I’ve long fancied myself as a true student of dirt track racing. While living in the Northeast/Mid Atlantic it’s been my absolute pleasure to view the best short track racing in America…or so my naivety had led me to believe before this year. Thanks to the modern miracle of social media, dirt track racing fans have had greater exposure to cars, tracks, and drivers that would otherwise have gone wholly unnoticed. For this jaded racing reporter, I’ve been missing out on one of the most storied tracks in all of the Sun Belt, and it’s become my mission to learn more about it. For this story I was compelled to set my sights on The Volunteer State, and investigate a place where the racing is pure, the cell phones are banned, and where the Corona Virus is just another way to pack the grandstands.
Deep in the Great Smoky Mountains of rural Tennessee sits a humble self-proclaimed 2/8ths mile dirt/clay/rock/snow surfaced speedway known to its faithful fans as Weaber Valley Speedway, “Anmericas Dirt Track.” Truly, the facility “Where Racers Come to Race At” has exploded in popularity in 2020. It’s weekend long race schedules featuring race classes including the: 4 cylinder Bang Bangers, Stock Stockers, Junker Yards, youth Power-Wheels, and the fan favorite dick measuring contests that consistently pack fans into the relatively difficult to spectate facility. While video equipment is strictly prohibited by track management, the yarns, anecdotes, and tall tales keep the year-round race track on the lips of the dirt track racing public. Alongside the track’s noted popularity, some of its finest competitors have achieved near celebrity status as well. Over the last few weeks my inbox has been BOMBARDED with messages wanting to know more about the Weaber Valley’s native son.
No driver is talked about more among Weaber Valley’s fanbase than Gauge Martinez. The Monterey Missle has already clinched the 2020 Bang Banger point championship, and his classic white number 69 Pinto is the idol of every race fan of every age that’s had the pleasure of taking in one of his races. Still, despite this near universal adoration, Martinez has never given an interview, and save for some minor speaking engagements at Tennessee Valley area youth hostels, has been known as a general recluse. After a strong campaign of letter writing, text messages with his ex-step mother, and Dick Cheney style form letters, TehBen.com was finally able to make contact. Let’s learn a little more about this 5th generation welder and his racing aspirations for 2021 and beyond.
TehBen.com has received countless tips and asks for an interview with Gauge Martinez. Why have you been so hard to track down?
Well nobody has messaged me to try to track me down until now so I guess that’s why. Otherwise I’ve just been really busy with everything blowing up or me the past couple months and it’s been hard to keep up.
There have been a few jokesters trying to convince us you’re not a real racecar driver. Sure there’s minimal video evidence of a Gauge Martinez race…but what do you have to say to those doubters?
Weabers doesn’t allow videoing of the races but if you have a Bang Banger IV subscription you can watch me there. There is also a video of my first sport mod race at a track in Texas from a few months ago online. I think I shared it to my page a while back. I ended up winning my heat race so that was a big moment for me.
Weaber Valley prides itself as the greatest dirt track in the United States, how much of that claim has to do with Gauge Martinez?
I’m not sure but I am blown away by how popular it has gotten. There are tons of great drivers there and most don’t get the recognition they deserve. I do feel like I’m sort of the face of the track though, so I need to be a good representative and stay humble. Dale said I was born at the track, but I don’t ask about my birth much. I have little interest in how I was conceived.
Tell me about your car. What makes the pinto the preferred machine?
Originally it was due to how cheap it was. Our welding shop was just getting going and my dad and I wanted to do something bigger with racing and we saw that car cheap on LSN and decided to buy it. After a while I started winning races and we were happy with the performance so we bought a couple more as backups. Right now my teammate Daniel Dye drives one of them and he has been having a lot of success, too.
Funding Weaber Valley’s most successful Bang Banger must be a tough task. How do you raise the money to keep the pinto in top shape?
Just winning races, public appearances and things like that. I give speeches sometimes and just trying to keep awareness up. We don’t have a lot of money but we work hard to get to the track week in and week out. I’m blown away by how many people have been buying my T-Shirts as well and that’s a little extra money I can use to help our car get faster.
We’ve investigated some race track romances before. What are the…romantic prospects like for someone like you? Is there a Mrs. Martinez?
I have got so many women offers to be with me now. Monte is trying to push this thing with my ex step mother Tina, but I would say I’m mostly single. We do spend time together but I consider her as more of a manager type in a way and she is also helping me write these responses so she has been very helpful with my career. Pit lizards come up to me all the time but I try to ignore them. I feel like if I start showing interest I will lose my focus on racing. We have a No Lizard sign up by my pit but that just seems to attract them even more. Luckily Tina and the crew at Weabers helps keep them in check cause they know I don’t wanna mess with that.
Weaber Valley is planning to run the Chili Bowl this year, do you plan to race that event?
Oh for sure. I actually landed a pretty big sponsor for that race and some others coming up that will hopefully be announced soon. I don’t know a lot about the race but if some of the names WeaberValley says is signed up truly are then it will be crazy.
Bang Banger racing might get all the headlines, money, and women…but do you have any aspirations beyond that? What’s your ultimate racing goal?
My ultimate goal was probably Sport Mods. I finally got to race one of those and now I am racing one again for this huge race in South Texas Speedway. From there I don’t have many goals other than just to keep getting better and being a good role model for the fans and kids. I’d like to try to race a Late Model one day but we’ll see what happens.
What’s the future like for you and/or Weaber Valley Speedway? What can we expect going into 2021?
I plan to continue to race at Weaber Valley. They have been the biggest reason for my climb in popularity and it would be wrong for me to abandon them. I know some people are mad that I’m racing in Texas this weekend but that’s just my hometown and trying something new out since we have the Championship locked up at Weaber Valley, but I will always have my main focus at Weaber. As for WVS it will probably be more of the same. A poorly prepared race track and races that don’t end until sunrise and nothing but fights and alcohol all night. So all in all it will continue to be very successful.
Finally, what’s the best way to support your racing career, where can we direct diehard fans to give your team the most help?
Good question, I’m not really sure other than continuing to buy Gauge Martinez shirts and Weaber Valley merchandise. All that helps some and I get a cut of it. We are trying to put out quality stuff that people would want to wear to support the track and myself and it will be really cool seeing WVS and Gauge Martinez shirts at the races next year. If someone just wants to show support by sending money, they could do it at paypal.me/weabervalley. Even a dollar or two goes a long way. We are sold out of most of my shirts until the week of December 7 because I never expected so many people to buy them. I’m grateful for the support and it’s crazy how many people follow me and the track from all around the world, not just in Tennessee.