Alon Day reaches yet another milestone as first Israeli to compete in Cup race

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Alon Day likes making NASCAR history – and he’ll do so again Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

After being the first Israeli driver to compete last year in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series, the 25-year-old Day will make his Cup debut in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

“It’s pretty big,” said Day, who will also become the first driver from the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series to drive in a Cup race. “When I was growing up, it was my dream to race in the biggest level in NASCAR.

“I spoke about it during (NASCAR) media day in January and less than six months later, here it is, I’m doing my first Cup race. I’m totally excited. I can’t even explain it.”

Alon Day was part of the NASCAR Next program in 2016.

Day will drive the No. 23 EarthWater Toyota for BK Racing in a deal that came together just over a week ago, days after he won the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series race – he’s competing full-time in that series – on June 11 at the famous Brands Hatch in England.

Day was on his way home to Israel for yet another victory party after the Brands Hatch race when he got a phone call asking him if he’d like to race at Sonoma.

“I jumped on a plane and came over,” Day told NBC Sports.

He’s looking ahead to possibly more races, including the August Cup race at Watkins Glen.

Day’s Cup debut is already making front-page news back in his native land.

“It’s a big thing in Israel because there’s almost no motorsports there,” Day said. “A couple of days ago, my mother opened a newspaper in Israel and my photo and story was on the front page.

“On Sunday, I’m not only doing this for myself, I’m making history for my country and so many people in the Jewish community. Everyone is following me and it’s good to know.”

Day made two starts each in the Xfinity Series and Truck Series last season, ultimately leading to being named Israel’s Athlete of the Year. In his first Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio, he challenged for the lead through much of the race before finishing 13th.

While he understands that Cup racing is the highest – and hardest – NASCAR level in the United States, he’s hoping for a good finish that could lead to additional opportunities.

But come Sunday, he wants to put the notoriety of his Cup debut aside and focus on just one priority.

Day ran in the top 10 and finished 13th in his Xfinity Series debut last August at Mid-Ohio.

“I try not to think about it too much because I want to concentrate and do the best I can and bring the best result I can, like I did in Mid-Ohio,” he said.

Day has never driven a Cup car, let alone raced one prior to this weekend. He got fitted for his seat Thursday and will make his first laps during Friday’s two Cup practice sessions at the road course north of San Francisco.

Other drivers may be intimidated by making their Cup debut, especially never having driven one of the cars in NASCAR’s premiere series.

Not Day. He’s ready to show his stuff and surprise people.

“I know what I’m capable of doing on road courses, and I also know what equipment I drive,” he said. “I don’t try to achieve too much like I’m going to win on Sunday.

“But seeing what I did last year at Mid-Ohio, I fought for the lead. In this kind of car, the driver is the one who makes the difference.”

And while it may intimidate another driver to go head-to-head with the likes of seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and others, Day will not let himself get intimidated.

As far as he’s concerned, they’re just other drivers and numbers on race cars – and his job is to try and do better than them.

“It’s like when I came here to race at Mid-Ohio, knowing I’d be racing against big names,” he said. “At the post-race press conference, I sat next to Sam Hornish Jr., who was my childhood hero. I used to play video games as Sam Hornish Jr.

“As soon as the green flag is out and the race starts, I don’t think about names anymore. For me, the cars are just numbers and I’m there to do the best I can.”

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