Diary Of A Racer Kid: Intelligence

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.

Well we got another one out for this week after the past couple have been rough. We’ll get back into the saddle here as we are in the 92 Limited Late Model.

Over the last two events, I’ve (finally) learned the most important things I’ll ever learn in racing. One, don’t make the same mistake twice. Two, I’ve underestimated the increased depth of competitive intelligence in stock cars as compared to karts.

Everyone you race against is different. Every car you race or race against is different. Every week, everyone and everyone’s car is different. Don’t get me started on how every season is different, there’s too many variables: people, cars, weather/climate patterns, and everything else playing its part. It all sounds so simple, but it’s easy to have it slip your mind because of how obvious it is.

Assuming you have a top notch car every single week, you’re going to be door to door with most if not all of your competitors every week. Just because Dick Trickle races you this way doesn’t mean Mark Martin is going to race you the same way. Just because Mark Martin races you his way doesn’t mean he’s going to race Dick Trickle the same way either. Maybe he hates you but thinks Trickle is an alright guy, for example, and maybe Dick Trickle is just the nice guy on the track looking for a good race. Because of this, you too must be dynamic in your racing.

In this hypothetical universe, where Dick Trickle is the nice guy racer and Mark Martin would like to see your car for sale, would you race the both of them the same way? The logical answer is a big fat no.

Let’s say you’re looking to pass Martin and he’s blocking like a hater on Facebook. Normally, when you’re racing nice guy Dick Trickle, you’ll set him up for a pass like normal and carry on from there. However, this set up you use on him isn’t working on Mark’s chicken line.

“Well gee, Ryan, isn’t Einstein’s definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?”

Well set my air pressure and call me a tire, you’re gosh darn right! But heck, you have to get around this rolling roadblock one way or another. Speaking of physics, we can derive from that branch of science that we can’t drive through Mark Martin like a ghost, so that’s out of the question.

“But he’s blocking the entire inside line around the whole track!”

And you know what’s open? The outside. When someone is “floundering”, as I like to call it, there’s parts on the track where they suffer and can be easily capitalized with the right moves. Besides, there aren’t many other places you can go to get around them when they’re glued to the inside longer than the cable company keeps you on hold.

But hey, that’s just one made up example of how you need to change your racing based on the situation. Sometimes the main factor of decision making is how someone’s car is handling or what’s happening with multiple competitors ahead of you. It’s akin to poker (or Magic The Gathering, if that’s more your thing), where you need to play your cards right.

SK Modified legend and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division One Champion Keith Rocco was kind enough to share his words of wisdom regarding racing smarts. I took down some quick notes from a recent phone call, some including knowledge from beyond the driver’s seat and the track itself. (Side note: This part isn’t quoted because I don’t like to approximate someone else’s words with quotes, so do bear with me here.)

He said the track always changes throughout the season, albeit kind of predictable; there seems to be three stages of how it handles. Furthermore, staying organized and on top of the car in the shop is a big part of staying successful. Notes, maintenance, and checking parts regularly are key.

As far as on the track in shorter races, Rocco also said that can’t really change your main plan mid-race. Things happen so fast on the track that the best you can do is work with your spotter and take it one pass at a time and pay attention to your surroundings.

However, there are times where your spotter can’t help you. Keith likes to look a few rows ahead rather than at his air filter for maximum awareness. As said before, things happen so fast that you need to keep your eyes peeled for trouble. We all might be proud of the shine we can get out of that filter cover, but what’s more important is keeping the car in one piece.

The big thing here for myself is that it’s a lot clearer to see these sorts of things now, and that mental skill is going to be what takes my racing to the next level. Even if it was made out to be something (hopefully) a bit humorous in this article, it’s no joke that it’s a fundamental part of being successful and avoiding trouble.


  1. Fast Eddie says

    These articles continue to increase my suspicions that this “kid” is really much older than 18! GREAT STUFF RYAN!

  2. Always interesting and informative. Love the analogies. Keep up the good work

  3. OK Bob has checked in with his regular great job young fella so I’ll take the opposing view.
    Agreed the writing is impressive for a recent High School graduate. The disparate focus of the articles including thoughts on video games, mentality, social media and colorful analogies seem very typical considering the age. Generally entertaining but wildly meandering and not really the inside scoop from an actual driver. More like the observations of peripheral issues that drivers think of from time to time. Clearly within the scope of the series mission but disappointing in my view that I recognize is not popular.
    So what’s going on in Fearn Motorsports? In the Late Models the accomplished old man of the team moves into second place in the feature and is licking his chops ready to gobble up young Arute and then experiences a monster fade finishing 10th. Alexandra after experiencing a series of racing woes gets an impressive victory lane third place finish and may have turned a corner. Our hero, young Ryan having experienced the unfettered joy of a win with an unauthorized fence climb, then descending into the monotony of some abysmal finishes comes in 4th just behind his sister and may have turned a corner as well.
    Clearly we all appreciate the colorful imagery and wisdom of looking past an air cleaner to half a track ahead. Arguably a greater challenge might be to write about the endless hours spent with the car on the scales changing and checking spring rate fluctuations on weight distribution and how that may manifest itself on the track. Race night spring, jacking bolt, tire stagger, toe out and camber adjustments. Practice, making adjustments, practicing again, checking times. Anticipation, excitement, tedium all on the agenda. Paying attention to the smallest details even though they are simply boring but looming as keys to failure if you let them slide. Getting your starting spot in the heat. Inside, outside, good bad? Who is in front and in back and what does it mean. The tedium of waiting and waiting then the the adrenaline pumping anticipation of the feature.
    Whoa, I’m getting excited just writing about it. Good luck tomorrow night. We’ll be watching.
    May the down force be with you.

  4. Original Barry says

    This column gets better and better with every new release. Thanks!

  5. Ryan Fearn says

    Thanks for the criticisms and positive feedback to all of you guys.

    I generally find it hard to talk about the inner workings of the team simply because I don’t like giving any information out, and thus prefer to talk about subjects that people may not think about or ones that I’ve been focusing on, as per the title Diary of a Racer Kid. It only seems fitting to go with what I’ve been thinking about, as if the column is a legitimate diary entry.

    I think the more invested race fan will usually be thinking about setups, as many fans would love to be turning wrenches on their favorite driver’s car, but a lot of folks seem to miss that there’s more to racing than setting air pressures and adjusting jacking bolts. Because of that, I’ve recently been defaulting to the subjects I’ve gone over.

    Of course, that isn’t to say I’ll never write about what we do at the shop or when working on the car. Those subjects will probably be written out best in the winter months, where we go through the entire fleet of vehicles and focus solely on said work, rather than having a race to look forward to on every Friday (praying that the precipitation stays away) in addition to the weekly work.

    Stay tuned.

  6. More to racing then tire pressures and jacking bolts. Never thought I’d hear a competitor say that.
    Good point. It’s a diary not a how to. And this is a comment section and if someone cares to take the time to sew seeds that may or may not grow what’s the harm in that.
    The seeds I try to sew are more aimed at encouraging any active racer to help inform younger aspirants that think they may have a hankering to try this racing deal. Perhaps giving them insight into the complexity and technical aspects of racing. And to assure them that even if they spend no time in victory lane they may indeed take more out of the experience then they put in with regard to technical knowledge, discipline and trade craft.
    Most people that race aren’t Christophers or Fearns. They’re in for a number of years then out to go abut their lives as I. What I would tell those wanna bees is that while the work is hard, complex and expensive they may come away with knowledge that justifies the sacrifice. In my case it was mechanical knowledge for sure. But more importantly welding and metal fabrication skills that have provided a lifetime of satisfaction and creativity from car restorations to building metal furniture. Right now I’m replacing a rear clip……. on my rusty old Sonoma plow truck. To attack the high banks…….of snow this winter. All compliments of a monumentally unsuccessful time racing at Stafford and Riverside.
    More to racing then the technical. You betcha. But groundbreaking shows like American Chopper and the hundreds of thousands on youtube videos prove at the very least people hunger for knowledge on wrenching. Seeds that may not grow but nonetheless are worth planting and may grow even in winter. What’s the harm in that?
    Fingers crossed you and Alexandra have something for Narducci tonight.

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