Illinois DIRTcar Late Model champ reflects on win at Highland, progress in career
CONCORD, NC – It’s been a long and winding road for the 2010 DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion.
Jason Feger, the Bloomington, Illinois-racer known as The Highside Hustler, has often been a regular of the Summer Nationals Late Model circuit. With his signature green/black colors and “rolling dice” motif decaled across his door panels, Feger’s been a household name in the DIRTcar Late Model ranks since his first starts in 2002 and takes pride in the self-made nature of his career.
No big corporate sponsorship, no ex-F1 pit crew. Just he and his wife Abby, his local partners and his team of hard-working individuals that help keep the #25 on the track, day-in and day-out.
“I love racing around here,” Feger said. “I feel like we’ve got the best area. I’m definitely proud to pretty much accomplish this all myself and the little backing and the few people that do help me. There’s not a lot of guys left out there like me that are kinda owner-operator/do-it-all-type guys.”
He and his team are scheduled to make the trip out to New Richmond, WI, to battle the stars and cars of the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series in this weekend’s 33rd annual USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway, Aug. 6-8. Feger was victorious in the FANS Fund Dash at the event in 2019 and will participate again this year. All three days can be streamed live, exclusively on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
Currently, Feger sits third in Summer Nationals points, 178 points behind leader Brian Shirley. He and the team experienced some struggles early on, but it’s not over yet. Twelve races remain, beginning with the Phase II opener at The Bullring at RICO Fairgrounds on Monday, Aug. 10, and anything can happen.
“I think it’s going to be tough. I feel like I’ve already had too many bad nights. We had some electrical issues the first couple nights, so the car wasn’t running right. Me and [Shannon] Babb had a little contact at Spoon River that ended with me spinning out and going to the back. I’ve also had a couple flat tires, too,” he said.
While Feger’s chances for a second Summer Nationals championship in 2020 may seem distant right now, only 59 points separates he and Frank Heckenast Jr. for second. The team is also starting to rebound from their troubles early on, stringing together seven-straight top-10 finishes before the race at LaSalle on July 29, and have already secured themselves a spot on the all-time Summer Nationals highlight reel with their memorable win just a few weeks ago.
Feger and his loyal fanbase celebrated his 20th career Summer Nationals victory back on July 18 at Highland Speedway. Coming all the way from 16th, he kept it smooth and steady on the very bottom of the quarter mile and won with room to spare, taking the lead from Shannon Babb on Lap 41 and carrying it all the way home for a spectacular $10,000 payday that Feger Nation won’t soon forget.
“It still kinda blows my mind a little bit,” Feger recalls with a slight chuckle. “I sure didn’t think I was going to be able to win that race, especially starting that far back and [driving] on the bottom like that.
“I just kept everything together, kept my nose clean on the car and just kept picking ‘em off one-by-one. It seemed like the longer the race went, the better the car got. Everything just kinda came to me and I was able to pull it off.”
Over the years, Feger’s run a variety of different chassis and engine combinations. 2020 marks his second year behind the wheel of an MB Customs Race Car with Pro Power under the hood. He said it’s the substantial side-bite and traction in slick conditions that’s unique to the MB Customs that’s aided his ability to run the bottom.
“It’s been an adjustment driving for me too. I don’t always have to go run the top like I used to have to before, I felt like. The car’s probably better than the driver, I’ve just got to keep getting better. I feel like we’re making gains, so I’ve just got to keep up the momentum,” Feger said.
This season also marks the tenth anniversary of his Summer Nationals championship – one in which he beat out three-time DIRTcar Late Model national points champion, Dennis Erb Jr. One season prior, Feger topped Erb by just 31 points in the national standings to win his first DIRTcar Late Model championship, halting what would have otherwise been Erb’s third sweep in-a-row of the Late Model national points and Summer Nationals titles.
The two Illinoisans are often noted for being the DIY-types. They’re both owner-drivers, both take a great deal of pride in their work and understand that as owners, how the truck gets to the track each weekend falls on them.
“I think we’re pretty similar in a lot of ways,” Feger said of Erb. “My wife – she’s a big help. But ultimately, it all depends on yourself. You’re ultimately the one responsible for everything, so however you’ve got to get it done, you’ve got to get it done.”
In his championship-winning seasons, Feger has attributed much of his success to the dedication of his team.
“I had a really good pit crew; my brother [Austin] was with me and I had two or three other guys that came with us. We just had a really good team, and we all worked really hard. We were kinda young and didn’t really have anything to do in life other than go racing.”
Since then, it’s been all business for Team 25. Several seasons on the trail of the Hell Tour have given he and his legions of fans plenty to cheer about and an entire closet full of black-and-green t-shirts to wear. For them, Feger couldn’t be more appreciative.
“I have to thank all of them for the support over the years,” he said. “Buying merchandise and just being there, whether it’s making us food, bringing us beer, hanging out or cheering us on. It’s awesome to have such a big fanbase and to make so many great friends over the years out of this.”
Don’t miss Feger & Co. in the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Phase II opener at The Bullring at RICO Fairgrounds on Aug. 10. Tune into DIRTVision presented by Drydene with your Fast Pass subscription to catch all the action.