2021 Wild West Shootout

Jason Feger Hopes To Continue Illini Success At Wild West Shootout

Jason Feger Hopes To Continue Illini Success At Wild West Shootout

Jason Feger hopes to become the latest Illinois driver to find success in the desert during the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout Jan. 9-17.

Jan 4, 2021 by Joshua Joiner
Jason Feger Hopes To Continue Illini Success At Wild West Shootout

With Illinois drivers Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard and Brian Shirley combining to capture nine of its most recent 12 features, the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts has proven to be a lucrative draw for drivers from the Land of Lincoln over the past two years. In making his miniseries debut during the 2021 version of the unsanctioned miniseries Jan. 9-17, Jason Feger hopes to become the latest Illinois driver to find success with an early-season trip to the desert.

Watch the 2021 Keyser Mfg. Wild West Shootout from Arizona Speedway LIVE on FloRacing

Feger, the 42-year-old veteran racer from Bloomington, Ill., will join a host of other Dirt Late Model drivers based in the eastern half of the United States in making the cross-country trek to the Phoenix-area track to race against the top Western drivers during the 15th edition of the Wild West Shootout at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway in Queen Creek, Ariz. The sport’s annual January sojourn to the desert will again feature six events over nine days with the first five events each paying $5,000 to the winner and the Jan. 17 finale paying a miniseries-record $25,000-to-win. The event will also again feature the Keyser Quarter-Million Challenge that offers a $250,000 bonus if a driver can win all six races or $100,000 for five victories, $25,000 for four victories or $10,000 for three victories.

After watching three of his Illinois brethren each claim $10,000 bonuses in the past two years, including Shirley doing so in his first trip to Arizona Speedway last season, Feger is optimistic about his chances of a successful trip.

“Everyone going out there is dreaming of getting that big bonus, but the chances of that are slim,” Feger said of the Keyser Quarter-Million Challenge’s top prize. “But if you can get on a roll, get some things to go your way, you can reel off some wins and make some money. I’ve never been out there before and a lot of those guys have a good bit of laps out there, so I think the goal is just to try to be in the top five every night and put myself in contention. If we can do that, there’s a chance we can win one or two or who knows.”

While Feger may allow himself to dream of the possibility of claiming some Arizona bonus money for himself, that’s not the only factor leading him to make the long trek out west. He is, of course, also enticed by the chance to escape the frigid Midwest winter weather. Perhaps the biggest motivator that’s spurring Feger to make the more than 1,600-mile one-way trip from central Illinois to Arizona is his desire to keep up his momentum from a solid 2020 season that produced some of his best results in recent years.

 “I definitely feel like what we’ve been doing for the past year and a half has us going in the right direction and has us in contention again. I really want to to keep building on that and keep going forward,” said Feger, the 2010 DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion who in his first full season fielding an MB Customs entry scored four special event victories in 2020 including two five-figure Summer Nationals wins. “We got (another MB Customs) car at the end of the year and it’s only got three races on it. It’s been really good every time we’ve had it out, but I think a few more races on it will help us fine-tune and really have it dialed in come the spring. That’s kind of the main reason for going out there.”

Early-season racing isn’t new to Feger. During the most successful stretch of his career in the first half of the 2010s, Feger was a frequent participant in Florida’s Speedweeks events at East Bay Raceway Park near Tampa and Volusia Speedway Park near Daytona. But as expenses increased and his performance waned, those trips — along with the idea of adding a trip to Arizona to his schedule — became less feasible.

With his performance on the upswing and with additional sponsorship from Hoker Trucking, Waste Services, Titan Industries and others, far-flung traveling for early-season racing is more realistic. But the travel isn’t only for the chance to chase big money. Feger hopes his Arizona trip will help him later in 2021 when tracks near his home kick off their seasons with major events.

“If it was up to me I’d be at every race I could go to all year long, but it comes down to money, logistics and what’s best for my team,” said Feger, who last traveled to Florida for Speedweeks in 2017. “This year I had some sponsors step up to help get me out there (to Arizona) and made it feasible to go. That’s good because them guys that go to Arizona and go to Florida definitely get a head start while we’re sitting at home not racing. It’ll be nice to go out there and race against a solid field of cars, see where we stack up, and have that much more information on this new car when we start racing for big money close to home in a few more months.

“Here in Illinois, if you don’t travel to go racing, you’re starting the year off with big races. The Thaw Brawl (at La Salle Speedway March 26-27) starts off with 15 grand, then you’re right into the Illini (100 at Farmer City Raceway April 2-3) for 20. Every year we kick off with a month straight of big money races here in Illinois and I need to be ready to try to win those races.

“It’s been tough for me the past few years because other guys are running 20-30 races before we even get started up here. You can get behind the 8-ball being out of practice. Just like any sport or anything you do, the more you practice, the better you’re going to be.”

The trip to Arizona does indeed provide Feger the chance to knock the rust off before his home region gets up and running. But that could also be done in Florida, where he has plenty of experience and some past success with top five finishes at both East Bay and Volusia. And at just over 1,100 miles from Bloomington, East Bay — the Florida Speedweeks track farthest from his home — is nearly 500 miles closer to Feger than Arizona Speedway.

So why choose Arizona over Florida? To Feger, there were multiple reasons. Besides more money — the $25,000 Wild West Shootout finale pays $10,000 more to win than the highest-paying Speedweeks event — Arizona presents Feger just the right amount of racing to keep his team fresh without being overly taxing on his equipment or his crew. Plus, even though he’s never seen Arizona Speedway in person, Feger is confident the 3/8-mile track will fit his driving style.

“Florida’s a rough trip with all the racing you do and few days off. It’s a lot of racing plus traveling between tracks,” Feger said. “It’s hard racing at those tracks, too, especially at East Bay and Volusia. They’re hard on your stuff. This place (Arizona Speedway) looks a little easier on equipment. I think that probably makes it a little easier to make the trip out there knowing you’re not going to have to completely go through everything when you get home as long as you take care of your stuff and don’t get tore up.

“As opposed to going to Florida and the track’s down there, I think it’s (Arizona Speedway) probably more similar to what I’m used to as far as the size and shape. I think that’ll help, but you can’t never tell. If you unload and you’re fast on practice night, it’s probably going to be a good week. If you start the trip off searching for speed, it’s probably going to be a long week.”

Feger hopes to be fast from the time that he unloads for Friday's Wild West Shootout practice. It’ll certainly help if he’s up to speed for the opener if he’s going to win three or more races. But collecting bonus money isn’t all that will determine whether or not Feger’s journey west is a success.

“I’d like to win at least one. If I’m being honest, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win one,” Feger said. “So yeah, we’re going out there to try and win races, but it’ll be nice if we can leave there with our stuff still in good shape. If we do that and don’t have a whole lot to fix on the off days, maybe we kind of make a little vacation out of it as well.”