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Floyd County Sports

April 29, 2014

AUTO RACING: Bierman continuing family tradition

Senior races cars along with running, academics at FCHS

FLOYDS KNOBS — In the halls of Floyd Central High School, senior Jamie Bierman is known by students, teachers and administrators as a solid A and B student and a runner on the Highlanders’ girls’ track and cross country teams.

But what most of the FCHS contingent might not know about Bierman is her hidden passion.

That passion is auto racing.

Since her sophomore year, Bierman has been continuing her family’s motorsports tradition.

Bierman is in her third season of racing in the front-wheel drive oval division at the Sportsdrome Speedway in Clarksville. In addition, she is in her first full season running in the front-wheel drive oval class at the high-banked Salem Speedway. At Salem, Bierman is vying to win the Rookie of the Year award in her division.

Bierman inherited the racing gene from her father, Joe Bierman. The elder Bierman used to race street stocks at the Sportsdrome. Joe Bierman still races front-wheel drive oval cars from time to time.

“My dad, for sure, got me interested in racing,” said Jamie Bierman, whose uncles have raced in the past as well. “My dad raced when he was younger and he races off and on now when he’s not working on my car. My dad is the main one who helps me.”

Joe Bierman is not the only family member who gives Jamie lots of support in her racing ventures. Her mom Jana and her siblings — brothers Jaxon and Jadon and sister Jessie — cheer for Jamie at each of her races.

Jamie Bierman wanted to start racing when she was younger, particularly go-karts. But her dad was apprehensive about putting her in a go-kart at an early age and believed her daughter could wait in becoming a racer.

“I’ve always wanted to race since I was younger. I wanted to race go-karts,” Jamie said. “But my dad thought racing an actual car was a little bit safer than go-karts.”

Not only does the younger Bierman know how to race, but she knows how to get to Victory Lane, too. In 2013 at the Sportsdrome, she earned five feature victories and collected four or five checkered flags in heat races.

Salem Speedway general manager Richard Deaton, who has watched several standout drivers like Darrell Waltrip, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon race around his track for decades, has been impressed with Jamie’s skills behind the wheel. Deaton remembers her first front-wheel drive race at Salem last year.

“In Jamie’s very first race at Salem last August, she won her heat race and finished a strong second in the feature event,” Deaton said. “She certainly got everyone’s attention racing against drivers with much more experience on the Salem track. She looked like a veteran driver instead of someone running their first race here.

“I have only seen Jamie race a couple of times, but I certainly came away very impressed. She has a very smooth driving style and the ability to race with the front-runners.”

Jamie does not have any huge ambitions to turn her passion for racing into a profession one of these days. But she is open to possibly competing in a higher division — like street stocks or modified cars — in the future.

“It depends on college and everything else. I would be open to move up though,” Jamie Bierman said. “I do it mainly for fun. I just like to go out there and have some fun. It’s always good to win and run well, as much as we work on the car and stuff.”

According to Bierman, she is the only female driver in her division at both the Sportsdrome and Salem. Bierman says she does not get any special treatment or special attention from the male drivers, which she appreciates.

“I’m glad that the guys do treat me the same,” she said. “I wouldn’t want them going out there and laying down or letting me win or anything.”

Most people would think that Bierman’s favorite NASCAR driver is Danica Patrick since they are both female racers.

But that is far from the truth.

The NASCAR driver Bierman admires the most is Dale Earnhardt Jr. She also rooted for Earnhardt’s legendary father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., when she was little.

“My dad liked both of them and I’ve just grown to like them both,” Bierman said. “Dale’s number is 88 and mine is 8. That’s kind of where I got my number’s inspiration.”

Probably most high school coaches would not be in favor of one of their student-athletes being a race car driver.

But Floyd Central girls’ track coach Kyle Weigleb has no issues with Jamie Bierman’s racing endeavors. In fact, Weigleb thinks her racing helps her out in track and field from a competitive standpoint.

“When she is competitive on the race track, it translates to what we are doing in our program. That is having the mindset that I will do everything possible to be successful,” Weigleb said.

One of the challenges Bierman faces is balancing her time between her academics, her commitment to both the track and cross country teams and her racing.

Bierman says it is more difficult to juggle her time during cross country season than the track campaign.

“It’s hard. I remember in cross that I had meets on Saturday morning, so I would go to the meets in the morning and come back and go to the [race] track around 4-5 p.m. I would do homework on Sundays,” Bierman said. “There is some overlapping in my track schedule, too, with racing. I know prom is one of the [race] days for Salem [on Saturday, May 17]. I’ll be missing that race.

“It’s definitely hard to handle and hard to balance sometimes.”

Floyd Central girls’ cross country coach and assistant girls’ track coach Carl Hook commends Bierman for giving equal time to her studies and extracurricular activities.

“Jamie is a very hard working and focused girl, so balancing studies, running and car racing isn’t a problem,” Hook said. “I think car racing is great for her and she’s very good at it.”

Weigleb shares Hook’s sentiments on Bierman’s time management. Weigleb wonders sometimes how Bierman has time for all of her activities.

“I do not know how she handles all the things she has to get done, but she is in good standard academically,” Weigleb said. “I’m sure hanging out with friends and being a teenager may be tougher with all the time she puts in with academics, athletics and race car driving.”

Bierman has set her goals high for the track season. She wants to help the Highlanders win their third consecutive Hoosier Hills Conference championship and their fifth straight sectional title. Bierman also has her sights set on helping Floyd Central’s 3,200-meter relay team qualify for the IHSAA State Finals in June.

“I definitely want to be a conference and sectional champion and be a state qualifier hopefully for the [3,200 relay],” said Bierman, who also competes in the 800. “I want to be in the top three [spots] at regional because that is what you have to do to advance to state.”

Weigleb has lauded Bierman for being a team player during her tenure in the Floyd Central girls’ track program.

“In the three years she has competed in our track and field program, she has done everything we have asked her to do. She is a fierce competitor and refuses to be mediocre in her performance,” Weigleb said. “I am expecting Jamie to be a part of a team that is going for a third straight conference championship and fifth straight sectional championship. She will have a chance to rewrite the record books and be a part of a 4x800-meter relay that has a chance to break a school record and qualify for the state meet.”

Last fall, Bierman assisted the Highlander girls’ cross country team to a berth in the state finals for the first time since 2002. She helped Floyd Central win both the sectional and regional titles on its way to state.

“During our cross season last fall, she was a great leader,” Hook said. “A late-season illness knocked her back. But she worked hard and bumped back in at tournament time and used that senior leadership to help get her team to the state finals.

“Jamie has been with me for six years since she started running with us in middle school. She has been a great student-athlete and I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

Bierman plans on attending IU Southeast next fall. She has not decided on a major yet.

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