Newly crowned NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Alon Day recently reflected on how wild his life has been over the past few years. In fact, Day, who hails from Ashdod, Israel, essentially quit racing just three years ago after losing a sponsor.
Now the 26-year-old is a two-time Whelen Euro Series champion and a NASCAR Next member with two NASCAR Cup Series starts on his résumé. Day also takes pride in being named the 2017 Athlete of the Year by Israel’s Ministry Of Culture and Sports.
“NASCAR changed my life,” Day told RACER this week.
Day was competing in endurance racing when he lost his sponsor prior to the 2015 season. He was overcome with the realization that he probably wasn’t going to drive anymore if he could not put together a full season, and if that was the case, he was going to stay away from racing.
“So I kind of accept that, that I’m out of racing and I quit and that’s it,” Day said. “I literally quit. I didn’t talk to teams. I started traveling and thinking about going around the world like to India and things like that. Insane stuff.
“Somehow, I got the opportunity to do a test day in the NASCAR Euro Series in Italy and I thought, how crazy is that? And because of that small test in Italy, my life totally changed.”
After clinching his first title on the strength of four wins in 2017, Day’s second title was a come-from-behind feat. Entering the finale weekend at Circuit Zolder in Belgium second in points, he won both races this past weekend. He ended the season with seven wins.
But the 2018 championship was much more emotional and “sweet” to win. Early in the season, Day was penalized after the Italy race weekend for an inspection issue with the front sway bar and front spindles. Stripped of his points and the win, which had been his fourth straight to start the year and had already given him a healthy points gap, Day fell from the top of the standings to fifth.
“And my reputation became like a cheater guy,” he said. “So, that was super hard to come back from because me and the team were looked at as those cheaters who won from cheating. The first victory after that [penalty] was very emotional for me and the team, although we hadn’t led the championship standings we still got a win and that was a big thing for us.
“That’s also the reason why I came from behind – technically I was leading the championship until I got a disqualification. So I knew I was good and able to win the championship and without that situation, I probably would have clinched the championship a round before. That’s why I say it was so hard, kind of came back from the grave.”
With the NASCAR Euro Series competing mainly on road courses, Day is confident that is where his skill set is best served. Looking forward, while he would love to continue to compete in the NASCAR Euro Series he feels with two championships he’s “done” and would like to progress up the ladder to tougher challenges.
Day does not yet know what his plans are for 2019. However, he is looking to move to the United States soon in hopes that it will help him in many areas, including attracting sponsorship. In looking for opportunities within NASCAR, Day would like to find rides for whatever road course races he can.
“Even if I don’t have a full season, I know I need to do that because I’m good at that and I can show my real potential,” Day said. “Besides that, I would love drive anywhere. I don’t care where, and gain as much experience on an oval because I know that’s the thing in Europe we don’t have too much. We don’t have a lot of ovals. I hope to gain more experience.”
Of course, the NASCAR Cup Series is Day’s ultimate goal. After making his debut last year on the Sonoma road course, Day competed on the Richmond Raceway short track last month, finishing 38th. He knows he has a long way to go with experience, but the first job is just getting an opportunity.
Like the one he received a few years ago that ended up being crucial for his life and career.
“It’s definitely sponsorship and money, that’s the key for any kind of motorsports in the world right now,” Day said. “But more than that, I think there is still a lot to go in terms of oval. It’s basketball and football when it comes to road course and oval. When I started driving that race [in Richmond] I had to learn everything from zero like a baby, although it’s a steering wheel, engine and wheels, it’s two different types of driving. Not even close. Not even the same.
“I was pushing to gain and learn quite fast. I still need to learn quite a lot on an oval and get more experience, and I hope one day the experience would be enough to race in the Cup level all the time.”