Alon Day, an Israeli car-racing driver, hopes to do more than just win the European title. He wants to make the American racing world know that he’s a force to be reckoned with.
By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News
Israel isn’t known for race car drivers, even though some Israelis might drive just like them on the streets.
But Alon Day isn’t an average Israeli. He serves in a unique role as the only Israeli NASCAR driver and, as of now, the only publicly Jewish one.
Day, 27, made his debut in NASCAR’s premier series two years ago. Ever since, he’s won back-to-back championships in the Whelen Euro Series, which is NASCAR in Europe. This year, the CAAL Racing driver is going for a record third straight title, and his chances to succeed are exceptionally high.
However, Day hopes to do more than just win the European title. He wants to make the American racing world know that he is a force to be reckoned with. In order to do that, he needs about $50,000 to $100,000 in sponsorship per race.
Day’s goal is to take over the NASCAR world whenever the series hits road courses, rather than when the NASCAR circuit frequently competes on oval tracks.
A Florida attorney, David Levin, has been working tirelessly to secure Day a ride in the three NASCAR road course races in 2019, including an upcoming June event at Sonoma Raceway in California, where he believes the Israeli candidate will have a shot at winning and showing the sports world the blue and white flag.
The goal is that the Jewish and Israeli community will help him reach his goal, ultimately knowing that he truly wants people to know the truth about his country and his people.
World Israel News spoke with Day about the highs and lows of being an Israeli athlete, as well as his significant role of reaching out to an American base that might not know about Jews and Israel.
What would it mean for the international racing world to have you win a record three championships?
“It’s a good example of dedication and sacrificing a lot of things. To see an Israeli guy suddenly driving in Europe and winning races? I’m not even talking about Cup races [NASCAR’s premier level], the Xfinity Series [second-tier series, like Triple-A] or the Truck Series [third-tier series], that I did in the [United] States. That’s even more amazing of an accomplishment for a guy who came from a country that all you hear about is being bombed with rockets, killing Palestinians or whatever else you hear about Israel. Suddenly, there’s a guy driving racecars and winning races. It’s a good thing.”
Because of that, you serve in the unique role of being a spokesperson for your country. Is there a certain weight on your shoulders because of that?
“We say all the time that every person in Israel is an Israeli ambassador. I think it’s true about everyone. When I go to races and I hear Hatikvah [the Israeli national anthem] on the podium when I win in victory lane, I know I did something for my country.
Fortunately, I think NASCAR’s environment is very pro-Israel. NASCAR, especially in the States, is very southern and a lot of people go to the military there, so they know what we’re going through. They appreciate it much more, and I feel much more loved for the fact that I’m Israeli.
Europe is Europe and it’s a different story, but you can see people are asking questions. Some are weird questions. It’s good and people are always asking me what’s going on. I have the opportunity to explain that it’s not like that. It’s totally different. The news makes it so much bigger and the fact that I bring up questions like that is a good thing.
It’s better than the guy sitting in his house, watching CNN and thinking we’re killing kids. At least they’re asking questions and wanting to know what’s going on.”
Do people treat you differently at the track because you’re Israeli?
“There’s the good and bad of being Israeli. I love the fact that I’m special. People are not used to seeing that blue and white flag. I never saw anything anti-Semitic besides some stuff in the States on social media.”
The goal is obviously to race in NASCAR’s premier division again this year. How difficult is it to work your way up to the top?
“Sponsorship is the problem. I’m Israeli and that’s a super special thing. But an American company would rather have an American driver. Our goal is to go to the Jewish community, and there are a lot of companies. But the Jewish community isn’t watching NASCAR. We need to educate them. Even if they see the business is the greatest, they might not have anything to do with racing.
In Israel, we have a lot of good companies, but we have no motor sports here. They’d rather put their money into soccer and basketball than motor sports.”
What do you need in order to race in America again?
“I have no idea, and I’ll tell you why. Sonoma and Richmond, for both races, I was notified maybe a week before. They said, come jump on the plane and race. It was a big surprise for me. Somehow, David [Levin, a Florida-based attorney who helps him] managed to find a miracle and get money for it. I don’t know where he is right now in terms of finding money, but without him I wouldn’t have raced even once in the States.”
What would it mean to you have another opportunity to race in NASCAR’s premier series?
“I did Sonoma and it was a mixed opportunity. I had a crash and lost the hood of my car. I know – because I was 11th in practice with a BK Racing car and I ran in the top-three in an old Carl Long Dodge – that I have something to prove. I can put it all together. Maybe I won’t be an oval guy, like the complete NASCAR driver, but I want to let people know that if I’m coming to road courses, I’m going to win. That’s what I want to establish. I want to find good cars every time. Road courses aren’t big in NASCAR like ovals, but people like it.”
Can you be the one to bring the road course specialist back to NASCAR?
“Yeah, and that’s what I want to do. I want to create a name of a guy that’s like a weapon. People will do everything they can to have an opportunity to get that weapon. I want to be that killing weapon. Road courses, as I see it now, maybe people are getting tired of 1.5-mile ovals. The ROVAL was exactly what people want to see. That’s the way.”
On social media, you livestream your sim racing in Israel. How does that get the Israeli community involved in racing?
“I got into racing from simulators when I was nine years old. It’s a big part of my life, and I truly feel like simulators make me better. You’re still driving, steering and doing things with the pedals. It’s like going to the gym for me. It’s a good opportunity because a lot of kids can have the opportunity to experience motor sports before they can even go drive. We are running an Israeli simulator championship and it’s hard. It gives people an opportunity to meet me, be instructed by me and ask me advice.
There’s a new Israeli guy who’s racing in Europe in Elite II, not the same category as me, but he came into it because he followed my career. A lot of people come to the simulator and I’m there every day for a few hours. I give advice and that’s my way to reach people.”
How can people inquire about sponsoring you and partnering with you?
“They can visit https://www.racingforisrael.org/donate-1. David Levin [contact info on site] can also give more information about sponsorship, plus background about NASCAR and why this is important.”