eNASCAR Champion Ray Alfalla is living his dream with his racing debut at Hickory Motor Speedway – NASCAR | CarTailz

Ray Alfalla (left) talks to Landon Huffman during Fall Brawl at Hickory Motor Speedway on November 12, 2022. (Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)

HICKORY, NC – For years Ray Alfalla dreamed of the day he would make his racing debut.

That day came Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway, where the four-time eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Champion competed in the 100-lap Limited Late Model race held during the 25th Annual Fall Brawl.

It was a developmental moment for Alfalla, who traveled from Florida to North Carolina to attend Saturday’s event.

“It was hard enough getting up here,” said Alfalla, who was born in Cuba but moved to the United States when he was six when Tropical Storm moved to the hotel. The whole day of travel was hectic enough.

“It was a lot to come here just to come to this race. It still feels surreal.”

Alfalla’s chance to live his dream began a few months ago when he was testing a limited late model in Hickory under the tutelage of 2022 track champion Landon Huffman and the Jason Smith Racing Team.

Ray Alfalla
Ray Alfalla (51) battles Bub Haney (28) during the Limited Late Model Feature as part of the Fall Brawl at Hickory Motor Speedway on November 12, 2022. (Photo by Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)

Alfalla said he quickly realized he needed to improve a few things, including his physical fitness.

“I did a test and realized that I need to get in better shape,” said Alfalla. “I lost 20 pounds over the summer. I worked a lot on my neck and it showed [Saturday]. Physically, I feel very comfortable in the car. Made some adjustments to the steering wheel and seating position from last time.

“After the test it was just a matter of getting the financing together and finding a race.”

Funding came from iRacing, Virtual Racing School and Interstate Batteries. After a few false starts, Alfalla settled on Fall Brawl and Hickory as the time and place for his racing debut.

To prepare for Saturday’s race, Alfalla did what came naturally by doing laps on iRacing at Hickory. The 0.363 mile asphalt oval was added to the iRacing service last year.

“Of course I know the track perfectly; I don’t have any issues with that,” Alfalla said. “I came out in a practice session with a couple of cars and felt good. It was my first time with a bunch of other cars and it didn’t feel any different than what I expected. I feel as comfortable as I think you can feel when you first get into a car.

“I’m really just focused on finding speed and not making mistakes. iRacing really helped flatten that learning curve a lot.”

Ray Alfalla
Ray Alfalla during practice for Fall Brawl at Hickory Motor Speedway on November 12, 2022. (Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)

At the start of the day, the 33-year-old said his main concern had nothing to do with his ability on track. Instead, he was more concerned with how to navigate the pit lane or how to get into the race car.

These are all factors that the iRacer had never dealt with.

“I was almost more concerned with the logistics of where to go and what to do,” Alfalla said. “Where you can maneuver on the pit lane and get in and out of the car, all that stuff. Obviously with iRacing you just sit on the sim and just drive. You don’t have to worry about anything else.”

Alfalla qualified 17th for the 100-lap race, around half a second off pole-speed for eventual race winner Michael Bumgarner. During the race, Aflalla battled mechanical gremlins and eventually retired from the event early, finishing 18th after a fuel pump failure.

While it wasn’t the kind of debut Alfalla was hoping for, he was nonetheless grateful for the opportunity and is working to add more races in his home state of Florida to his schedule in 2023.

“I’ve always believed strongly in simracers,” said Alfalla. “There are many drivers who are really good at iRacing but don’t have the means to race in real life. Now we’re seeing more and more of it. I’m glad to be one of them.

“Thank you to NASCAR and iRacing for putting sim racers on the map and putting eNASCAR on the map and helping us really show we can do it. The simulation is so close to real life that guys get in a real car and rev up pretty quickly.”

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