“What could have been.”
A phrase tossed around, not only in sports, but in everyday life. It’s not always a life-altering decision that spurs this saying. It can be as simple as using two hands to catch a fly ball in a little league game instead of one. Or maybe if you played one less mission on your favorite video game, your mom isn’t upset when you arrive 10 minutes late to a family dinner and you’re grounded for a week.
But sticking with NASCAR, let’s rewind the clock to February when the Xfinity Series raced at Auto Club Speedway. That’s where Our Motorsports and Anthony Alfredo left Fontana with a big “what could have been.”
Owner Chris Our moved the team to the Xfinity Series in 2020 after previously competing part-time in the ARCA Menards Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The team’s first season had Brett Moffitt, who was running for the Camping World Truck Series championship, running most of the races in the team’s No. 02 Chevrolet.
In 2021, the team looked to expand to two full-time teams with the No. 02 of Moffitt as the full-time driver — and declared for Xfinity Series points — along with the No. 03 car. But after rain cancelled qualifying for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, the No. 03 was sidelined with no owner’s points.
Our purchased owner’s points from RSS Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing, and the No. 03 was renumbered 23 and ran the remainder of the 2021 season, beginning in the fourth race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Nine total drivers piloted the car, with a few races nearly ending in victory lane, and Our’s first double top 10 occurred at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July.
Now in 2022, the team has expanded yet again. Our has three full-time drivers and teams, with Moffit still piloting the No. 02, Alfredo in the No. 23 and Jeb Burton in the newest car, the No. 27.
At the start of the season, you never know precisely how a season will turn out, especially when you add a team and bring in two new drivers. Will there be chemistry? If so, how long will it take to achieve it? So for a team to be in position to win a race they maybe weren’t supposed to in just the season’s second race, in a way, is a gift.
Alfredo and his team had a spare set of fresh tires laying on pit road when the caution came out for debris. He pitted, his crew put on the fresh tires, and he restarted outside the top 10. But in no time Alfredo found his way into the top 10.
One caution later, Alfredo restarted ninth and drove up to fifth in the middle of turns 1 and 2 before Brandon Jones spun. On the next restart, Alfredo was third but did not get a great restart.
One more caution for Jones, who spun and smashed into the pit wall, gave Alfredo another opportunity. He restarted second on the inside and received an excellent push from Justin Allgaier.
Alfredo then faced a decision, and a split-second one at that. Of the previous restarts, there was only one where he made any major headway into turn 1 — the second restart of the race. More cars in front of him meant there’d be more side-by-side racing and, therefore, a slower pace.
There lies the biggest “what could have been” moment of 2022 for Alfredo and Our Motorsports.
On this final restart, Alfredo dove low and took the lowest lane through turns 1 and 2. Leader Cole Custer took the line about two-thirds of the way to the wall, as was his move every single restart before this one — and it typically left him with the lead off of turn 2.
Alfredo and his fresher tires could not outpace Custer on the outside, and Custer pulled away as the field entered the backstretch. Then Noah Gragson and Trevor Bayne split the No. 23, as the trio traveled toward turn 3. Eventually, Alfredo had to settle for fifth, because Josh Berry passed him too.
Alfredo currently sits 13th in the Xfinity standings, 58 points behind Ryan Sieg and out of the playoffs. Teammates Burton and Moffitt are 14th and 15th in points, respectively, and only 13 points separate the three Our drivers.
What could have been had Alfredo chose a lane closer to Custer? What could have been had Alfredo had a chance to side-draft Custer down the backstretch? What could have been had Alfredo lined up behind Custer instead of beside him?
We could be talking about Alfredo and Our being the upset-of-the-season winner thus far with still so many races to go. The new team would’ve had a car in the playoffs for the first time. Their win would guarantee that a “Power 12” team would not make the Xfinity Series playoffs in 2022. The talk wouldn’t be about Sieg and his hold on the 12th and final spot in the playoffs. And that talk would have shifted instead to Sieg going from being safely in the playoffs by points to, over the past month, slipping out of the top 12.
This “what could have been” situation for Alfredo and Our is especially potent over the past month and a half, because none of Our’s three teams have scored a top 10 since Talladega Superspeedway.
One could argue that the Our driver with zero top 10s this season — Burton — has been the most consistent of the trio. Not only does the average finish point to this, but Burton has only five finishes outside the top 16 and only two outside the top 30. Alfredo’s bad days have been far more costly, especially in the three most recent finishes. At Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Portland International Raceway, Alfredo finished 30th or worse in all three. He did likewise at Phoenix Raceway back in March. Moffitt has four finishes of 25th or worse.
Despite the recent woes, when the day goes right for the Our teams, they are all three capable of top-15 finishes. All three teams are running well. The expansion seems to not only have not caused any hiccups, but speed and performance have experienced a boost from 2021.
Things are clicking for the Welcome, N.C., team, and at several upcoming races, keep an eye on their race strategy. Keep an eye on how Sieg is running and what risks they take or don’t take on pit road. If another driver below the playoff cutline wins, such as Sheldon Creed, how does their approach to a race change? Will they become desperate, or will they continue to race as they have?
The brutal truth is Alfredo’s decision to go low on the final restart at Auto Club in February might go down as the biggest “what could have been” moment of 2022. It will likely be the best opportunity for the team to make the playoffs, and when the playoffs arrive, it will likely leave a team or two sighing in relief.
About the author
Josh Roller is a 2019 graduate of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI in Indianapolis. While in school, he covered the 2018 Indianapolis 500 and the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship. He was an extern for INDYCAR in 2019 and interned with Charlotte Motor Speedway's Communications Department in 2020. Besides writing the Xfinity Breakdown for Frontstretch, he also does a weekly podcast with a friend he met at the 2018 Indy 500, Rob Peeters, called the Racing with Rob and Roller podcast.
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