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Face of Israeli stock car racing searches for a seat on big stage

Alon Day says that his path for raising awareness about and fighting Jew-hatred is through NASCAR.

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a flyover before the Daytona International Speedway as it plays host to the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Feb. 19, 2023. Credit: Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock.
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a flyover before the Daytona International Speedway as it plays host to the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Feb. 19, 2023. Credit: Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock.

A key to fighting rising Jew-hatred, according to Israel’s premier stock car racer, is to drive a lot of miles in someone else’s car.

Alon Day, a native of Ashdod in southern Israel, has captured four championships in NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series, in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2022. The 32-year-old, who was in South Florida to watch Monday’s Daytona 500, told JNS he is looking for a ride—hoping to compete on the NASCAR circuit in the United States, stock car racing’s grandest stage.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing mainly holds races on oval tracks, but NASCAR is realizing that road courses, which have both left and right turns, and more closely resemble street driving, have wide appeal. “This year in the schedule, there are quite a lot of road courses races,” Day told JNS. “I’m looking to find a seat and race those races, which I’m really good at.”

“I’m a road course guy,” he said.

NASCAR is not generally known for having a large—or even a sizable small—Jewish following, but Day told JNS that the fan base would welcome him. There’s the matter of the funding, however. New entrants reportedly need an estimated $18 million, with about $10 million annually for continued operation.

“I’ve done enough in the European sector. I want to extend myself,” he told JNS over the weekend, from Palm Beach, where he was talking to team owners and prospective funders. “I want to be in NASCAR.”

Pro-Israel horsepower

Day is open to many possibilities but told JNS that he sees U.S. Jewish and pro-Israel communities as good prospects for sponsorship.

“NASCAR is such a different industry from the typical audience that Israeli companies are looking for,” he said. 

He both sees the NASCAR base as fertile ground for Israeli high-tech company advertising dollars and its southern, Christian fans as very Zionist.

“Every time I come here, people just love the fact that there is an Israeli guy,” he said. “The Christian audience really loves the fact that I served in the military.” (The Israel Defense Forces recognized him as an outstanding sportsman.)

“I get a lot of feedback about that,” he said, of his IDF service. 

“At the same time, I also have a very impressive racing CV,” he said. “I won almost everything in Europe. I’m a road course specialist, and team owners really think that’s a great, great opportunity.”

Racing cars
Racing cars. Credit: 12019/Pixabay.

Dirty air

On Feb. 15, Day and Mike Chitwood, sheriff of Volusia County, Fla., held a press conference denouncing hate a year after a hate group projected antisemitic messages onto the International Daytona Speedway and antisemitic fliers were distributed in nearby neighborhoods.

New laws have targeted that behavior, previously protected as free speech, Fox 35 Orlando reported.

“Free speech doesn’t advocate for wiping people off the face of the earth,” the sheriff said at the joint presser. “They’re getting locked up. That’s what’s going to happen.”

“We have to stand up with our Jewish friends and with the Jewish nation,” Chitwood added.

Day said at the event that he feels safer in Israel than stateside. “I feel safe because it’s Israel. I’ve been in the army. I know what’s going on. And here, you just don’t know,” he said. “You don’t know who can be the next neo-Nazi or have the crazy agendas and ideas.”

The sheriff wrote on Facebook that he had “the privilege to sit down with Israeli driver and four-time Euro NASCAR champ Alon Day to talk about extremism, the effort to bring Hamas hostages home and a lot more.”

“Like most Israelis, Alon trained and served three years in the Israel Defense Forces after high school. Now, as he pursues his passion in racing, he explained how so many geopolitical hostilities fall away when it comes down to competition on the track,” Chitwood wrote. “What a shame humanity can’t settle more of our differences that way.”

A ‘chosen’ driver

Day told JNS that he wants to stand out as a Jew at NASCAR.

“I want to be that Jewish, Israeli guy, that strange guy from Israel and not the typical Christian,” he said. “That’s my way that I want to raise their awareness about antisemitism because I know here in the States, it’s getting to a new level of hate.”

Many American Jews sent him thankful messages after he spoke about Jew-hatred over the weekend on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News.

“You can realize how deep the problem here is when so many people are saying ‘thank you’ for something that’s supposed to be obvious now,” he said. “We are the minority and we, inside the Jewish community and the Israeli community, can shout about antisemitism as much as we want. But if the majority won’t talk about it, unless Christians and the American people start talking about it, nothing will change.” 

For Day, NASCAR is an ideal pulpit.

“I think NASCAR is the best place to do it. They never had an Israeli driver,” he said. That’s my way to express and fight for the Jewish community, as a race car driver.”

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