If you’re been to an AMA Arenacross this year, chances are good that Team Faith has reached you in one way or another. Whether you’ve cheered on one of their team racers or you’ve attended one of their weekend devotional sermons or Chapel services, it’s hard to miss the impact that Team Faith has on the series. A non-profit outreach ministry geared towards action sports, Team Faith has been a huge part of the sport for over 15 years, and their current racing efforts with Arenacross star Kevin Johnson have helped them become not only a leader in the pits but also a respected force on the track. We recently sat down with Brian O-Rourke, Team Faith’s founder and president, to chat about the current state of the team and the economy as well as the relationship between Faith and racing.Dirt Rider: It’s been an up-and-down year for Team Faith. Fill us in on 2010 up to this point.
Brian O: You know, we started out kind of rough, as I’m sure a lot of teams did. It’s been pretty challenging to raise support with the economy like it is, but thankfully the folks over at Fly are just really faithful to us. The owner, Craig Shoemaker, recognizes that we are doing more than just racing-that we’re bringing a church service to a lot of athletes, feeding and taking care of them on the weekends-so they came through to help us, which is tremendous. We’ve also got a new GNCC effort with Chuck LeMaster, our pit pastor, who won a UTV Championship. We came into the season with high hopes, as Kevin Johnson [Team Faith's main rider] was healthy, and we had some sweet new bikes from Yamaha. Everything was going great until just a few weekends ago in Texas.DR: What happened in Texas?
BO: Well, Kevin finished 5th in the San Antonio Arenacross, and then went over to Heath Voss’ house to practice on his Supercross track. They were riding together and Kevin got out of shape on a jump and crashed pretty hard, and unfortunately he cracked his C7 and hurt his insides. They initially said that nothing was wrong with him, but they finally came back and said that his kidney was lacerated, and that he had two broken ribs. However, they said that if you were going to break your neck, there’s no better way to do it than he did. There isn’t any permanent damage and he didn’t need surgery, so that was great. We’d like to just give all the praise to God for that, because so many people came together and prayed for Kevin. He knows it and he felt it. He’s going to be back out on the tour soon preaching and he’s going to make a full recover, so we are incredibly grateful.
DR: Someone who hasn’t been to an Arenacross before may not realize that Team Faith does a lot more than just race.
BO: Yeah, we’ve been on Arenacross now for ten years, and everywhere we go we preach a sermon. After the rider’s meeting we do a chapel service-usually Kevin does that-and then we have a dinner each weekend where we feed all the athletes and then do another church service. On any given race weekend, if it’s three days of racing we’ll get at least three services in. It’s really the church for a lot of these guys who don’t get a chance to go to church because they are traveling so much. A lot of the racers tithe to our ministry and help us out and support us, and we are there for them. Also, our Canadian race program at the Canadian Nationals has been blowing up. Between Arenacross, GNCC, Canada, Dew Tour and X Games and our own freestyle motocross team, we try to do as much as we can out there.DR: Team Faith really seems to embody the family aspect of the sport. How much of that element do you see in your exposure to racing?
BO: I see quite a bit of it, especially on the GNCC series where there are 1500 riders, and it’s nothing but families. These people are the most dedicated families I’ve ever seen! That was one of the main things that originally attracted me to the sport, is that people would literally give you the shirt off their back to help you. It’s awesome. In Arenacross, you see a lot of that-especially on amateur day-but they’ve opened the program up more so that 85ccs can race, and it’s great. That’s what it’s about.DR: You obviously know all of the top Arenacross racers and you’re close with all the top teams, not just your own. How has the economy impacted racing in general?
BO: I know that it’s been a struggle for a lot of the top teams to make decisions, especially to get their squads firmed up for the year. Sponsors are holding on until the last minute to make decisions because there are so many talented riders out there and only so many spots. As for the racers, I’ve seen a lot of them make the transition out of racing into the industry, and I think that’s a good move if they can find something. Both Tommy Hofmaster and Brock Sellards have recently made the move into industry-type jobs, and that’s a win-win because those guys can really sell some product due to their personalities, their reputations and the fact that they were riders.
DR: You’ve seen a lot of these “Bad Boy” teams pop up, but they never seem to stick around for more than a year or two. Team Faith has been at it almost two decades. What do you think has kept you guys going?
BO: It’s a labor of love! [laughs]. I’ll be honest with you, every year has been as challenging as the next. I think for us-and I can only speak for us-what keeps us going is that everyone on Team Faith is called by God to do this job. Our driver works for practically nothing, and our mechanics don’t get paid nearly what they should. In fact, we lost a mechanic this year to a team that could pay him what he’s worth. Our guys are so committed to the mission of Team Faith and reaching out to people who otherwise would not have an opportunity to go to church, and so are most of our sponsors. We have so many awesome people behind us, and I think they all realize that we are doing a lot more than just racing-that’s a minimal part of it. These teams that crop up today and are gone tomorrow have a tough time sustaining longevity because, I believe, they either need deep pockets, great results or a good reason to be out there doing it.DR: Within the industry, you see a lot of really devout Christians who are also huge enthusiasts of our sport, and a lot of them are really supportive of Team Faith’s mission. If one of your fans is called to help, what would be the best way that they could support Team Faith?
BO: One of the things that we’re criticized a little bit for by the institutional Church is that we don’t “pass the hat” at events. Last year was the first time that we actually had the congregation that we minister to make donations at the event, and we didn’t even do that-one of the parents of one of the GNCC riders we minister to picked up a hat and started trying to gather support for us. It blew us away! One of the things that we don’t want to be perceived as are people who are coming out here trying to get these guys’ money. That’s the last thing we want. Our approach has always been that we want to be supported by believers that agree with what we’re doing and recognize the fact that we’re helping the riders. We’re a non-profit ministry and we do take donations, and we rely on donations. The best way to support us is on www.teamfaith.com. We also do the Twitter thing and the Facebook thing, and there are all kinds of ways to help. We’ve been serving professional athletes for over 15 years faithfully because we believe in them and we recognize that they have an awesome opportunity to use their talents to glorify Jesus and influence kids. We don’t want anything hindering our ability to help these guys do that, and we definitely don’t want to be perceived as just another preacher with their hand out.DR: All of the riders on the Arenacross tour are a long, long way from home. How do you think that Team Faith can help provide solidity and support for these guys?
BO: Every year, we get veterans of the series who get a little closer to us and allow us a little more personable care, but it also works that the new crop coming into the sport are less traveled and they need our help just as much, if not more. We see lives changed through this ministry every year, and often. Now, with the addition of Kevin preaching full time at Arenacross, as well as road pastor Lary Dean from Extreme Life Ministries coming in to our rig to minister to us, it’s been a big thing. While everyone else is leaving the track after the race-whether they’re going back to their hotel or out to party or whatever-they pass by our rig and we’re singing worship at the top of our lungs, and we’ve had a ton of people who have joined us. We’ve got some great relationships with all of the riders, and we’ve had a lot of them who say that our sermons have really spoken to their hearts. But you know, everyone is at a different place in his or her walk, and we’re just trying to be there in any way that we can.DR: Do you see Team Faith continuing on the path of action sports ministry?
BO: From the very beginning, God showed me that sports like this-and there are more than just motocross-are a great way to spread the Word. Eventually, we’d like to see a pit pastor at every racing event we can hit, and even beyond that to more sporting events. However, our infrastructure is limited at the moment. We’ve got a lot of guys who are really behind our cause, but until we can build the administrative part of our ministry, we’ll be a little limited in who we can minister to.
DR: You mentioned that there are a lot of people behind Team Faith. Anything you’d like to say to them?
BO: I would love to extend a huge thank you to the people who support us. Again, I’ve got to thank Craig and Max at Western Power Sports and Fly Racing for everything that they do for our cause. Randy at Michelin Tires has been phenomenal, along with Bobby J’s Yamaha. Pilot Travel Centers came through big for us and has given us a chance to get our rig around, and we’ve also received a lot of help from Scott USA, Silkolene Lubricants, Vertex Pistons, Hot Cams, Hot Rods, Pivot Works, ENZO Suspension, Trinity Racing, Pro Circuit, RK Chains, Tag Metals, K&N Air Filters, Athena, UFO Plastic, DZ Graphics, EVS, EBC Brakes and SDG USA. All of these people have helped us so much, and I’d like to encourage anyone out there who’d like to support Team Faith to also support these companies who are behind us. We’ve had a lot of people get on various programs of ours and support us, and we sure do appreciate that. We have people donate money that we don’t even know who they are, and it chokes me up to think about what a big difference that makes to us. It’s more than they know, and it’s really encouraging. That’s what gives us the energy to keep going.