By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
On a whim, Brandonbilt Motorsports’ Technical Director, Collin Fern, competed for 24 hours on iRacing to raise money for St. Jude.
While Keenan Kusan and Ian Plasch raised money for Extra Life and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by running the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona, Fern took a different approach. The Coastal Carolina University grad opted to run the most popular series on the motorsports simulation, Class C Fixed, while raising $1,068 for St. Jude.
‘C Fixed’ utilizes the virtual recreations of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series vehicles. With a fixed setup, Fern was on par with the various competitors throughout 18 races. In each race, the NASCAR Xfinity Series crew member drove a virtual No. 86 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado.
In total, 28 different donors participated in the charity event. Fern pledged that the participant that made the biggest donation, Mark Wright, would get two hot passes when it’s safe for fans to return to the garage area of NASCAR tracks.
The idea to stream for charity came after a conversation Fern had with John Booker and Timmy Pacchioli. However, the 24-year-old didn’t want to just make money by streaming on Twitch.
“I don’t really care to make money off of it,” explained Fern. “I’ll just stream because I enjoy (iRacing) and I’m very entertaining. Let’s just do something fun. Then I was at work one day and out general manager, David Clark, said he had made another donation to St. Jude. He explained to me what St. Jude does. I said, ‘let’s do that.’ So, we just decided on a whim on a Wednesday afternoon, that we were going to do a 24-hour charity stream.”
Although Fern didn’t reach out to others for advice, he was careful during his stream not to say anything controversial or inappropriate. After pitching to donate to St. Jude several times an hour and every caution flag, the donations began to roll in.
In total, Fern ran 18 C Fixed races, which take place every 15 minutes past the hour. Although that doesn’t add up to a full 24 hours, the new Twitch streamer intended to run all 24 truck races in a 24-hour period. However, a technical glitch for iRacing cut the racing down, delaying the virtual 24 Hours of Daytona, and other sessions from going live. Out of the 18 races that Fern competed in, he went to victory lane in four.
As a way of increasing donations, Fern offered different challenges, or incentives. With iRacing’s truck series at the legacy configuration of Texas Motor Speedway, the challenges made the racing interesting. Fern ran races without using the brakes, or without taking tires on the old worn racing surface.
“The no brakes challenge was actually easier than the no tire one,” Fern admitted. “I just had to slow the truck down with the motor and downshifting, which was a lot easier than I anticipated.
“The only problem is, I wish I wouldn’t have qualified, I had the last pit box. I had 20 feet between my box and the exit of pit road. Then I could’ve had more room. First time down pit road I sped through, blew through the box, and had to come back and lost all of my track position.
“The no tire challenge really affected how I had to race. I had to go back saving and was about six seconds a lap off the pace, hope for a caution. Unfortunately, they never came. I finished 19th in the race with no tires and eighth in the race with no brakes.”
Prior to the 24-hour eNASCAR truck challenge that Fern took on, he didn’t own a webcam. With the whirlwind spur of the moment charity campaign, he didn’t get his streaming setup complete until after a run to Target after work the night he began.
The quick idea also meant that Fern didn’t train or prepare his body or mind for the 24-hour stream.
While the short breaks between truck races allowed him to catch his breath, it wasn’t until after the end of the 24-hour stream that Fern noticed how exhausted he was.
“I wouldn’t say I was drained, but I was definitely exhausted,” Fern stated. “It’s funny because when you start another race, you don’t notice it and get back into it. I was just racing and trying to win. I was racing like a ‘butthole,’ blocking all over the place; just wanted to have some fun and a good show for the viewers. It took me probably about an hour to wind down and really lay down and start going to sleep.
“I was definitely tired. You can tell that later into the stream that it was affecting me. My reaction time is what surprised me. I was throwing some bad blocks and getting wrecked. From what I’ve been told it wasn’t too bad, especially later in the stream because I was able to keep a lot of people involved.”
Moving forward, Fern plans to have more advertising and promotion for the next charity stream, whenever that may be. Whether it’s competing in official ‘C Fixed’ truck races like this first stream, or hosting a special event to benefit charity, all options are on the table.
Until then, Fern returns to his day job at Brandonbilt Motorsports, helping Brandon Brown prepare for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener.
Feature Photo Credit: Timmy Pacchioli, courtesy of Collin Fern / Brandonbilt Motorsports