By Robert Holman
DANVILLE, Ill. — Polesitter Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., outran a handful of Summernationals foes and bested a rugged race track to capture his 18th career UMP DIRTcar Summernationals victory Sunday night at Kickapoo Speedway near Danville, Ill. Feger beat runner-up Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., by 2.37 seconds to collect a much-needed win worth $5,000.
Series points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., chased the two across the line to finish third, while Bob Gardner of Washington, Ill., — the night’s overall fast qualifier — rallied from 21st to finish fourth after mechanical gremlins earlier in the night kept him from starting his heat race. Paul Stubber of West Bunbury, Australia, completed the top five for the best Summernationals finish of his career.
While Feger led all 40 laps en route to his win, he had to overcome a tricky racing surface to do so. An afternoon rain shower hampered track preparations and drivers had to adjust throughout the night as track officials frequently took breaks in the action to work on the track. And Feger was battling his own gremlins as well. He’s had a rough Summernationals thus far and the 2010 champion wanted to make sure he capitalized on his opportunity to start from the pole.
“It was definitely a little treacherous there, especially early,” said Feger. “The feature wasn’t terrible. It was definitely pretty choppy. Lapped traffic was pretty harry. Maybe the monkey is off our back. I feel like we’ve been chipping away at it. I feel like we’ve been pretty strong in the features. We just haven’t been able to win a heat race or get qualified. It’s a lot easier to start in the front than it is the back against these guys.”
Feger got a great jump at the start, beating Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Wis., into the first turn before easing up the track as he chased the cushion. As he completed the first lap, Feger already had a .924-second lead over Larson, while Gundaker, Ryan Unzicker and Pierce followed closely behind.
“It was a long race. There was a lot of crate guys here and you can’t blame them,” added Feger. “They showed up trying to get some money. When the track’s like that, it makes it dangerous or not as good as it should be. But I can’t blame them for that. I just tried to be smart and smooth and get through the best I (could) and it worked out. (The cautions were) very nerve wrecking. Especially (because) I went with a harder tire and I knew there were some guys out there with softer tires.
“Yellow after yellow after yellow, I wasn’t wanting to see that. I’d get in a good rhythm and a yellow would come out. Luckily that guy on the last lap got it off the track and in the infield and they didn’t throw the yellow. It definitely was nerve wracking, especially with the luck we’ve been (having). I feel like you’re just giving everybody else more opportunities to get to the front and open yourself up for a slide job or a mistake or something, but it worked out tonight.”
The attrition-filled race was slowed by seven cautions. The yellow waved on lap one, seven, 10, 18, 21, 28 and 33. By the time the final yellow waved for Michael Brown’s spin in turn four, the field had been whittled down to just 10 cars. Brown pulled off the track, leaving just nine to finish the race. Only eight to those nine remained on the lead lap.
Among troubles that bit frontrunners:
• Billy Moyer Jr. broke a shock bracket and slowed to bring out the the fourth caution on lap 18 giving up the fifth spot.
• Larson surrendered the second spot on lap 21 when he got turned around on the back stretch, apparently due to a suspension part failure.
• Unzicker had an oil-line problem forcing him out while the field paced the track during a lap-21 caution. He pitted to the infield where his crew pushed him out of the way. Unzicker said he didn’t think the problem hurt his motor.
“It’s always something on your mind at a racetrack like this,” Gundaker said. “You get to going around there and you’re bouncing and you’re running these motors as hard as they can go. It just shows something, that our maintenance is doing a good job. Our guys work so hard day in and day out and make sure we’ve got the best equipment on and we’re ready to go when we get to the racetrack.”
With a weekly points title on the line and the additional $2,000 bonus money up for grabs to the winner of Midwest Week, which was sponsored by Petroff Towing, Pierce, decided to be a bit more conservative. He was shuffled back to sixth by Moyer Jr. early in the race, but managed to stay in the hunt as drivers fell by the wayside.
“I thought it was gonna be a lot more rough,” said Pierce. “In the heat races there I moved up and I was bouncing like a basketball, so I was trying to take it easy. I was testing out the bottom and I stayed down there a little too long and that outside lane got going and went by me.
“This race for us was more about hanging on … staying in the points chase because heading into tonight this was the last race for the weekly points. I think I was like 35 (points) ahead of Gordy. If I would have broke the car and finished last and he would’ve ended up running top three like he did, then he could’ve beat me in the points. So I was just trying to take it easy. Then on that last caution I got up on the wheel a lot and tried to real ‘em down. There was just nowhere really to go besides the cushion. I’m just glad that we stayed out of trouble.”
FEATURE RESULTS: 1. Jason Feger; 2. Gordy Gundaker; 3. Bobby Pierce; 4. Bob Gardner; 5. Paul Stubber; 6. Jeff Riddell; 7. Dustin Nobbe; 8. Kenny Carmichael; 9. Josh McDaniel; 10. Michael Brown; 11. Brent Larson; 12. Ryan Unzicker; 13. Billy Moyer Jr. 14. Mike Staggs; 15. Marvin Burton; 16. Bob Franklin; 17. Devin Gilpin; 18. Eddie Martin; 19. Logan Moody; 20. Derrick Hufford; 21. Brandon Williams; 22. Jim Bailey.