realistic as possible.”

iRacing Not Just a Game

Between his league, competing in official races on the motorsports simulation, and streaming to an audience online, iRacing provides Alfredo with a huge footprint to interact with race fans. The subscription-based service also allows him to hone his skills from home.

Several drivers, including NTT IndyCar Series’ Simon Pagenaud, motorsports veteran Scott Speed, and Alfredo have all expressed how iRacing is harder than real-life. All three have also mentioned that there are takeaways from their recent iRacing experiences that they will use in real-life moving forward.

With how close to real-life iRacing is, Alfredo, like others, view iRacing as more than just a game:

“The biggest thing with iRacing in particular is it’s the closest thing to real-life for anyone, including us drivers. To be able to compete in multiple disciplines of racing; not just NASCAR from the comfort of your own home, with something as simple as just your desktop computer or laptop, with a steering wheel and pedals is something you can’t do with anything else.

“I think the coolest part is someone can’t play Madden and necessarily go play for the New England Patriots because it’s not a simulation. iRacing is not a game, it’s a simulation and it’s so realistic. You could actually develop skills while racing on it. I mean, that’s the reason we don’t only play for fun. Even if we do just play for fun, we’re ultimately honing our skills and you are learning things. That’s the coolest part.

“Not to mention just being able to engage with fans. Fans being able to race against real-life drivers is really cool and unique and something most other sports can’t offer. And I mean that’s unique, the most unique part about the motorsports world entering the eSports industry.” 

Return to Real-Life Racing

With an overhauled schedule to get the 2020 NASCAR season back on track, the Xfinity Series will be back on track at Darlington Raceway, replacing an event at Chicagoland Speedway. Alfredo will be behind the wheel of the RCR No. 21 entry.

Before the shutdowns, Alfredo was already utilizing both the Chevrolet Simulator and iRacing. The Ridgefield, CT native runs his own league on iRacing, the eSports Racing League. Alfredo also streams iRacing and NASCAR Heat 4 events he competes in on Twitch.

As real-life racing returns, Alfredo admitted that he intends to continue use of both the Chevrolet Simulator and iRacing:

“The Chevrolet Simulator is just a little bit of a more advanced version of iRacing is all, but I still utilize my Sim Seats driving simulator at home all the time to get visual cues before going to a track and learn how to get around certain tracks before I go there in real-life.”

Further schedule changes for Alfredo, who was scheduled to be part-time in the Xfinity Series in 2020 are to be determined.

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