Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
It is fittingly billed as “The Hell Tour” for many of the Midwest’s leading late model stock car drivers and their crews.
The grueling 29-race series marathon stretches the limits of endurance, talents and fortunes for those willing to take on one of the most demanding schedules that dirt track racing has to offer.
The late model crews head to the Terre Haute Action Track tonight for one of the final stops on the tour that will provide Wabash Valley fans one of the few opportunities to see the high-profile, late-model stock cars in their own back yard.
With the highly competitive and nationally recognized series rapidly drawing to a close, the local stop for the 27th Annual Dirt Car Summer Nationals is taking on added significance.
Only three races remain on the tour and a tight two-man points chase for the coveted UMP crown has unfolded with Brian Shirley clinging to a slim point advantage over Shannon Babb as the stockers head to Ohio this weekend.
While he might rank third in points, Jason Feger would like nothing better than to steal the limelight from the two front-runners as he makes his long-awaited Action Track debut.
Having the chance to run at the local half-mile dirt oval has been a longtime goal for the Illinois driver and Feger has every intention of making the most of the opportunity. Like those around him Feger knows the local half-mile dirt oval will test his talents and equipment to the limit.
“I’ve always looked forward to running Terre Haute but I have never been in the position to give it a try until now,” voiced the Bloomington, Ill., driver. “When I first started racing the late models, I only had one car and one motor. The [Action Track] can be pretty hard on equipment so I’ve held off until now.
“This Summer Nationals tour can take its toll on both the cars and drivers. You have to come prepared if you have any hope of doing well. The big half-miles demand the best out of everybody and everything. It’s that simple.”
If racing 29 nights in a 32-day time span is not challenging enough for the drivers and crews, the recent Midwest heat wave has made the task even more demanding.
“The heat can always create its problems,” cautions Feger, the 2010 Summer Nationals champ. “That’s part of racing, but I’ve never seen it this bad. You can expect it when you’re in Kentucky and Tennessee but it’s been like that everywhere we’ve gone. It can be brutal and you’ve got to keep your car in one piece.”
Terre Haute is not his home, but Feger has always maintained strong ties to the local area through racing the late models. This despite the fact that stockers, for some unknown reason, have never won over the Hoosier state that is dominated by non-wing sprint car racing.
So when Feger catches the possiblity to win over some new fans to the late models, he jumps at the opportunity. From all indications he’s done quite well in fulfilling that mission in the Wabash Valley area.
“We don’t get the chance to run around here very often but when we do I’ve always had great support from the fans,” he said. “One of my biggest supporters is my sponsor VP Racing Fuels, which is based in Terre Haute. I hope we can have a good night for all of our supporters.”
The tour that runs in nine states has generated 13 different winners in 25 races and Feger is one of the few repeat victors with three checkered flags, including a recent one at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Win or lose, Feger hopes the Nationals come up a big winner at the front gate for promoters Bob Sargent and Reece O’Connor.
“Bob and Reece do a great job with their track prep and for racing,” Feger said. “Hopefully we’ll have great turnout, good racing and will be able to come back maybe more than once a year. I think the fans will like what they see.”
I I I
n Stock car week – The Action Track late model show is one of two big stock-car attractions in the Wabash Valley this week.
Lincoln Park Speedway will host its biggest Bomber class show of the year with the feature winner taking home a $1,000 paycheck.
The eighth annual Bomber Bash is sure to attract its share of outsiders with open rules permitted for this special event.
If the regular LPS contingent hopes to protect home track bragging rights, its best chance appears to ride with Terre Haute driver C.J. Bryan, who has dominated the division throughout the summer.
Even with an impressive eight-win campaign already under his belt, Bryan knows he’ll probably play an underdog role Saturday night.
“There’ll be some guys from all over the state and they’ll be bringing some high-caliber equipment that we don’t normally have to go up against,” said Bryan. “I’ve got a lot laps at the place that the outsiders don’t, so maybe every thing will even itself out. Nothing will come easy.”
Joe Buckles can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
UMP Summer Nationals
Terre Haute Action Track
n Times — Gates open at 4 p.m., time trials at 7, heats at about 7:30.
n Highlights — Late Models feature, 30 laps; UMP Modifieds feature, 15 laps and will include NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace. Late Models feature winner will receive $5,000.
n Admission — Adults: $20 for grandstand and $15 for infield. Children 10 and under: Free. Pit passes are $35.
n Next racing card at Action Track — “First Financial Bank Don Smith Classic” for U.S. Auto Club sprint cars July 18.
n For more information — Call (812) 232-4040 or visit www.terrehauteactiontrack.net.
— David Hughes