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A purpose-driven team
Courage Girls Motorsports races for cure
BARSTOW • Martee Burke has many things keeping her busy these days and has fingers in many pies. Along with her two jobs and interests like hiking, hunting and fishing, there’s a hobby that has taken up increasingly more of her time over the years and is progressing into a way of life.
Burke has strong roots in the area, and has an attachment to the desert, saying “I’m not ashamed to say I grew up in Barstow.” Her job transferred her to Las Vegas in 1998, but she returned six years later, and has been back home ever since.
“Family, small town, and friends,” said Burke about why she came back.
There was also her increasing interest in off-road racing. It started as an offshoot of her love of photography, evolved into her getting behind the wheel herself, and led to her current intention of getting her own car and driving fulltime.
These days Burke holds down a couple of jobs, working the front desk at the local Midas Auto Repair shop, and selling Mary Kay cosmetics. That’s to pay the everyday bills and to finance Burke’s ever-expanding racing needs.
There’s been an evolution of the hobby, bringing it to what it is today. The story goes all the way back to 1990, when her husband Mark taught her to ride dirtbikes. As for branching out into car racing, Burke is a longtime photographer, and she started in racing by shooting it.
“I shot off-road racing, but I always wanted to be on the track,” she says. “Once I was given the opportunity to drive, I knew in the driver’s seat was where I wanted to be.”
That was seven years ago, and Burke’s interest in racing has only grown. After driving her first Class 2/1600 off-road race car in the heat of the California summer, she knew, as she said, “the camera would go back in the bag.”
The new-found obsession with racing, however, is just part of the story. The other key ingredient in Burke’s story is fundraising, specifically raising money for breast cancer research.
Toward that end, Burke and three fellow drivers have formed Courage Girl Motorsports, and raise money by competing in events in California and Nevada. This year they’ll once again take part in the seventh annual M.O.R.E. (Mojave Off-Road Racing Enthusiasts) Powder Puff Race for the Cure on Oct. 6, just outside of Barstow off the I15 Freeway. It’s a women-only race that in the past six years has featured over 766 entrants, and collected over $620,000 for breast cancer research.
The Courage Girl team will display its charitable cause for all to see on race day. The truck that the team drives, named Saving Grace, is adorned with the names of breast cancer survivors, previvors and angels, and the team members have their own stories to tell. Michele Martineau is a ‘previvor’ in her third year of surgeries. She has developed education and support for other women facing reconstruction by launching The Courage Project, a non-profit foundation that helps women fight breast cancer, recover from loss, and reshape their lives.
“The Powder Puff Race was an idea my friend Jennifer Clemison and another female racer had. They raced all year with the M.O.R.E. Series and wanted to give the women that were behind the scenes an opportunity to experience what it’s all about and to make it a fundraising event,” said Burke. “They approached Jim Clemens, the owner of M.O.R.E., and the three of them came up with the Powder Puff Race for the Cure, with the proceeds benefitting breast cancer, and made the connection to Cedars-Sinai. I'm sure they chose breast cancer because it would be women racing.”
Burke was Clemison’s official photographer at the time.
“Jennifer wanted to give back to her sponsors, so after each lap she changed co-drivers and I was able to co-drive,” said Burke. “This was the first time I was in a race, and I was hooked.”
Burke has been a part of Powder Puff ever since. She’s come to enjoy it just as much for the camaraderie as for the racing.
“I’ve made a lot of friends from the Powder Puff Race. We all have a common bond, racing toward a cure for a terrible disease that 99 percent of us know someone who's either fighting, survived, previved, or died from,” Burke said. “We may not talk to one another all year long, but come Powder Puff time we all pick up where we left off last year.”
There’s more information on Courage Girls Motorsports at the Website, www.teamcourageracing.com. For more about the upcoming Powder Puff race, go to www.moreracing.net.
The desert is a particularly popular locale for off-road racing. There were seven races scheduled by M.O.R.E. for this year, five of them in Barstow. The last two scheduled - for Oct. 6 and Dec. 1 - will both take place in town.
While Burke is currently gearing up for the big race, she’s also taking the longview.
“Right now I’m looking to get a sponsor and race fulltime for breast cancer,” says Burke. “I love the team; it’s purpose-driven, but we also get to race.”
Racing isn’t the only thing on Burke’s mind these days. With Halloween coming up, she’s also turned her attention to more seasonal activities. On Oct. 20 and 27, she and her husband Mark will be staging The Dead Wedding at Calico, as part of the Calico Ghost Haunt. Martee and Mark will ‘rise from the dead’ to renew their vows in a show featuring lights, smoke, fire and a sound system.
The alive and undead are welcome to attend.