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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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Bump and Run: All-Star Race picks, surprising wins and more

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Who will have a more wrecked winning car — Erik Jones, who was listed as being involved in three accidents on the way to winning the non-points Busch Clash in February, or the winner of Wednesday night’s All-Star Race at Bristol?

Dustin Long: Erik Jones’ car. Might not be by much.

Daniel McFadin: Erik Jones. It would take a lot for someone to make it to the end of the All-Star Race with more damage than that and win … unless that damage came on the last lap.

Jerry Bonkowski: The winner of the All-Star Race. With $1 million on the line, it’s unlikely any car will get through the race without some damage. The driver with the least damage wins, period.

 

Who is your pick to win the All-Star Race?

Dustin Long: Joey Logano. He isn’t afraid to beat and bang. This could be his race.

Daniel McFadin: Jimmie Johnson. He’s pissed off, has been fast and was a frontrunner at Bristol back in May.

Jerry Bonkowski: Kurt Busch. I’m going to go with a guy who knows his way around Bristol quite well and who has had a great deal of success there.

 

What do you put the chances that Jimmie Johnson makes the playoffs?

Dustin Long: 85%. He’s already been disqualified from one race, losing all but one point from that event, and missed Indy, and is still in a playoff spot. It might not be comfortable for his fans, but I don’t think they should sweat it too much.

Daniel McFadin: 90%. He’s been too fast to not make the playoffs in some form.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’m convinced Johnson will make the playoffs, but his success and consistency needs a big jump upward, lest JJ is eliminated at the end of the first round.

 

Cole Custer’s win was surprising. So what’s the most surprising NASCAR win since you’ve seen since following the sport?

Dustin Long: The one that comes to mind immediately is James Buescher’s 2012 Xfinity Series win at Daytona. He was 11th entering the final corner. He won when the top 10 cars wrecked. It was his first NASCAR win and only Xfinity Series victory.

Daniel McFadin: If not Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win, it would be Chase Elliott‘s Roval win last year. He drove nose first into a tire barrier, came back and won. It was shocking to say the least.

Jerry Bonkowski: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win in the summer race at Daytona in July 2001, less than five months after his father was killed in the Daytona 500. That was one of the most surprising and emotional wins in any sport I’ve covered in my career.

NASCAR Open starting lineup at Bristol

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Michael McDowell will start on the pole for the NASCAR Open at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw. Aric Almirola joins him on the front row.

Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

The winners of each segment advance to the All-Star Race, along with the fan vote winner. Last year, Kyle Larson won a segment in the Open to advance to the All-Star Race and then won that event. Other segment winners last year were William Byron and Bubba Wallace. Alex Bowman advanced through the fan vote a year ago. Bowman has already qualified for this year’s All-Star Race.

 

NASCAR Open at Bristol 

Race Time: 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 85 laps over three segments, 45.3 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 35 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 15 laps.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Martin Truex Jr. to start on pole for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Martin Truex Jr., who is seeking his first All-Star Race win, will start on the pole for Wednesday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Alex Bowman.

Rookie Cole Custer, who earned a spot in the All-Star Race with his win Sunday at Kentucky, will start eighth.

Click here for All-Star Lineup

  • Positions 17-19 will go to segment winners from the NASCAR Open. The 20th starting spot goes to the fan vote winner, which will be announced after the NASCAR Open

Among the special rules for the race:

# The Chose Rule will be used. As drivers approach a designated spot on the track, they must commit to the inside or outside lane for the restart.

# The car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give sponsors more exposure.

# Cars that have automatically qualified for the All-Star Race will have underglow lights on their cars.

 

NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol 

Race Time: 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 140 laps over four segments, 74.6 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 55 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 35 laps. Segment 4 is 15 laps (only green flag laps count in this segment).

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Xfinity playoff grid after Kentucky doubleheader

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The Xfinity Series went to Kentucky Speedway for a doubleheader and Austin Cindric left the track with two wins and a spot in the playoffs.

Cindric, who claimed the first oval track NASCAR wins of his career, is now third on the playoff grid among the six drivers locked into the postseason. He has 15 playoff points.

Noah Gragson, who is second on the grid, won three of four stages in Kentucky and has 18 playoff points.

Six spots remain to be filled on the playoff grid. The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Ryan Sieg (+57 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+14).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-14 points from cutline), Jeremy Clements (-30), Alex Labbe (-42) and Jesse Little (-47).