Matthew Day lighting up IMCA ovals in 2021

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer. 

Photo By: Mike Frieri   

FARMERSVILLE, Texas — Among the hundreds of short track racers spread all over the great state of Texas, one young teenage prodigy is making quite a name for himself. He’s a second-generation racer with natural talent, good equipment, and a laser-sharp focus.

For 17-year-old IMCA Southern Sport Mod driver Matthew Day, 2021 has been a season of big smiles and strong performances. In 18 starts thus far, Day has reeled off two wins, 12 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Traveling with his father, Dan, who also races weekly, the young driver is on a hot streak.

“We got this car I’m driving now late last year,” Day said. “We worked really hard on it over the off-season. My father and I just love to do our research, to find new things to improve the car. We’ve continued to tweak it a bit as this season goes along, and it’s been running very well for us.”

This season’s success story comes as no surprise to those who follow this amazing young driver. Last year, he won IMCA National Rookie-of-the-Year honors in Southern Sport Mods. Yeah, he’s that good.

As he gets ready to turn 18 on May 31, Day already has 13 years of racing experience. A graduate of the Karting program, he says it was the ideal training ground for what he’s doing today.

“They started me off in Karts when I was five, and I ran those until I was 10,” Day explained. “I got into it when Karts first started getting big, and I finally got good at it about the time it died off. I had a decent Kart, and gained a ton of knowledge. What I learned there definitely transfers over to today.”

From his Karting years, Day advanced to a division that he says plays a big role in driver development.

“When I was 10 or 11, I started running what is called a Junior Limited,” he said. “It’s the same car I’m running now, except they have a 305 cubic inch engine, a 350 cfm carburetor and softer compound tires on it. I have to say that class and the Eco-Mods at Ardmore are some of the most competitive around.”

Day is very much a hands-on racer. He works on his family’s three cars whenever his schedule allows.

“That’s one thing I really enjoy about the sport,” Day explained. “I try to do most of the setup work on my own car. My father and brother, Mason, have enough to do with their own cars. When I get to the race track, I know exactly what I have. I’ve got all the tools and parts I need, and it’s totally my deal.

“If there’s something we really need for the car, my Dad will go out and get it. We all work on each others cars, yet I do most of the work on my own car. If I’m not working on it to improve or doing my weekly maintenance, then we won’t be nearly as competitive.”

It’s no secret that the IMCA Southern Sport Mod division has more talent within its confines than just about any other division in existence. Day says the level of competition he faces is off the charts.

“We race at Southern Oklahoma Speedway in Ardmore, at Boyd, and once in a while at Kennedale if Ardmore rains out,” Day said. “Southern Oklahoma is super competitive; those boys don’t give up an inch. They’ll run you hard, but they’re not going to tear you up. It’s super wide, we love to race there.”

While there are a number of chassis options out there for Sport Mod racers, Day says only one brand of car suits his needs on the ovals. He also loves the power produced by his highly-respected engine man.

“I run a 2019 Harris chassis, built in Boone, Iowa,” Day said. “We bought it from Dean Abbey, and it’s an amazing race car. They have everything figured out at Harris. They have a level of craftsmanship that exceeds their rivals. They have some neat brackets I like, plus the fit and finish is exceptional.

“As for the power, I have an open motor from Stoen Racing Engines up in Medford, Minnesota. We try to Dyno our cars once or twice a year; we’ll take them to Wells Racing Engines and have them properly tuned. You can count on those boys for ample and reliable horsepower, I can vouch for that.”

That nice Harris car that Matthew drives is somewhat unique within the Day family stable.

“The other cars we have were built by Tim Clonch out of Greenville, Texas,” Day explained. “They are also nice cars, and we’re very proud to have cars from the local area.”

Along with his amazing natural talent behind the wheel, Day also has a few key people working hard behind the scenes to ensure his racing program is successful.

“I really need to thank my parents, Dan and Sandy Day, for all they do for my racing program,” Day said. “I also need to thank my brother, Mason; Zac Sydney, and Channing Godwin. I appreciate what they all do for me more than they know.

“I’m also blessed to have some great sponsors on board, including S&D Erectors, Warren at H&B Oil, ATC Bolts & Fasteners, Wells Racing Engines, Smiley’s Racing Products, Bob Tedford Chevrolet, Swenson Racing Shocks and Allstar Signs. We couldn’t do this without their support.”

As the heat of summer rolls in and things get super busy for every race team, Day knows what he wants to accomplish.

“We’re actually chasing points again this year,” Day concluded. “I’m leading the standings in Ardmore and at Boyd Speedway. The week before last, I got suckered into attending my school prom. I left that sucker at 8 p.m., and got my butt to Ardmore as fast as I could to score my points for the night.

“We may adjust our car a little to try things, but we always know how to get back to what works. I’m after National points and track titles this year, so I always keep my eye on the big picture.”