In January 2021, the collective eyes of the dirt-racing community were fixed on Arizona Speedway’s Wild Wing Shootout when a 14-year-old looking to make a name for himself rolled out for the first sprint car heat race of the season.
Piloting the Jason Meyers Racing No. 14 car, Corey Day lined up among the likes of Carson Macedo, Rico Abreu and 10-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz.
By the end of the eight-lap tilt, Day had announced his presence.
While Macedo and Abreu pulled away with the top-two spots, Day took part in a fierce battle with Schatz for third.
The two traded the position several laps in a row. Refusing to be rattled, Day crossed over every Schatz slider with the precision of a veteran, and when the checkered flag waved, the teenager had topped the titan.
It may have only been a heat race for third place, but it was official — Corey Day had arrived.
Since that night, the rise of Day has been rapid, his next accomplishment somehow even more astonishing than the last as he’s firmly asserted himself as one of sprint car racing’s next great talents.
During the last 18 months, Day — still only 16 — has assembled a résumé that would make even experienced racers proud. The native of Clovis, Calif., located just outside of Fresno in the Central Valley, has collected a trio of NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car triumphs, won in just his fifth career start with the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets and, perhaps most notably, notched two runner-up finishes with the World of Outlaws in his second and third feature starts against the nation’s best.
For Day, the route to stardom began at birth when he was welcomed to a racing family.
His father, Ronnie Day, is a West Coast racing legend. Ronnie Day won the first edition of the famed Trophy Cup and claimed many victories with the Northern Auto Racing Club and Golden State Challenge Series, even earning a title with the latter.
“My dad’s no slouch when it comes to working on race cars,” Corey Day said with a smirk.
After taking the traditional route through the micro ranks and finding success there, the Day family began to lay the foundation of Corey’s sprint car career in late 2020 and the second-generation driver found speed out of the gate in his family-owned No. 41 machine.
“We bought the stuff from Brad Furr in, I think, September of 2020,” Day said. “We ran a couple races and I ran 10th at my first race at Hanford.”
Another major factor in Day’s development is his family’s connection to Meyers, which dates to before Corey was born.
A decades-long friendship between Meyers and Ronnie Day, which even saw Ronnie drive Meyers’ car for a time, led to Meyers lending a hand when Corey Day first climbed into a race car.
“The first time I practiced my micro when I first got into racing it was actually at his (Meyers) house because he has a little track,” Day explained. “After that, he sponsored us and helped us out with money, but he wasn’t really totally involved like he is now.”
Now, Corey Day has earned his shot behind the wheel of Meyers’ sprint car, leading to many of the standout performances he’s produced.
“It’s really cool,” Day said of working with Meyers. “When Jason was on the Outlaws tour, my dad ran his California car for the same team. They’ve been really, good friends for a really, long time. My mom and Robyn, Jason’s wife, are also really, good friends. So, I’ve known Jason my whole life.”
As a driver, Meyers won back-to-back World of Outlaws championships in 2010 and ’11 and tallied 58 series victories, good enough for 16th all-time and second among Californians.
When he isn’t busy with his role at Meyers Constructors Inc., Meyers serves as car owner and crew chief on the black-and-blue No. 14 sprint car that Day drives primarily in 410 competition.
With the two working closely together, they’ve developed into one of the most-respected teams in California.
Day won in his second NARC start in the No. 14 entry and followed it with another triumph two starts later. The team competed in last year’s Trophy Cup and Day, making his first start in the event, finished fourth in points out of more than 80 entries.
The pair of podiums against the World of Outlaws in March at Bakersfield Speedway and Perris Auto Speedway were aboard Meyers’ machine and Day had never turned a lap on either track before those outings.
“I’d gone to Bakersfield to watch the (USAC) midget race there the past couple years before and then I went to the Oval Nationals in 2018, but those were the only two times I’d ever seen the race tracks in person,” Day explained. “Honestly, I think it helps, it being my first time. At a place like Watsonville where I’ve ran so many races, you kind of get in your head and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I run this place every week I know what to do here,’ and then the Outlaws show up and it’s a completely different game than it is on a weekly show.”
What exactly makes the duo of Day and Meyers so potent? Why, with such limited experience together, have they been so successful against some of the strongest teams on the West Coast?
Day points to a synergy that’s led to a smoothly constructed dynamic between the two.
“Jason and I work really, really well together,” Day said. “He’s driven for so long that he can watch the car on the race track and tell what’s wrong with it or what needs to be done to it. Usually, I come off the track and I tell him the same thing that he sees. The next time we go on the track, the problem that we had, if there was one, is fixed.”
Day emphasizes the importance of Meyers’ blend of experience as both a racer and mechanic.
“You get the fact that he was like his own crew chief on the Outlaws tour, so he’s really smart with setup,” Day said. “But he was also a driver, so he knows both ends to that, what I want to feel and what he wants to see in the race car.”
Day intends to build off the momentum he’s gained by following the path of fellow Californians before him in continuing his rise through the sprint car racing ranks.
While the Golden State competition is tough, Day knows getting more laps in different areas of the country on different styles of racing surfaces against different competition is necessary for growth.
In mid-June, Day landed a part-time ride in Kevin Kozlowski’s No. 57 sprint car prepared by Paul Silva and won consecutive NARC features in his first two outings in the car.
Day hopes to add his name with the likes of Kyle Larson, Brad Sweet and Macedo as gassers who cut their teeth in California before winning throughout the country.
Day has already made laps in a midget out east and the No. 14 team is setting its sights on Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway for a busy summer of racing.
While the logistics will make some weeks difficult, Day is hoping to run as many races as possible at Knoxville leading into August.
“Jason, Preston (Cross) and H.P. (Myatt), the owners of the 14, all have jobs,” Day explained. “So, it’s going to be hard to race every single weekend, but we’re planning on, every other week, running weekly stuff at Knoxville and in between there I’ll run my car at home with the 360 and 410. Then. we’ll run the 360 Nationals, 410 Nationals, probably Oskaloosa and that whole month (August) in Iowa there.”
The team’s plans following the Knoxville Nationals are undecided.
They may travel west with the Outlaws across the northern rim of the country into Washington, or they may simply join the series in Washington and follow the tour south to California.
Looking further ahead, Day isn’t sure what the future holds. However, the phenom hopes it will include continuing to make his presence felt across the country. The talented driver quickly ascended to the top tier of his home region, and if his early performances against some of the sport’s best drivers are any indicator, he’ll achieve the same success on a national level.
“It’ll be cool to get east,” Day said. “You get fans out here doing good and then you go out there and it’s a totally different world with people that probably don’t even know you exist. So, hopefully, we can have some good showings.”