LOUDON, N.H. — Carlos Contreras has spent the 2016 Camping World Truck Series season working hard to get to every race, and working with several drivers to get there.
The match between driver and the Contreras Motorsports team for the race Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is one made in multicultural heaven. Israeli driver Alon Day is competing for the Mexican-owned team of Contreras.
“It is going to be huge for NASCAR and for us,” said Contreras, a Mexico City native who has 74 starts in the trucks, the national series that drivers often use to break into NASCAR before going to the Xfinity Series and then the premier Sprint Cup division.
Day competed in two Xfinity Series races earlier this year on road courses, and this will be his first attempt on an oval. After plans to run the Xfinity Series race at Richmond International Raceway two weeks ago fell through, he needed to run the 1-mile oval at New Hampshire to earn NASCAR approval to compete in events at 1.5-mile tracks later in the year.
That left Day and his sponsor, Flwaterfront.com, searching for a ride for this weekend. They got in touch with Contreras about five days ago.
“It’s a nice combination — it’s a complete diversity team,” the 24-year-old Day said. “It makes it cooler being completely different than the others.”
Contreras Motorsports has gotten to the track each week this year, and the team is 21st in the team standings, getting a boost from two top-10 finishes by Richard Childress Racing driver Brandon Jones. Day is the eighth driver the team has used in 17 events.
“We don’t give up,” Contreras said. “We are working for next year. We knew this first year was going to be tough, tough, tough. We started the program in January.”
Attorney Dave Levin, who owns the website that serves as the sponsor of Day’s car, has been bankrolling Day’s entry into NASCAR in the United States, and he felt the time was right for a Jewish driver.
That led him to hiring Day, who competes in NASCAR’s European series and comes to New Hampshire fresh off a victory last week in Italy.
“For a long time I felt there should be a Jewish driver in NASCAR,” Levin said. “The way Alon is [racing] on the track, the more attention he has brought to everything he is doing, the more folks who would be potential sponsors will start looking at NASCAR and seeing what value it would be to sponsor Alon and what a great thing it would be for the Jewish community and Israel as well.”
Day will have Rick Carelli as his spotter — the person on the two-way radio who can see the whole track — helping him get used to navigating the oval. Carelli works in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the spotter for former champion Kurt Busch.
“It’s a good experience,” Day said. “I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to observe everything and learn as much as I can as quick as I can. I did two races in the road courses, and in the equipment I had, it went super well.
“I’m looking forward to driving my first race on an oval.”