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Bruce Yentes

Bruce Yentes

It's affectionately known as the "Daytona 500 of the Dirt," but officially named the World 100, the biggest and most prestigious annual event in all of dirt late model racing.

The 47th installment of the extravaganza, with its cornucopia of time trials, heats, last chance races and nightly features, is slated to get underway Thursday at the iconic Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

By the time a stout field of cars is culled to 30 for Saturday's 100-lap main event, Bloomington dirt late model standout Jason Feger plans to find himself in the thick of things for the $50,000 winner's share of a $428,500 purse.

"We haven't had the best season, we've had a lot of issues, but I finally feel like we've turned the corner," said Feger, who will be attempting to qualify for his seventh World 100.

Stoking Feger's confidence is a new Victory Chassis that's been dialed in to his liking and a strong run in last Sunday's Baltes Classic on Eldora's ½-mile banked dirt oval.

"We were pretty good from the time we unloaded and we made improvements to the car throughout the night," Feger said. "We were always one of the cars on the leader board from hot laps to the feature."

Feger finished fourth in last Sunday's race. Rather than returning home to Bloomington, Feger stopped off a little under halfway back and has been working out of the Advanced Racing Suspensions shop in Indianapolis preparing for this weekend.

Speaking with The Pantagraph by phone from Indy, Feger believes last week's top-five finish has given him a head start on putting together a strong run this weekend.

"It seems like every time you go there it's different," he said. "They're constantly changing the dirt and it seems like it's trickier now than it used to be.

"I think the track last Sunday was really similar to what I'm expecting it to be this weekend. In getting the game plan together, there's a few small changes that we can make to make the car better, but we have a good baseline to go from to get the car set up."

Feger, who qualified for his first World 100 a decade ago, has a pair of top-fives in the sport's marquee event. He finished fifth in 2012 before recording his best finish of fourth in 2014.

Since then, the cars have changed somewhat. A new tire rule that prevented teams from grooving tires to enhance performance was also instituted at last year's World 100.

"The different tire rule, in my opinion, makes it harder to get hold of the race track," Feger said. "It doesn't lend itself to an aggressive driving style as much as it used to and requires more technical finesse."

Oakwood's Bobby Pierce is the reigning World 100 champion.

A year ago Pierce, at age 19, became the youngest-ever World 100 winner. He was also the first Illinois driver to capture the event.

Pierce won from the 22nd spot on the starting grid. He roared into the top-five by the 25th circuit and overtook Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville for the victory on Lap 56. 

New Berlin's Brandon Sheppard, who has 14 World of Outlaws Late Model Series victories this year — including the Illini 100 at Farmer City and Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury — will be a top contender to succeed Pierce in this year's edition.

Bruce Yentes covers motor sports for The Pantagraph. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @pg_yentes


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