Some people consider endurance racing a dangerous sport, but Marine Corps Capt. Brian Czech believes that a racing team can save lives.
Czech and Brian Fennell, a fellow Marine Corps veteran, are the co-founders of the nonprofit Battle-Scarred Sports, based in Slidell, Louisiana. The organization uses racing teams as tools to combat many of the problems today’s veterans face, including depression, homelessness, and suicide.
“The service we provide is a reset button for some, and for others, it can be a lifeline,” Fennell said.
“We are helping with the loneliness one can feel in a world that doesn’t understand us, bringing light to someone’s dark world, giving an adrenaline experience with a good memory to replace an adrenaline experience with a bad memory.”
Battle-Scarred Sports has two chapters and runs four cars on a variety of tracks in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Colorado. A typical weekend with the group allows participants to connect with those who have shared experiences in terms of service.
“It’s our collective life experiences that enable a bond to form almost instantaneously that sets us apart,” Czech said.
When Czech, Fennell, and their friends first raced, they didn’t envision something larger. Starting at the Carolina Motorsports Park under the name of “Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children Racing,” their first foray into racing was more an experiment to see if this is where they wanted to spend their time.
“When they showed up Thursday, they were quiet, reserved, and kept to themselves. But by Sunday, you couldn’t get them to shut up. They had completely changed,” Czech said.
Almost four years later, the program has grown and serves more than 340 veterans and first responders each year. By providing everything participants need to race — food for the weekend a place to stay at the track — the only thing left to do is show up and be ready to work.
Having the program open to first responders was important to Czech, who grew up with family members who served in a variety of public service roles. He says the common thread between the military and first responders is the selfless sacrifice they give to their communities.
Army veteran Layne Patterson found Battle-Scarred through a shared passion for racing. “I reached out to them in 2019, loaded up to go racing, and have never looked back,” he said.
“It’s been so fun much fun racing with these guys and actually making a direct positive impact on other veterans’ lives and my life personally. I get everything I could possibly need and so much more from these guys,” Patterson said.
After being laid off from his job, Patterson has moved from the racing team to working with Fennell in his repair shop. Patterson now attends aviation school and is still able to stay connected by working on projects with the team as time allows.
Fennell said that working with veterans over the years has created deep bonds among the participants of the program — so much so that they crew views each other as family.
“It was the family I knew would understand me as they have walked in my shoes as I’ve walked in theirs. This was the beginning of Battle-Scarred Motorsports,” Fennell said.
With a racing team of veterans focused on serving other veterans, there’s a lot of motivation to make sure the job is done well.
And it’s worked. Fennell shared that through their efforts, at least three lives have been saved, and countless others have found joy. That’s as good as it gets, he says.
If you, a veteran, or first responder you know are interested in racing, general car maintenance, or working as part of the pit crew, there is room for you on this team.
To learn more about the lives changed by Battle-Scarred Motorsports, or to get involved, visit their website.
You can find this story and more in our June issue of Military Families Magazine. Download it here.
Editor’s note: The print version of this article mistakenly identified Battle-Scarred Motorsports as a drag racing team. They are an endurance racing team.Read comments