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Solid Xfinity Debut for its First Israeli Driver – Alon Day
- Updated: August 16, 2016
By Jerry Jordan, Editor
MANSFIELD, Ohio – Justin Marks showed everyone his past road course experience from his Porsche and BMW days, where he routinely raced in wet conditions, was a key ingredient for an Xfinity Series win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course but another driver in the field, Alon Day, who also has rain-racing experience in Europe, came away with a 13th place finish in his first-ever U.S. start.
Day took time out from the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series to come to America from his native Israel and try his luck at a few Xfinity Series runs with Mid-Ohio being the first of two road courses to include Road America. He is also looking for sponsorship to run three more races in the U.S. before returning to Europe in hopes of winning the 2016 Championship. So far, he has two wins and four Top 5’s in the Euro Series and although he didn’t get a Top 5 in his first American outing, he did battle up front for most of the day.
“It was fun until the second rain,” Day said. “When the second rain came, someone spun (Kenny Habul, 88-car) and just hit my car, my front suspension and damaged the car. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to drive the car. I knew I had a shot at a Top 5 but it was impossible to drive and this moment I just tried to survive, unfortunately.
“I have some experience in the rain in Europe. I used to drive in the rain all the time. So yeah, it was, I am really happy. I can’t even imagine how excited I am sitting here, thanks to everybody, my sponsors. I am really grateful to be here. I hope at Road America I can do the same, maybe even better.”
Had Habul, in one of his many spins Saturday, not smashed the frontend of Day’s Carl Long-owned Dodge Charger, he would have, no doubt, finished better. However, his ability to take a car that was inferior to the Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports and Ganassi Racing cars and battle to second with a shot at the win and then cross the stripe in a respectable 13th shows just how much talent Day has behind the wheel.
“Being the first Israeli driver to drive in Xfinity and to drive in NASCAR here in the United States is a big honor for me and I am really thankful for that,” Day said. “I race in the Euro Series, the NASCAR Euro Series, which I have pretty good success, a few wins. And now I am doing those two races (Mid-Ohio and Road America) and it’s unbelievable for me.
“We’re still looking for sponsors because we still don’t want to make only two races. We want to make five races, or more, this year to get experience, to get more into oval racing and not only these road courses. We are still working on that. I really hope I can bring the best result I can to the team, to the sponsor. I am doing the best I can. Just me in the cockpit doing the best I can.”
Day’s foray into NASCAR didn’t happen without a swarm of media coverage and a lot of attention from fans. Day was a hit at the track and in the NASCAR Twitterverse before he ever drove the car. Well-wishers sheered him on and his story pretty much became the news of the week. It was one of two really cool aspects of the weekend for him that didn’t happen on the track.
“The media around this story is unbelievable,” he said. “I am really thankful for that. Seeing the fans and everybody knows my name and knows where I came from, it’s unbelievable, like I am having fun. I am seriously having fun and the Americans are so welcoming. I am just speechless.”
The other thing that hit the top of Day’s cool-meter was being in the media center at Mid-Ohio and looking over, then commenting about how excited he was to be sitting next to his childhood hero – Sam Hornish Jr. It was a comment that Hornish appreciated.
“He said the other day that he wanted it to rain and I told him to be careful what he wished for,” Hornish Jr. said. “I’ve had the opportunity to race open-wheel cars in the rain and some other forms of racing but these cars are big and heavy and really aren’t meant to do it. It’s a challenge but congratulations for having a good run.”
Joe Balash, International Competition Liaison for NASCAR, said he is pleased to have Day in the U.S. and points out that he is a shining example of NASCAR’s determination to diversify the competition in the sport. Day is also part of the NASCAR Next program, which teaches young drivers how to deal with media, handle the pressures of being a racecar driver, work with sponsors and other aspects of the racing industry.
“We are very serious about our commitment to what we do with diversity and having drivers from all over the world compete at the highest levels of NASCAR,” Balash said. “Alon has really proven himself in the Euro Series and we are proud to have him here racing in the Xfinity Series. He is really is such a great driver and he is representing the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series really well. It is kind of an historic day being the first driver from Israel in the Xfinity race, so it’s cool and good to have him.
“He is working really, really hard to try and secure the sponsorship to continue racing. His goal is to go through the process of the resume committee to get where he can be certified a full Xfinity season. So, they are working really hard on sponsorship and if we can get that done, he’ll be here full-time.”