History has to wait for Day
By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   For a short time Saturday night, Wade Day's name was in the history books after crossing the finish line first in a NASCAR Dash Series event at Greenville-Pickens (SC) Speedway. A few hours later, post-race inspection by series officials erased the apparent win.
   Day, who led the last 44 circuits of the 100-lap affair in the No. 52 Refrigation Services Toyota, had attempted to become the first Elizabethton driver ever to win a NASCAR touring series race and the first from the Tri-Cities area since Johnson City's Brad Teague won a Busch Series race at Martinsville in 1987.
   "We came along pretty good," said Day. "We thought we had given (Bristol-based) Highland Motorsports their first win and were on top of the world."
   The disqualification resulted from the intake having an octagon-shaped part instead of an oval piece. Day insists he doesn't see where that would have made for an advantage on a short track like Greenville-Pickens using a restricted-motor.
   "What it was once we got out front, our car was really good," said Day. "The car was great up off the corners in clean air. It wasn't a horsepower advantage like some of those other guys thought. It was that our car was really hooked up."
   The run was gratifying to Day, who despite being a two-time Regional Champion in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series, had no offers to drive in a touring series in 2003 until this team called.
   Not only is the team based in Bristol, owned by Late Model racer Wade Lopez, but has a distinctly local flavor.
   Tommy Spangler, another veteran area racer, serves as the team's shop foreman, and Abindgon's Ben Atkins, a recent mechanical engineering graduate of Duke, is the crew chief.
   Having the win taken away was real discouraging to team owner Lopez, according to Day. He also wanted to point out there was no intent on the team's behalf to run any type of illegal part.
   "First, they haven't done tech inspection like that all year long," said Day. "All that stuff with the intake is already done when it gets to us. That's the way Toyota does it. Even the motor builder had no control over that. It was no fault of ours or the motor builder.
   "They were still taking stuff apart about midnight when we found out about it. We already did the victory lane celebration and I had the pictures taken of me with all the different caps."
   To look at the race without the penalty, there was a solid effort all night from the No. 52 team. After qualifying eighth in a field of 26 cars, Day had assumed the lead on lap 56 as a result of pit strategy. Once out front, his car was unbeatable as he held off repeated passing attempts by 2001 Dash Series champion Cam Strader.
   With the DQ, Strader in the No. 6 Mercury was awarded first place with Jake Hobgood and Brandon Ward rounding out the top three. Another local product also did well in the South Carolina race, as Reece Milton from Blountville finished eighth in the No. 75 Food Country Pontiac after starting 18th.
   Day's near win in just his second Dash Series start isn't that shocking. In his first series race at South Boston, Va. just two weeks earlier, he had qualified fourth. Day quickly worked his way up to second place and was battling for the lead when the throttle hung on the Toyota.
   After coming into the pits to fix the throttle linkage, the team went a lap down. The situation soured even furthered later in the race as the team had to retire due to an oil pressure problem. Officially credited with a 22nd place finish, it was little indication of how well they had run.
   Saturday night's decision has Lopez angry and hurt, with the team undecided on whether they will return to the series anytime soon. It could even put a damper on team plans to run the Dash Series race at Bristol in a few weeks.
   "If we will go to Bristol, I don't know," said Day, the 2000 track champion at Kingsport. "Wade (Lopez) is really, really discouraged. I know I have been really forward to racing at Bristol in front of my friends and family. I can only hope he still decides to run that race."