Diary Of A Racer Kid: Mentality

Ryan Fearn is an 18-year old driver in the Limited Late Model division at Stafford Motor Speedway. He is part of the racing Fearn family at Stafford, which also includes his uncle, Late Model driver Tom Fearn, and his sister, Limited Late Model driver Alexandra Fearn. His father Stu Fearn owns the Fearn Motorsports team. Ryan will bring his thoughts, views and behind the scenes observations of living the short track racing life to RaceDayCT in an occasional column titled Diary of Racer Kid.

We’ve got the longest column yet for you guys this week. Grab some snacks, perhaps your favorite soft and/or hard beverage, and strap in.

Quick little update before we get into it, though.

All the hard work paid off this week, we had the car ready for the week before but got rained out. Maybe that off week helped, the whole team had a break after approximately 30 hours of work. That extra energy also had to be expended somehow, so I chose to climb the fence. Some people hated the fence climb, others loved it. Regardless, it was done because of the multi-season long story behind it. This edition of Diary of a Racer Kid is dedicated to everyone who has given me advice and had my back anytime from go karts to today.

Let’s drop the green flag on this one, boogity boogity boogity let’s get reading!

We’ve touched on the topic a little bit before, but in this diary entry we’re getting down to the nitty gritty of mentality behind the wheel.

How your mind operates once you put the helmet on is completely different, which can be expected as one tends to adapt to whatever situation they’re in. How you handle the situation and the effectiveness of said adaptation, however, is an entirely different skill to grasp. In the case of myself, it took a solid three seasons and one season off to really get that skill down.

Ryan Fearn climbs the frontstretch catchfence Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway after winning his first Limited Late Model division feature at the track.

In complete honesty, I sidelined myself for the 2015 DARE Stock season because my mentality wasn’t in the right place. I was getting into on-track conflict nearly every single week from the start, making more enemies than friends, and starting to lose passion for the sport I had loved since before I could remember. My father and crew chief – Stu Fearn – and I were not on good terms because of this either, as a majority of the time we spend together is around the cars. Due to the concoction of these negative aspects of the racing life, the season was over before it even began.

I returned for the 2016 season with the “Psycho” wrap, as coined by the legendary Ben Dodge, and still managed to find trouble where it shouldn’t have even been in the first place. Things weren’t as bad as before, but there was still something amiss. This is when I realized that the problem wasn’t with my competitors, my dad, or anyone else – It was with myself.

I’m definitely a thinker, so I did what I do best to attempt identifying and rectifying the issue. I realized all the way back in the 2013 Spring Sizzler, my stock car career began with frustration. A bad starter cost me a qualifying spot, as I had spun out and couldn’t restart the car. I started 19th, dead last in the field, and all I cared about was proving myself. Instead, I should have been worrying about becoming consistent and clean behind the wheel. Sure, we passed about twenty cars, but I spun out from the top three on the last lap.

From there, despite good feelings from lots of passing, frustration kept building, and so did trouble.

This trend continued through the rest of the 2013 season, into the 2014 season, and exploded with the aforementioned absence in 2015. Once the 2016 season was over, I was older, therefore wiser, and was able to further reflect on fresher memories over the winter.

I realized frustration and excessive emotions behind the wheel lead to dumb moves. The biggest problem was probably making aggressive moves at the wrong time, due to impatience and copious eagerness to charge up front. Those were probably the toughest to deal with (impatience mostly), as I was so used to starting top six in go karts and only having to worry about battling Mike Christopher Jr. on those Monday nights. In cars, competition is a lot tougher, and it simply comes down to the fact that you can’t win every single week, even if you have a winning car.

Another problem would probably have to be the haters, in all honesty. With a last name like Fearn in the northeast, you’re pretty much hated from the start. Arguably, some could say it’s for good reason, as Fearn Motorsports is the co-author of the Stafford rule book.

Big jokes aside, I had to learn that everyone has haters. Growing thicker skin to bounce the negative remarks is essential to racing. If you win a lot, emotions in the stands grow, whether they be of joy or disdain. At the end of the day though, who’s opinion matters more: Your team members, or Captain Keyboard developing carpel tunnel on Facebook? The negative comments used to bother me a bit, but now I can brush it off.

I guess the old saying rings true, “Haters gonna hate.”

However, I’m not the only member of Fearn Motorsports that has dealt with developing a strong mentality behind the wheel.

Teammate, cousin, and driving mentor Tom Fearn has been through some similar circumstances as well.

He once told me about his very first race, and how he hit pretty much everything but the pace car. Every panel on the car was dented when he finished the race. He seems to be a quicker learner than me, as he was able to deduce that remaining calm and driving the car within its limits was the best option after just that one event.

“It’s easier to not win and come back the next week with a better car than have to fix damage all week,” he told me, “It’s also better to lose one spot than the entire race.”

Considering the fact that I was so worried about proving myself early on, Tom even had wise words on the subject of winning to share.

“Winning is an art form, you need to learn how to win first. You can’t win every week either, because some weeks things just don’t go your way.”

He has earned multiple championships and countless wins at Riverside Park and Stafford Speedway driving Pro Stocks and Late Models, so one could say he knows what he’s talking about.

My sister Alexandra has had her own experiences with developing a strong racing mentality, but from a different perspective. The same theme of perseverance prevails, however. I figured some direct quotes from her would be excellent, so we had a small email conversation to get her story from her point of view.

It started in our first year of go karts, when she took a spooky and unintentional ride during practice.

“It sucked, simply put. I was 8 years old and it was my first time racing. I climbed the wall during practice and did a barrel roll. This definitely set the tone for my driving style and the rest of that season, I think. I was absolutely very cautious and very timid when I first started and this big accident just did not help.

“My dad got me this book over the off season after that accident called Speed Secrets, and I thought it was dumb but it actually had valuable information in it! One of the main points that I took away from the literature was that successful racers don’t always have the best car per say. Some of you might disagree but that’s fine. But, when you really think about it, I probably had a fairly decent set up in the gokart (my dad is very smart) so why wasn’t I winning every single week? I was not successful during my first year because of the mentality behind the wheel. Being successful is not just about how you set up the car every week, but your mentality and physical preparedness absolutely factors in. My whole point here is that I did want to win and I did want to be successful. But being in the wrong mindset while behind the wheel was definitely holding me back. I won the first three races in Tiger Sprint’s after that off season.”

From my own point of view, I can tell for sure that book had a major impact and was a fantastic guide in the right direction for her. She put the change into her own words:

“My mentality has changed. Full size stock cars is different from gokarts and the competition and attitude at the race track is different. Running weekly at Stafford requires a significant time commitment. We do 20+ races a year and we go straight through from April to October. I really appreciate everything that everyone does for me and I think that is important to realize I would be nothing without a hard working team. Thinking about the big picture while behind the wheel is something I can’t stress enough.

“It is also important to maintain patience and finesse behind the wheel at all times. It’s a shame if you put yourself in a position to have your day end early. I have been racing against some of my competitors for a long time, and I know how they race and I can use that to my advantage. Patience can give great rewards in some cases.

“On a slightly related note, I also feel that another important thing for drivers to remember is that everyone is watching all of the time, whether you like it or not. People read your Facebook, people read your interviews; and these same people will judge you. Some of these people who are watching may be your sponsors or your fellow competitors. Letting your emotions get the best of you, whether it is online or at the racetrack, can really damage your identity and certain things stick with people. Online or on pit road is not the place to tell the world how you feel about an on-track incident. And for anyone who says I have had my moments, yes, you are correct! I most certainly am not perfect and I will probably have more of my own moments in the future because that is how human nature is. But all of those moments are learning experiences and they are valuable.

“Overall, my mentality the last few years has shifted towards maintaining a positive identity on and off the race track as well as acting like an adult, not out of impulse. Respect gets respect and I’d personally rather finish races and have fun. Those two ideas are just some of the things I think about when behind the wheel.”

And because I personally love the quote Alexandra made in 2013 (many fans at the time did too), I asked her about remaining calm when “the field can’t keep it together for one lap,”

“That quote was during an interview after a turn one accident on lap one had me watching the race from pit road.

“I know how hard it is to keep your emotions in check and stay poised and calm after something like an on-track incident. I have a temper and I can be dramatic. Sometimes all you want to do is go over to someone else’s pit stall and tell them how it is, but what matters is what happens on the racetrack. Performing better on track than the guy who dumped you last week has no better feeling. I am also too poor to pay a fine or be sued, so that is definitely something. And getting suspended means watching the races from the grandstands or even worse, from the parking lot.

“To stay calm behind the wheel, again, I think about the big picture. Destroying your race car and spending all week fixing it (instead of making improvements) is not worth it if you just want that other guy to know how you feel. And again, patience is extremely rewarding. I also believe in tit for tat.”

Alexandra left the DARE Stock division as the winningest active driver in the division on her way to Limited Late Models.

As for myself, with all that has been said here, it’s been a long uphill battle, but we’re starting to come over the crest of the hill in the Safco Foam 92 Limited with King Ward Coach Lines and Whip’s Sporting Goods this season. Hopefully we don’t see any other hills on the other side of this one. The plan of keeping it in the building and remaining calm has paid off thus far.

Time to hop off the keyboard and get back to work for another win, maybe it’ll be Alexandra in victory lane this coming Friday.

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Comments

  1. Bob Npt. says:

    Great job, Ryan. You’re really getting your head together and maturing nicely. Thanks for the incite about Alexandra too.

  2. Congrats, Ryan and thank you again for your insight!

  3. In the way of of suggestion box a thought for Shawn.
    Who doesn’t love rooting for the women competing at Stafford. Alexandra Fearn, Nicole Chambrello and Cassandra Cole come to mind. We’ve had a nice article on Cassandra’s start in the SK’s that has enjoyed a few glimmers of promise. Nicole Chambrello has been a steady contributor in the Dare Stocks with notable success on occasion. Alexandra more often then not seems to get lost in all the Fearn’s, pun intended.
    Maybe it isn’t fair, I don’t know. But people root for the gals. On ladies night at Stafford women do show up with with purpose. I know that for a fact and I see them laser focused on the gals. More young women would be good for the sport and it would seem more exposure would be an idea worth considering if you haven’t already which you probably have but there it is anyway.Thanks Shawn.

  4. Sharpie Fan says:

    If you want to do an article about the real unsung females in the pits you could write about the female crew chiefs and crew members like Keith’s Aunt Sandra and Megan Surdell, or the female track officials like Kim and Julie who keep everything running.

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