It will be an emotional Day Friday in Charlotte.
Israeli driver Alon Day will be honored for winning the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series championship during NASCAR’s annual Touring and Weekly Night of Champions at the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center.
“I’m actually scared,” Day told NBC Sports with a laugh about giving a speech during the event. “Driving the car is easier than having to make a speech.
“I have to thank so many people for giving me this opportunity because back in 2015, I was out of racing. I got an opportunity to test for a small-time in the Euro Series and that’s how suddenly my career completely changed. I have a lot of people to thank when I go on stage. I hope to be able to speak.
“When I got into NASCAR, I arrived. Suddenly, I was like a flower who just opened to the world. My life’s completely changed since I came to NASCAR, and there’s definitely going to be emotion Friday night.”
Day came to the U.S. in 2016 and made two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series — including a 13th place finish in his debut at Mid-Ohio — and two other starts in the Camping World Truck Series, and then in 2017 made his first career NASCAR Cup start at Sonoma, where he finished 32nd.
“It’s unbelievable to think I came to NASCAR three years ago,” he said. “In three years, I never thought I’d achieve the European championship, driving a Truck, Xfinity and (be) in a Cup race. It’s just amazing. I think this championship just shows my ability and what I’m capable of doing with a stock car. I think I proved I’m good enough to drive in the Cup level. It’s just another step for coming to American motorsports.”
Day, 26, hopes to build upon his Euro Series title by earning a full-time ride in NASCAR in the U.S. for the 2018 season. He has been talking with BK Racing – which he raced for in June in the Cup race at Sonoma – about a Cup ride.
“The goal is definitely Cup,” Day said. “I know ovals can be a bit tricky for me, coming from Europe and the road course experience, but I think I’m capable of driving on the Cup level.
“If not that, then Xfinity or anything I can do in the States because this here is the real NASCAR. The real deal is definitely here.”
Day won three of the last four races of the season to clinch the 2017 Euro Series title after completing just the opening lap of the season finale at Belgium’s Circuit Zolder. In doing so, he became the first Israeli champion in the Euro Series.
It also was the first major championship in 41 years of competition in any racing series for Day’s team, CAAL Racing.
While Cup is his goal, returning to the Euro Series is an option, if need be, and to pursue a second championship.
“I came from Europe and have driven road courses my whole life,” he said. “I know I’m good at that, I’m the champion and I know I’m capable of still winning races in Europe.”
Day’s championship was front-page news in his native land, just like when he was named Israel’s Athlete of the Year in 2016. The season-ending race in Belgium when he clinched the Euro title was streamed online back home by Israel’s Sports 5 network.
“Winning the championship was very big in Israel,” he said. “It was so big that the Israeli sport minister called me about five minutes after victory lane to congratulate me. That was a big thing. That shows how big Israel is taking this achievement. I hope I’m able to bring more respect and represent Israel even better in the future.”
In addition to Day, others to be honored include the 2017 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national champion, U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, and track champions, plus winners of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Pinty’s Canada Series and NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series.
On Saturday, the NASCAR Trucks and Xfinity Series awards show will be held in Charlotte.