Lea has since won multiple races as “Fastest Female”, including a first place title in the 2010 “Second Pistons vs. Rotors Race”. In March 2010, she was the money winner in the “Full Throttle Customs Bike Bash”. Her most recent appearance was July 23-24 in the Mirock Superbike Series at the Maryland International Raceway, and we caught up with her shortly afterwards for this interview.
Besides her health issues, Lea has faced and overcome major financial and personal challenges on her journey. The physical demands of racing, including constant training and practice, long road trips and preparation, would be enough for anyone in the best of health. For someone recovering from radical surgery and the effects of radiation and chemotherapy, it is positively miraculous that she’s able to compete with the best of her class. She takes pride in being a good role model for women of all ages, both on and off the raceway. Besides being a terror on the track, she is the mother of two, ages 13 and 20, and is also an active public speaker. Her website, leamartinezracing.homestead.com, is dedicated to reaching out to the public and soliciting donations on behalf of cancer patients who are in need. She explains “I’ve made it my mission to raise money and awareness for those out there dealing with the same or similar issues. I just want to be able to help, it may not be much but the little things sometimes mean the most.”
A common challenge among all racers is the ability to secure sponsorships for their ride in this economy. She has difficulty getting sponsors due to her age (she was 37 when she started racing 6 years ago) and her health status, and she has also found reluctance from some sponsors due to her gender as well. “It’s frustrating sometimes, because I work hard at what I do, but it also motivates me to just work that much harder at being the best I can be.” She acknowledges that being a breast cancer survivor has certain advantages too; “Some sponsors really respond to that since they know someone with cancer, and they see me out here doing this too…And I get a lot of encouragement from other women, they come up and cheer me on.”
The financial demands of racing can also be draining; “This is an expensive sport, especially when your bike breaks down!” she says. During her most recent appearance at the Mirock Superbike Series in July, her current ride broke down completely, requiring a new engine and other repairs. Fortunately, with the help of sponsor and mentor/friend Larry “Spiderman” McBride and friend Johnell Daye, she’s been able to score free parts and repairs from several manufacturers.
For women who are thinking about making the transition from street riding to the track, Lea has some words of wisdom. “I really like the “Ride Like A Pro” training programs, you can learn a lot and the right way to do stuff.” She suggests attending a good racing school and recommends Rickey Gadson’s Drag Racer School in New Jersey. It’s also important to go to lots of races and talk to different racers and their teams for advice. “Just show up–the racers are like a family, a community, and no one wants to see you get hurt, so ask for advice.” Also, getting some real experience on a track is vital before deciding to jump into the racing world; “Track conditions are very different from the street. The bikes are faster, and the paving is stickier than a regular street so the bike doesn’t respond the same way that it would on the street.” And of course, Lea stresses that proper safety gear, preparation and the right mental attitude are just as important to the sport as having a fast ride and a competitor’s spirit.
Lea’s next appearance will be Nov. 5-6 at the Mirock Superbike Series at the Rockingham Dragway in NC. It’s “simply astounding” at what Lea “Dreamcatcher” Martinez has been able to overcome and accomplish–she inspires us to keep catching those dreams and making them come true!