CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Alon Day says he’s not here to count points, he’s here to count wins. And count those wins he did during a season in which he had a career-high seven of them en route to his second consecutive championship in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Day, a native of Ashdod, Israel, celebrated that championship Friday evening in Charlotte at the NASCAR Regional, International and Local Awards Banquet, where he walked the red carpet, posed for pictures and later gave his championship acceptance speech in front of a packed ballroom.
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Before that speech got underway, however, Day was trying to fit the championship ring on his finger, but it kept slipping. Day nearly let the ring slide completely off, but he made a quick save with his other hand.
“It’s too big,” Day said with a smile, to which the audience chuckled.
It was fitting because, as Day admitted earlier on the red carpet, he nearly let the championship slip away in the next-to-last race weekend at Hockenheimring (Germany). In his words, he tried to pass the leader on the last lap just like Jimmie Johnson tried to do against Martin Truex Jr. on the Charlotte road course and spun out. That led to a 15th-place finish and plenty of pressure entering the final weekend at Zolder (Belgium).
“I knew coming to Zolder, I needed to be as sharp as I can to be there in the end,” Day said. “And that weekend went pretty much perfect.”
Perfect indeed. Day made another great save by winning both races at Zolder, including leading from start to finish in the final race of the season, to capture his second title in a row. Overcoming the adversity made the championship even sweeter the second time around.
“This is even better,” Day said of his second chance to walk the red carpet. “We had a crazy season. I won much more races than last year (seven to four), but I made a lot of mistakes that cost me a lot. And until the very, very last moment in the race at Zolder I didn’t know if I was going to win the championship until literally, I crossed the line.”
In addition to winning the Euro title, Day made his second career start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018, this time wheeling the No. 23 on the oval at Richmond Raceway after making an appearance on the road course at Sonoma the previous season.
Being able to race in both the Euro Series and in the United States has made Day a star back home in Israel, where he says there now exists a motorsports section in the sports pages. He says it’s weird to think that because of him there are people halfway around the world tuning in to watch NASCAR races on TV.
Day hopes fans will continue to watch him in 2019, whether he’s going for a third title in a row in the Euro Series or in one of NASCAR’s national series. He says his focus is on road courses, though he knows he needs more seat time on ovals in order to be a complete racer.
Whatever happens from here, Day says 2018 was an emotional season that he will never forget, and one in which he learned plenty, including how to bounce back from adversity and come out on top when things seemed like they were slipping away.