Diary Of A Racer Kid: Rule Changes

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.

Huge congratulations to Ryan Preece, a big name in the Modified circuit here in the Northeast. Seeing a local driver make his way through the ranks and break through for the victory at Iowa this past weekend in the Xfinity Series is very exciting and provides massive motivation to guys like myself that seek improvement and success every single week in formats like the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

However, me still being the little man on the totem pole, I need to focus on the present instead of the future I dream of. What’s important at the moment is this new black flag rule we have at Stafford Speedway, effective as of last Friday, July 28th. This is all from memory, as I can’t find official documentation of the rule. My apologies if it’s incorrect, should any corrections be necessary they will be in an update on next week’s column.

The rule is similar to the three strikes in baseball. The first black flag (generally thrown out when someone causes a caution via avoidable contact) will put the offender to the rear of the field as well as on the race control “watch list”, if you will. The duration offenders stay on the list is three weeks.

The second black flag within the three week watch list time will result in a drive-through penalty, having the driver come through pit road under green. This also resets the three week watch list timer, no matter how long you’ve already been on the list. In other words, it’s like being taken off the list and immediately placed back on it with a fresh three weeks and two strikes instead of one.

The third black flag while a driver is on the list basically throws the offender to the wolves, leaving the reprimanding up to race control based on the severity of the actions. This could include any combination of fines, suspensions, permanent bans from the track, anything seen fit as punishment. No one really knows how far it can go, and I’m quite sure no one really wants to find out. Hopefully nobody goes down that road.

This past week with the new rule in effect, contact was actually pretty low, but will it stay that way in the future?

I think this rule should help curb excessive contact down the road. A lot of calls are really tough to make a decision on, and having something concrete like this helps drivers and spectators alike understand what exactly warrants such an implication. This will also mitigate the pressure on race control to make a call as it will be in plain black and white instead of through judgment. I’m no angel, I’ve had my moments where I didn’t want to touch another car, but simply because of my positioning, contact was made. Moves like that should be seen less often with this in place and will leave all the weekly competitors a little happier at the end of the night.

This rule change could also get into the whole spotters and mirrors discussion as well. I believe that would be a topic worth its own column, so let me know in the comments if you’d like to see it happen. As a precursor to that, however, I think there should be no mirrors and no spotters (at least in learning divisions) so people (including myself) will think twice before sticking their nose under someone’s quarter panel. Just because we have mirrors in the car doesn’t mean we’re always looking at them (and it only took me how long to figure this out?).

Of course, there’s the small chance that the rule will cause some discrepancies and conflict, should it be improperly enforced or even disregarded in some situations. As said though, it’s a small chance. Stafford Race Directors Scott Tapley and Tom Fox have a good track record of being fair when it comes to judgment of infractions. The difficulty of making calls, as mentioned before, is also pretty high. Taking that into account is worth it when pondering these new black flag guidelines.

We’re just going to have to see how it goes. It’s only been one event, but it so far looks promising. Race fans pay to see racing, not a real life Burnout 3 re-creation.

Hopefully this rule will even help discipline me, as one always succeeds more when they race clean. There’s a lot less to worry about both at the track and in the shop when your damage and tempers are low. I’ve had problems as a young and over-excited driver, and now is the time to grow into a mature and respectful racer.


  1. 6/2/17
    #92 Ltd. Late Model, Driver Ryan Fearn-
    Infraction- Contact with #28 car during feature.
    Penalty- Placed to the rear of the running order under caution.

    3 DARE Stock, Driver Ryan Fearn-
    Infraction- Unapproved tire usage during feature event.
    Penalty- Loss of one tire credit.

  2. I was having a bit of sport showing the authors recent penalties and it was all in good fun.
    Good article on the black flag situation. I tried to find anything anywhere on it starting with SMS and found zero so that perspective was actually breaking news.
    In the way of suggestions there are a few questions I would like to get inside information on if the occasion arises and the subject seems appropriate.
    – I would assume the the standard engine package for most teams is the GM 602 racing crate engine that must be obtained through an authorized SMS dealer such as FAB. Is the crate engine the engine of choice and if so why do so many drivers fall all over themselves to thank FAB or others for the “awesome horsepower” when in many cases they are not building the engines but more policing the system. If standardization of horsepower has been established for the most part does that put the ability to move to the front almost solely on handling?
    – in the old Street Stock days the top cars had Muncie 4 speeds and we poorer folks used Saginaws. 3rd gear for the green flag and 4th to race. Now it would appear to be competitive you need a Magnus transmission. What qualities do these transmissions have that make them so necessary and are they necessary to win? Also on the subject of transmissions looking back did the automatic transmission rules in the Dare division actually cause the cost to go up requiring specially altered more sophisticated automatic transmissions?
    – a few weeks ago Alexandra had her rear tires lifted off the ground causing her to turn and back into the wall. The rules state that the bumper height must be standard for the make and model for the car being driven . My take was that since most cars are the same make and model and front and back bumper heights are the same in spirit anyway it should never have happened. I thought the incident was alarming and my question is did tech ever address any concerns about it?
    – The frame for Dares and LLM must be stock but rear clips are allowed. Is this because frames are getting harder and harder to obtain or does it have more to do with other factors such as safely and properly housing the fuel cell.
    – one of the nice things about racing today is no more flag man tediously getting off the flag stand and resetting the field with a list in his hand. I assume the transponders required automatically score the race but how are you notified of your position on the restarts. Audio or digital. It all appears just so seamless and I was curious if errors are made the might anger a driver but clearly you would have no control over.
    -A couple weeks ago you win and last week you struggle showing to ability to move up in the field. Is that a function of the standardized engine rules and missing the setup or was there other factors afoot?

    Some questions too far in the weeds I suspect of some maybe just naive. Nonetheless questions and perhaps useful feedback for ideas on future articles.

  3. Stuart Fearn says

    I can answer many of these because many people will probably be interested in the behind the scenes stuff:
    The black flag stuff concerning on track contact was laid out at the drivers meeting Friday night, so very new fresh info.
    Every Limited Late Model, SK lite, and (i believe) winning Dare stocks are all crate motor powered. For the most part standard or they certainly should be. Still various tuning like timing and carburetor tweaking can make a difference so the teams have to be spot on with that and proper maintenance.
    Moving to the front is based on handling for sure, like 100%. Of course you need the driver to get the job done. A huge part that never gets mentioned is the tire rule. LLM get one tire credit a week so some cars have new tires and others have 3 week old tires no matter how much money you have in the budget. Huge difference in performance and grip.

    This post is already too long! LOL. Maybe I should hire Ryan to ghost write a “rules” column for me weekly….

  4. Stuart Fearn says

    For the transmission question, everyone I know runs a 3 speed saginaw, that is the standard. Automatics are expensive but so is the entire standard set up so it is what it is.
    Magnus moved to NC over the winter and the new top guy is Williams Race Gear who interestingly enough moved back from NC after working as gear expert for a cup team.

    Bumper heights are not standardized. Body dimensions are but not too strictly enforced since there is a lot of damage and so forth. The bumpers are at best indirectly positioned that way. The rear is always higher that the front and just look at the late model body and its a big wedge up front. When on the brakes the front goes down, rear goes up, and you can see how that works to lift the rear of the car up upon contact. That’s just the way it goes, that’s racing.

    Week to week performance is usually tires plain and simple.

  5. I have bunch of follow up questions but I’m guessing there are few tech geeks out there that seem interested in the inner workings on what teams put into their cars. I never would have suspected the Saginaw transmission was still in widespread use.
    Nonetheless I’d like to thank Stu Fearn for the inside the lines information he provided. Taking the time from his team and managing Safeco Foam. Icynene foam by the way my personal insulation favorite for not only R value but for the control of the single biggest loss of heating and cooling, air infiltration.
    I thought the responses were ground breaking for their candor. It’s tire freshness, “plain and simple”. Probably dumbed down for public consumption since plain and simple generally isn’t associated with anything in racing. Nonetheless good stuff and I hope this isn’t the end of tech talk.

  6. Great questions from Doug, and great answers from Stu. It’s nice to see the interest in LLM and LM’s Ryan’s column has generated. Great incite for the fans.

  7. I enjoyed both the questions and answers. Keep ’em coming!

  8. Fast Eddie says

    Great Q & A session! It was a great help to confirm some of my guesses to those questions, along with correct some of the others. Although I feel I have a decent general mechanical background and following racing for years, not having any direct race team connections and being “just a fan” leaves some of my theories exactly that; unconfirmed theories. The questions were great and the answers even better! Thanks!

  9. Stuart Fearn says

    I figured some people would like getting the inside iggy on the rules and workings etc.

    Thanks for the kind words guys

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