Israeli NASCAR driver Alon Day hopes TV viewers get a new impression of his country when they tune in to Saturday’s Cup series race at Richmond Raceway.
The 26-year-old Day will make his 2018 Cup series debut driving the BK Racing No. 23 Best Bully Sticks Toyota Camry in the Federated Auto Parts 400. He is the first NASCAR driver from Israel to compete in the Cup series, according to a news release from his sponsor.
“It’s a big deal not only for me, but for Israel in general,” Day told The Charlotte Observer in an interview Thursday.
What sticks in your mind about Israel when you watch the news? he asked.
“Conflict,” he said. “The conflict in the Middle East.”
Seeing an Israeli compete in NASCAR lends a different image about his country, he said. “Suddenly, you don’t hear about conflict, war, but peace,” he said.
He is a name in Israel, he said. He was the country’s 2016 Athlete of the Year in the motorsports category, The Times of Israel reported, for his accomplishments on European tracks.
Day was the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion and the first stock car driver outside of North America to be selected for the NASCAR NEXT Program of future stars.
When he started racing go-karts at age 10in 2002, he told the Observer, motorsports’ presence in Israel was “zero.”
“We’re just starting to build tracks,” he said.
He credits his success to his father, Avi, who sent him to compete in Europe when he was 14.
Day said the biggest deal to him about competing in NASCAR’s top series is “carrying the Israeli flag” in the sport.