Monday, May 16

Podiums Propel Popularity at Home for Dominican Driver Najri

Tuesday, May 10 186
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
 
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: Mid-Ohio 120 Entry List
 
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When he arrived home in the Dominican Republic last week, Alfredo Najri was everywhere. In newspapers and on radio and TV, there he was, posing with a Dominican flag, a hero in his homeland.
 
Such is the power of racing. A podium finish in an IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race makes a 45-year-old racer famous. Ten days later, he’s still overwhelmed by the reaction. 
 
 “It was in all the newspapers,” Najri said. “It was incredible. Everyone was showing the photos. It became a point of national pride.”
 
Najri and teammate Thiago Camilo – a 37-year-old from Brazil – finished third April 30 in the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120. It was their second consecutive podium finish in the No. 14 Riley Motorsports Toyota Supra GT4, pushing Najri and the No. 14 to third in the series’ Grand Sport (GS) driver and team standings.
 
“The newspapers have all picked up my story,” Najri said. “There are a lot of people who are following the races from the Dominican by streaming. To be part of that is very exciting. It will help for months and years to come.”
 
Najri found his way to sports cars by an unusual route. Sweeping the floors in the service bays of his family’s dealership turned into an interest in drag racing and eventually into a passion for racing shared with his dad, Jose.
 
“I’ve been into racing since I was a little kid,” Alfredo Najri said. “We’ve always been in the car business. My dad used to race here locally and in Puerto Rico. When I graduated from college, I was like, ‘Listen, this is what I want to do. This is what my hobby is.’”
It took a while, though. When Najri was 35, he turned from drag racing to road racing. Years later, he signed with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Latin American program, which landed him in the Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2021.
 
“Being a late bloomer, you don’t see a lot of people progress,” Najri said. “I always thought I was just going to be a local racer. I have four championships here in the Dominican Republic, and I’ve won some races in Panama. But I always thought I would just stay here in my region until this opportunity came up. Ten years later, I’m on the podium in IMSA. It’s something I’m really proud of.”
 
The podium results haven’t come easy, however. Camilo, Najri and Juan Santero finished 13th in the BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Speedway in January. The next effort was much improved – a third with Andy Jakos in the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway in March.
 
That was followed by another third-place finish at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. In that race, Najri and Camilo trailed the winners – Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson in the No. 7 Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 – and the runners-up – Alexandre Premat and Stevan McAleer in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport.
 
Now Najri’s focus shifts to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s 13-turn, 2.258-mile layout for Saturday’s Mid-Ohio 120.
 
“With the newly gained confidence, I feel like we’re in good shape,” Najri said. “We’re looking for another podium to stay in the hunt for the title. Never has an IMSA team from a Latin American country been able to compete for a top spot in the championship. I’m really excited for that.”
 
Mark your calendars: The Mid-Ohio 120 is set for Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET, with live streaming available on Peacock in the U.S. and on IMSA.com/TVLive internationally. It’s one more chance to make Najri locally famous.
 
“For me to progress like this has been very rewarding,” he said. “It makes me proud.”
Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

Contact Adam: Email  

  

 

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