From the battlefield to the race track, Israeli Alon Day has seen it all

Alon Day (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alon Day (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alon Day (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ask Alon Day if he was involved in other sports besides racing as a child, and he’ll give you a one-word answer: “War.”

Day, 24, grew up in Israel, where war is an everyday reality.

“You get used to it,” Day told the NASCAR Wire Service. “As a sportsman, I try not to involve political things and sports. I think sports should be completely clear of political things.

“But I grew up in that country, so I don’t know anything else. For me, that’s normal. I’m here since 1991. The country exists since 1948. That’s how I grew up. That’s how my parents grew up. That’s how everyone in Israel grew up, in that kind of situation. That’s normal for us.”

Now Day is fighting a different sort of war, one without life-and-death consequences. He hopes to find sufficient sponsorship to compete in the NASCAR XFINITY Series full-time near year, after running a handful of races in 2016.

The first Israeli driver to compete in a NASCAR national series race, Day distinguished himself in his XFINITY Series debut in rainy conditions on Aug. 13 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. From the 22nd starting spot, Day drove up to third before finishing 13th in a Dodge fielded by Carl Long.

Day gets another chance on Saturday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), where he’ll drive an XFINITY car on a road course for the second time. His road-racing background should stand him in good stead there.

But stock cars are relatively new to the Israeli driver, who was weaned on go-karts and aspired to Formula One before the realities of budgets and sponsorship sent him in a different direction. After running Indy Lights in 2012, he drove a Mercedes in the FIA GT Series before discovering the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2015.

“After two years (in GT racing), I was at the lowest point of my career,” Day said. “I really felt like I was going to stop racing. Then suddenly someone came and said, ‘Hey, look at this Euro Series, the NASCAR Euro Series.’

“I went for a test, and it was fantastic. The car was perfect. Since then, my whole world completely changed. For months, I didn’t watch Formula One. My goal was to be in Formula One—now my goal is to be in (Sprint) Cup.”

A member of the NASCAR Next program, Day hopes to compete in his first XFINITY Series oval race before the end of the season, and he hopes his appearance at Road America this weekend will lead to additional opportunities.

Once again, he’ll be driving Long’s 2015 Dodge. And Day wouldn’t mind a little help from the heavens.

“I hope it also rains at Road America,” he said with a laugh.