Now With a Wife and Son Cheering Him On, Jonathan Day Has Made Triumphant Return to 5 Flags
By Chuck Corder
Athletes are creatures of habit.
Repetition breeds rhythm. Rhythm begets consistency. Consistency is the threshold to success.
So it would figure that if the rhythm lies dormant for years, muscle memory should shut down.
That’s what we expect from mere mortal athletes. The immortals, the great ones, can retire and un-retire multiple times and still turn heads.
Johnathan Day is on an immortal run currently. After five years away from short-track racing, the 28-year-old Day wasted little time in dusting off the rust. Instead, the Mobile-area driver has won both Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap features this season at Five Flags Speedway.
“I’m as surprised as anybody at wining two in a row, and especially the first two of the season,” Day said. “I didn’t think I’d be that fortunate right outta the gate. I did not think I had enough laps or seat time.”
Day looks to make it a perfect three-for-three this Friday at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. In addition to keeping his winning streak intact, Day hopes to return to clean racing with rival Robert Loper.
After Day won on March 31 for his second victory in a row, the two’s teams exchanged words, first, and, then, punches in the pits before local deputies and track officials broke the skirmish up.
“(Loper) talked to me after the race, and we worked it out. I think,” Day suggested. “He came to me like a man and everything’s good. My thing is, I’m gonna drive people like they drive me. I’ve never been a dirty driver. Ever. I’ve never had that reputation. Hopefully, it’s all behind us.”
The Pure Stocks will join the Modifieds of Mayhem Tour, the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks and The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen on Friday.
Gates open at 4 p.m. and admission is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, military and students; $5 for children ages 6 to 11; free for kids 5 and under.
Day first began racing in 2004 when he and cousin Jay Jay Day were tearing up mini-stocks at Sunny South in Grand Bay, Ala., before moving up to Pure Stocks a few years later.
After seven track championships between Sunny South and Mobile International Speedway, Johnathan Day stepped away from the sport in 2012 with the birth of his and wife Amber’s first child, Johnny.
“We bought some land and built our dream home,” Day said. “I got all that done this past year, so I started building racecars again and we picked up where we left off. We’ve been lucky.”
A U.S Coast Guard employee, Day couldn’t believe his eyes or his luck at the Pure Stocks season opener at Pensacola’s high banks last month. He led for the last four laps, showing the mettle of a champion by passing on the inside.
The victory stunned everyone associated with Day Racing Team, including the driver himself. Johnathan Day held his head in disbelief once he climbed outside of his silver No. 11, struggling to choke back his emotions.
“I was thinking I was gonna have problems,” Day said. “And, really, to come out with a win, I was speechless. I think I almost had Jay Jay crying. Everybody was slapping my hands as I was coming down Victory Lane.
“It took two or three days to sink in. I had a couple of tears in my eyes. I’ve been blessed. I’m happy to have success so far this year.”
Day tends to be a little shy when it comes to sponsorships, which explains why the No. 11 has few stickers on it. He won’t turn down offers, mind you. It’s just that Day feels awkward asking for assistance.
With the exception of the aforementioned Day Racing Team and Howard Langham assisting with all welding work, Day works tirelessly on the car to get the proper setup. Right beside him, turning wrenches, each night is John Beasley, Day’s father-in-law.
“He’s my right-hand man. He’s into it just as much as I am,” Day said of Beasley. “I’m different than most people. I’ve always built my own cars. I’ve been taking it a little more serious this season than I have in the past.
“Since I started racing, I’ve always built my own cars. Everybody wants to build a fast car, but I wanna build one that’s gonna last. That’s the biggest reason I have for all the championships I’ve won.”
Day hopes to add another track title by season’s end if he can continue to perform at a high level. While a streak of any kind is noteworthy, the pressure to maintain one can be nerve-wracking.
Day has no patience for anxious moments. He’s busy having too much fun thanks to Amber and little Johnny, who is now 4. Not surprisingly, the pair never miss one of Day’s races.
“He loves it every bit of it,” Day said of his little man. “I like getting back into racing at the time I did. (Johnny is) old enough to understand everything. He knows when I’m doing well, if I’m in the lead. He’s old enough to know what’s going on and he enjoys it.”
How do you know Johnathan Day has come full circle in his return to racing after a lengthy layoff? He hasn’t been over the moon with his early-season results and he continues to look for every edge to improve his winning No. 11.
“We’ve won the past two, but I’m not satisfied with the car,” Day said. “I know it sounds funny, but I feel I could get more speed out of it. An unsatisfied racecar driver is the best way to be.”