Diary Of A Racer Kid: Okay, Magic Conch

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’ll start this one off with a quick recap and update on last week’s events, as well as covering what some of the comments said.

We ended up chopping the rear clip off and replacing it. Normally, Joe Hamm of Hamm’s Welding does amazing chassis work for us, but we decided to simply copy his work on the 12 car ourselves. He did provide some square 2×3 tubing when everywhere else was closed however, so Fearn Motorsports sends a big shout-out to him.

I’m not a welder, but with my father – Stu Fearn – running Safco Foam basically 24 hours a day, and a lot of the race team having their own careers, it’s tough to get all that fabrication done. So, there I was, praying to the welding gods that I don’t somehow break Tom Fearn’s welder while trying to learn the trade on critical racecar components. Thankfully, Papa Fearn was able to help me out a bit, as well as apply some “fat dime stacks” and “sick penetration” of his own, as the welding kids say … I think.

I also read every comment, and I just want to thank everyone that read last week’s column and provided feedback. Top quality content is all I’d like to produce for the fans, and every single response will help raise the bar.

Speaking of that, a couple folks by the names of “Racer 28” and “Jason” were asking for pictures to spice up these columns. Sounds like a great idea to me! The fans ask, and the fans shall receive. Of course, Fearn Motorsports will be taking all their secrets to the grave, as would any other race team, but there’s still a bunch of cool stuff to show, like this stuff.

Robert Bagot even came down to the shop on the Thursday before publication to assist in the rebuild, as well as film some action shots of his own. Another big shout-out to him as well, he’s a heck of a body man.

Anyway, there’s still a lot to talk about despite the recent weather patterns, so let’s get right into it.

There have now been a total of five rainouts this season at Stafford. I believe that’s five too many. When I get the news about the festivities being canceled due to an unrelenting Mother Nature, I always feel exactly like this and cry myself to sleep.

And as Squidward says, “We can’t just sit here and do nothing!”

We take immense pride in our work and work ethic at Fearn Motorsports. The work doesn’t stop just because the rain has started. We’re busy thinking of ways to hide the traction control, mount twin turbos, install nitrous, make an SK tranny look like a Limited one, all sorts of tomfoolery to create more Fearn Rules™ (which could potentially be covered at a later date, those are some fun stories from back in the day).

Those were jokes of course, but I’m sure you still get the point. We try to stay on top of our game while raising the bar, essentially climbing the ladder of success. Sure, at times we get knocked down a few rungs, but there’s no point in giving up on the journey. That’s even despite the rainy blues we all as a community have experienced this season.

While we do get some positives out of it, of course there are downsides as well. My sister Alexandra and I, being rookies in the Limiteds, are looking for as much seat time as possible to perfect our skills. With Fridays and rain storms in a rather close relationship, it’s difficult to fully grasp the fundamentals and fine details behind the wheel. Longer breaks between the few track days we’re left with isn’t so productive.

Yes, there are racing simulators out there (most of you may know of iRacing and its inclusion of Stafford Speedway), but the problem is, you only get so much of the experience. Ask a friend who has tried before, they’ll all give an answer similar to this: ‘It’s just not the same.’

As expected, racing simulators only go so far, even with a highly sophisticated rig. Such rigs may include hydraulic racing seats, enthusiast grade controls (steering wheel, pedals, shifter, even dashboard instruments such as tachometers), multi-monitor surround view, and a custom built machine to run the simulator program with the highest quality. Yet still, nearly all of the feeling of the car is isolated in the steering wheel.

The main thing missing from these learning resources is simple: gravitational forces.

We’ve all taken that one sharp corner in town a little too fast. Your body gets pulled to the side, you feel the strain put onto the tires, your hands grip the steering wheel like Hulk hands, your left foot enters the stage down at the pedals, and you do a small prayer that the thing sticks and that there’s no cops to see you doing fifteen plus over the limit. Say bye to that tire money if you get caught.

That’s what’s missing from racing sims, and by The Nine (bonus points to whoever gets the video game reference), it’s my favorite thing about driving cars. Feeling every detail of the road and becoming one with the car is truly an amazing experience, one I consistently relish over.

The only theory I’ve thought about for simulating this feeling is with one of these crazy NASA contraptions. Just imagine the cost to own and operate one of these things, let alone adding a vertical axis to simulate elevation change and all the space you need. It genuinely upsets me a little that I have zero chance of ever putting the theory to the test, as I am the kind of person to try making crazy and/or arbitrary ideas reality.

But, I guess we’ll just have to settle for some good old desk-mounted computer chair driving for now. At least we can get our eyes, hands, and feet in line to a certain degree.

Fearn Motorsports is really hoping we’ll have clear skies next Friday. We and the many other fantastic drivers at Stafford want to get some more racing in for the fans. See you guys at the track, and stay glued to RaceDayCT this week for the latest regional racing news.

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Comments

  1. Great stuff, I hope these diary posts continue! The photos add a nice touch. For the record, the Fearn fam leads “most entertaining” for SMS Snapchat takeovers. Keep at it!

  2. What’s good for short track racing? Especially at Stafford my favorite track for 36 years and the one I built cars and raced on briefly with monumentally little success . Limited Late Models thriving a few years ago now struggling with car counts of 13 cars. Is it Barry Fluckiger building cars for the twins and Fearn Motorsports the wonderfully unique brother sister combo what the sport needs. How do you get a better story with two sets of siblings racing and competing in the same division. The problem is there aren’t enough cars around them and the question is why.
    Prepackaged engines from RAD, transmissions from Magnus and plastic body skin held in place by fragile struts projecting out from the frame. The money, knowledge and fortitude to put it all together, make it get around the corners and compete. Not much different from the SK Lights. So what’s the problem? Why are so many interested in the modifieds with the full bodied cars struggling at least locally anyway? I just don’t know.

  3. Doug, the problems with the fendered car divisions at Stafford has been the track’s inability to control rules and regulations. The cost to compete with these evolving cars has caused many to sell or be left with useless cars. Now that the division counts are so low nobody is going to invest in a LM or LLM because they’re worried about a division being ditched, combined, or a ACT style car coming into place.

  4. Thanks rider. Cost is relative I suppose cause if you were concerned about cost you would get out of racing ASAP but I take your point. I don’t know how relevant it is but I have noted the 25% of the LLM field are cars from Barry Fluckeger and the Fearns. And young Ryan whom has been kind enough to give us some insight into the inner workings of their operation and quite skillfully I would say, spent a considerable time musing about racing simulators. Interesting in that of all the challenges to fielding a car in any division which in long, complicated and expensive. To have the luxury of considering the value of a racing simulator to bridge the loss of hot lap time caused by rain outs is an insight I never would have expected.

  5. I guess using the term “investment” when referring to racing doesn’t work well. LOL. But when the track makes constant and unpredictable rule changes to a division that is working just fine then race teams get fed up with it and decide to ditch. I suppose Barry Fluckenger and the Fearns are just exceptions, I’m not sure. I’m enjoying Ryan’s insight though and his humor. Hopefully this is a weekly write up.

  6. Bob Npt. says:

    A first class operation for sure. Ryan, with all you have going on, I don’t know when you have time to write these fantastic articles with pictures and videos no less. Amazing! Hope you can it up.

  7. Seems like you know something specific Rider but don’t want to be specific. If the two shops I mentioned are doing well that’s fine but that’s not the issue. Car counts is the issue. More guys viewing the LLM as an entry level division that rarely happens. Guys that don’t need professionals with decades of experience to put a basic car together and race it and have a reasonable chance of success. If you know something specific it sure would be nice to hear about it.

  8. Bob Npt. says:

    O.k. guys. Let’s not get too confrontational on this. This column is written by a young man who is trying to share with us what’s it’s like to be a young racer involved with his family and the efforts it takes to be prepared to race competitively each week. He’s giving us an inside look at what happens behind the scenes where the real work is done week in and week out. Let’s leave all the speculations and rumors for another column, and just enjoy what Ryan’s sharing with us.

  9. Bob Npt. – Good point and I’m sorry to get off topic.. Especially with my negativity. This thread should praise Ryan and the Fearns for taking the time to create these insightful diaries.
    Doug- I can save specifics for another thread. All I wanted to point out is that over the last maybe 8? years the 2 fendered divisions saw huge rule changes. My opinion is that most changes weren’t necessary and led many competitors with cars sitting in garages because they couldn’t afford the updates.

  10. The reason for comment sections is to allow people the opportunity to weigh in on the topics that are included in the articles. If it’s relevant, respectful and seems to be well considered no one should take umbradge at that. Moreover what never goes over well when people are being respectful is being lectured to about proper conduct.
    12 Late Models and 13 LLM is relevant. I at least would like to hear any ones thoughts that may pertain to the anything that affects car counts or anything that could improve car counts. My view is that Late Models are overpowered and under tired and can no longer deliver competitive racing. Alternatively I’m baffled why the LLM don’t have more people joining their ranks since even with limited cars have provided some first rate competition.
    The reviews are in and overwhelmingly positive on Ryans new series of articles. If it makes anyone uncomfortable seeing anything else other then unfettered gratitude simply don’t read the comments. Get a thank you card, send it to the shop.

  11. Ryan Fearn says:

    Howdy folks

    I’m actually enjoying this discussion going on, it’s alright if it gets a bit heated, because that just means it’s something most of us in the community care about. As long as no one gets bent out of shape over it, then we’re fine. Stay respectful and open minded. Worst case, agree to disagree.

    Of course, we don’t own the race tracks, so what we say, realistically, has a small chance of causing an impact. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to discuss, however.

    With rule changes, I frankly think that it’s just part of racing. There’s rule changes in every sport, especially in a situation like this where it’s man vs. machine, and the technology of the cars are ever evolving. Looking back at Late Model and Pro Stock videos from the 80s (check out KGM Video on YouTube if you haven’t), we can see that Dare Stocks are much like the older Late Models, and Pro Stock lives on as the current Late Models at Stafford (despite the body kit and a couple other details). That took many changes to the “Track Bible”, if you will, and here we are still going at it every week. I know I’m not going to give up on racing just because I don’t like the rules. If that were the case, I’d own and operate my own race track.

    On the other hand, as far as racing simulators go, it honestly isn’t too bad. I get some pocket change from competitive video game commentating via paypal to keep up with the iRacing subscription, saved my pennies for a G27 wheel about 5 years ago (which I believe are discontinued or something, as there’s only one left on amazon for 5x the price), and devoted an entire Christmas list to computer parts some years ago as well. You don’t even need a custom system, as it all comes down to what level of graphics settings you’d like to run smoothly. I used to torture the old family laptop instead. Thankfully because of this new computer, I can run other, more hardware intensive simulator-grade programs for an even broader driving experience as well, which is pretty cool and keeps things fresh.

    Thanks again for reading everyone, so far the weekly structure of this column is going well and we hope to continue that way.

  12. OK so it appears it’s unanimous that the author as a young man of 18 is a fragile flower growing in the pit area that every one has agreed must be nourished for fear of causing irreversible damage. Yah, not buying that at all. Raised a couple boys, did a little racing and have abundant faith that the author can take incoming with the best of them.
    Not a welder huh. Watching as Papa Smurf lay down some fat dime stacks then meandering off to the subject of racing simulators which essentially are video games. Sounds like everyone living up to their stereotypes. I think you left a lot out of the story.
    Seems to me the priority would be to learn the single most important hand/eye skill to racing…….welding and metal fabrication. Copying the rear clip design sounds simple but is anything but. Cutting out the pre bent and damaged elements of the clip for reuse or to discard as the case may be. Integrating what was saved with the new rectangular tubing. Measuring, cutting and tacking it all up all before you can even think about laying stacks of dimes. Then after all that is done carefully integrating it with the race car. And still you have a long way to go not the least of which is securing the fuel cell, securing the body panels. And all the time you are doing this realizing what is being fabricated may well be called upon once again to keep a loved one safe after he or she is lifted, turned and backed into the wall fuel cell first. But what do I know I’m just a civilian playing captain key board.

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