Jason Feger officially put the cap on his spectacular 2009 season last Saturday night when he received his UMP DIRTcar Racing Super Late Model national championship check and trophy during the organization's awards banquet in Springfield, Ill.
So what's next for the rising star from Bloomington, Ill. His first-ever winter racing trip to Florida, an excursion highlighted by six nights of Super Late Model action during the 39th annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park.
“I'm pretty anxious to get down there,” said Feger, who left the recent UMP DIRTcar gala with $32,700 in points-fund cash, including 20-grand for winning his first career national title. “All of the best in the business will be there, so it's definitely gonna be a measuring stick to show where we're at.”
Coming off a campaign that saw him win a UMP DIRTcar- and career-best 23 features at 13 different tracks in four states, Feger certainly brings a growing reputation to Volusia's week-long blockbuster. But he'll also be tackling one of the country's most competitive Super Late Model meets for the first time since entering the division in 2002.
Feger has previously experienced the DIRTcar Nationals atmosphere, but only as a high-profile crewman. Two years ago he provided a helping hand during the week to his buddy from the UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals trail, Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., giving him an up-close taste of what it takes to speed around the sprawling track.
“I think that year I was (at Volusia) with Jeep is gonna help me a lot,” said Feger, whose 2009 season included his first-ever WoO LMS A-Main triumph on May 24 at Charter Raceway Park in Beaver Dam, Wis. “It looks like a challenging place and has a lot of unique characteristics, and I know that with so many good cars there it's gonna be tough if your car's not right and your stuff's not good. But I like fast racetracks and feel like I learned a lot just by watching (while working with VanWormer), and hopefully that will translate to success on the track.”
Feger's long-awaited chance to kick off his racing season in the Sunshine State comes courtesy of Stearn Ironworks and Jaxon Chase Steel Detailing, the Midwestern companies that joined his family-owned team midway through the 2009 schedule. The extra sponsorship gave Feger the financial boost he needed to obtain a larger hauler and trailer (a transporter formerly used by Scott Bloomquist) and hit the road more actively.
Two cars built by Midwestern racing legend Bob Pierce will be in strapped into Feger's rig for the haul south – one a virtually-new machine with just four starts on it, the other Feger's battle-tested ‘Good Old Girl' that's two-and-a-half years old and has seen action in more than 120 events.
“We're gonna give it everything we got with our best stuff,” said Feger, who won't have to adjust to an open-tire rule for the WoO LMS events at Volusia because the UMP DIRTcar Hoosier tires he knows so well are mandatory in all DIRTcar Nationals shows. “We're not going down there to run second. We had a great run (in November) at the World Finals (charging from 19th to second in the WoO LMS 50-lapper before cutting down a tire) and that was our first time at Charlotte (Motor Speedway), so hopefully we can do the same thing (at Volusia).
“I know it would be awesome if we could get a win. To kick off the year beating the best guys in the country – man, that would mean a lot. That would sell Bob (Pierce) some cars and give me a lot of notoriety.”
Feger should say more notoriety, because, win or lose, he figures to attract plenty of attention throughout his visit to Volusia Speedway Park. He's one of the hippest, most gregarious drivers currently on the dirt Late Model scene, his car sports a cool color scheme and ‘tumbling dice' graphics, he sells trendy apparel and he displays a hard-charging driving style (he's not called the ‘Highside Hustler' for nothing).
With a unique first-time promotion for this year's DIRTcar Nationals providing all ticket-buyers an opportunity to sign into the pits each night at no additional charge, a steady procession of fans will undoubtedly make their way to Feger's trailer. You can bet that he'll be accommodating to every last one of them – after all, he succinctly summed up his feelings toward his supporters during the speech he delivered to a packed ballroom upon accepting his 2009 UMP DIRTcar national championship laurels.
“It can't be possible without the fans – that's absolutely positive,” Feger said near the end of his heartfelt banquet remarks, which stretched for more than 20 minutes. “They buy your t-shirts, they fill (tracks') stands. We all gotta do what we can in this day and age for the fans, and I'm fortunate I have a lot of really good ones.
“I work really hard at (fan relations) – I try to treat them good, and I try to put on a show. Sometimes it's hard to determine if you're in the entertainment business or the racing business, but it's always really great when you can get the support of the fans because of what you do.”
The DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH begin on Feb. 2 and run nightly through Feb. 13. Joining the Super Late Models on the schedule are the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series (Feb. 5-7); the Super DIRTcar Series for big-block Modifieds (Feb. 10-13); the All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series (Feb. 3-4); and the UMP DIRTcar Modifieds (Feb. 2-9).