Feger thanks hero in collecting UMP honors
By Kevin KovacUMP DIRTcar Racing
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Jan. 9) — Rising Midwestern star Jason Feger saw his dreams meet reality during Saturday night's 26th annual UMP DIRTcar Racing Night of Champions awards banquet at the Springfield Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Feger, 31, of Bloomington, Ill., was saluted for his spectacular 2009 season, which saw him win his first UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model championship – ending the two-year reign of Carpentersville, Ill.'s Dennis Erb Jr. Feger led the circuit with 23 feature wins and also captured the UMP-sanctioned Monster Midwest Tour title. The homegrown talent's success earned him a total of $32,700 in points-fund checks during the gala evening.
More than 750 attendees from more than a dozen states and Canada filled the ballroom to watch UMP DIRT Racing officials distribute over $400,000 to the organization's 2009 champions and top performers.
An approachable racer known for his outgoing personality, Feger surprised no one when he accepted his championship laurels with a heartfelt, banquet-ending speech that stretched for more than 20 minutes. He spent much of his time behind the podium thanking the people who made his championship season possible, including his crew — led by his younger brother Austin, who earlier in the night was named the 2009 UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model Mechanic of the Year by vote of the organization's membership — mother, grandmother, chassis builder Bob Pierce, engine builder Matt Rhyne and long list of sponsors.
Feger had especially kind words for Pierce, the legendary racer whose chassis Feger has used for the past two-and-half years.
“It's such an honor to race with my childhood hero and help make his business succeed,” Feger said of Pierce. “You can't imagine how much that means to me.”
After posing for photos with his close-knit team, Feger reflected on his career campaign.
“Earlier today I did a radio show at the Speed Expo (at the nearby Illinois State Fairgrounds) with Larry Lembeck and he kind of put (the title) in perspective for me,” said Feger, who won the championship one year after being named UMP DIRTcar's Most Improved Driver. “He started naming off some of the guys who have won this deal and the history behind it, and that really made it sink in for me. To be able to be listed with a group of guys like Gary Webb, Erb, (Randy) Korte, (Rodney) Melvin and a lot of others — that's pretty impressive to me.
“Just to think that someday down the road somebody is gonna look back and see my name on this list — I hope they can have the same respect for me that I have for the guys who have won it.”
Feger's points-fund earnings were topped by the $20,000 he received for the national title. He picked up another $5,000 for winning Don and Bonny Hammer's Monster Midwest Series, plus $5,000 for finishing fourth in the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals points standings; $2,000 for placing second in the Central Region points battle; and $700 for fourth place in the Northern Allstars Late Model Series points standings. Feger also received two sets of Dyer's Top Rods for his national and Monster Midwest Series titles.
The only driver who left the banquet with more points-fund cash than Feger was Erb, who collected a total of $38,100 despite failing to threepeat as UMP's overall champion. He still earned $25,000 for winning his third consecutive UMP DIRTcar Summernationals title; $10,000 for finishing second in the overall points standings; $2,000 for a runner-up placing on the Northern Allstars Late Model Series; $700 for fourth place on the Monster Midwest Series; and $400 for sixth place in the Central Region.
UMP also honored Late Model regional champs. The honorees: Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill. (Central), Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill. (West), Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich. (East) received checks for $3,000 apiece, while Nick Bartels of El Segundo, Calif., earned $2,000 as the Pacific Region champ and Lonnie Parker Jr. of El Mirage, Calif., picked up $1,200 as the Southwest Region king. Only Parker did not make the trip to accept his laurels in person.
Other series titlists recognized during Saturday's festivities were Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio (American Late Model Series) and Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill. (Northern Allstars Late Model Series). Henry also earned a $1,000 bonus for emerging as the 2009 UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model Rookie of the Year.
Another driver earning big money was 22-year-old Bobby Dauderman of Alhambra, Ill., who pocketed $10,000 for unseating Tait Davenport of Paducah, Ky., as UMP Crate Late Late Model champ. He padded his earnings with an additional $1,000 check for winning the North Region points.
A number of special awards determined by a vote of the UMP DIRTcar Racing membership were handed out. Among the honors:
• Feger received the Late Model division's Sportsman of the Year award.
• Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway was announced as the UMP DIRTcar Racing Track of the Year. Promoter Tim Keithley accepted the award.
• Tom Sprague of Winston Speedway in Rothbury, Mich., was feted as the 2009 UMP DIRTcar Racing Promoter of the Year.
• Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway promoter William Scogin received the fifth annual Bob Memmer Achievement Award, which honors the memory of UMP DIRTcar Racing's late founder. The prestigious plaque was presented to Scoggins by Hoosier Tire's Terry Young, who won the award last year.
• The Chassis Builder of the Year awards went to Rocket Chassis of Shinnston, W.Va., in the Late Model division. Rockets won 167 UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned features.
• Claiming the Engine Builder of the Year awards were Pro Power Racing Engines in the Late Model division. Late Models using Pro Power motors scored 38 feature victories.