Meet the NASCAR driver making history on the track
Alon Day says becoming the first Israeli to race in NASCAR is a 'big thing.'
It's not so often that you see a foreign-born driver compete in a NASCAR race. This is reflected in the fact that in its 68-year history, only eight drivers not born in the United States have ever won a race in its two main series, The Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series.
Alon Day is looking to become No. 9. The Israeli makes his NASCAR debut Saturday at the Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Despite being the first Israeli to ever compete in a NASCAR event, Day said he isn't feeling any pressure.
"I'm not nervous. I'm just excited. It's a big thing and I didn't think it would happen so soon. We're even still looking for sponsors [for the car]," Day told From The Grapevine.
Day, 24, began racing go-karts in his hometown of Ashdod as a youngster before heading north to the neighboring city of Tel Aviv, then to Europe, where he was first given the opportunity to race cars.
For the past several years he's been competing professionally, most recently in the Elite First Division of the the Whelen Euro Series, an official NASCAR stock-car racing series based in Europe, where he placed second for the season and won the prestigious Junior "Jerome Sarran" Trophy (NWES Rookie of the Year).
But the two NASCAR series represent the premier level of stock car racing.
"It's going to be totally different. The car is totally different, the type of racing is totally different, it's longer but it's a challenge and I'm ready," he said.
"At the end of the day I always say racing is racing. It's an engine, four wheels and a steering wheel and you have to perform the best," he added.
Day's no unknown entity in racing circles. In fact, he's broken down another significant barrier in NASCAR: He's the first driver born outside of North America to be named to the NASCAR Next Program.
The program seeks to identify young NASCAR drivers and nurture them, and being among the 11 picked this year was no small honor.
"It's a piece of history; being the first one is always good," Day told us.
While his foray into American motorsports comes with an increased level of competition, and with it pressure to perform, the transition has been made easier by his fellow drivers.
"Everyone has been great. It's like a big family. We're all friends out of the track and enemies on the track but everyone is super friendly," he said.
And then there's the community back home, the friendliest and most supportive of all and the one he returns to whenever he has the chance.
"To be the first Israeli in NASCAR is pretty huge. There are so many people who support me, it's unbelievable to see. Like every few seconds I get a message from random Israelis just wishing me good luck for the race. I'm just really proud."
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