Brian Murphy: Instead of waiting for a diamond, Meridian Speedway driver wins it herself

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comJune 1, 2014 

— Some girls want their boyfriends to give them a diamond ring.

Sierra Jackson outraced hers for a shiny diamond Saturday night at Meridian Speedway.

The 21-year-old Jackson won her first outright Diamond Cup title - and the accompanying diamond ring - by defeating boyfriend Johnny Giesler, who entered Saturday with the lead and finished second in the Winged Sprintcar event.

"We respect each other out there. We're obviously going to be more competitive because we're both competitive personalities," said Jackson, a Middleton High graduate. "We want the bragging rights."

Jackson has them for now. And she's one up in the Diamond Cup competition as well.

She passed Giesler on a restart for third place with 35 laps remaining in the 50-lap race around the speedway's quarter-mile oval - and then held off his furious attempts to pass.

Both Jackson and Giesler passed Andy Alberding late in the race to finish second and third, respectively, behind Bryan Warf, who led the race throughout and was never challenged.

"This one, it feels awesome," said Jackson, who shared the 2011 Diamond Cup title with Matt Hein.

The 25-year-old Giesler, a Meridian High graduate, won the Diamond Cup in 2012. He seemed poised for anther victory entering Saturday. He led Jackson 65-62 after Friday night's action.

"I don't really think about (our relationship) out there. It's just fun traveling with her and racing her and giving her crap every once in a while, when she can take it," Giesler said before the race.

Jackson seized the lead with her stellar qualifying time and wouldn't yield during the race, which featured a terrifying crash 15 laps in. Richard Miranda crashed coming out of turn three and a tire flew into the stands. No one was seriously injured.

On the restart, Jackson passed her beau of seven months, all but securing the crown and adding her name (again) to an illustrious group in Meridian Speedway's biggest event.

Davey Hamilton won the inaugural event in 1989. Kenny Hamilton has won it three times. This was the 25th running of the Diamond Cup, which was rained out in 1993.

"It's a big deal around here," Giesler said.

Said Jackson: "It means a lot. It's an honor to be put on a trophy."

Jackson made news years ago when she raced as a 14-year-old, fibbing on her age to get behind the wheel. She was a young girl racing men in the age of Danica Patrick. Her future seemed bright, a combination of her experience at such a young age and her gender.

But she hasn't progressed to larger circuits despite solid performances.

"We're in Idaho. We're not really on the radar for the racing scene. It takes a lot of money. We're lucky to have really good sponsors, but we definitely don't pull that many zeroes," Jackson said. "It's probably not in the cards."

Said Giesler: "If you try to drive the Truck Series or Nationwide or NASCAR, you've got to have big bucks to do it. It's hard to find. There are talented kids like us all over the place. You don't have the funds, you don't go anywhere."

Jackson's still dreaming big - "I'd die to have a chance at an IndyCar race," she said - but she's also pursuing other goals.

Jackson just completed her junior year at Boise State, where she is pursuing a health sciences degree with a minor in business. She works full-time at St. Luke's in medical supply distribution.

On Saturday night, though, it was about Jackson's driving ability. And her suddenly shiny finger. In the pit area, crewmembers, family members and fans grabbed her hand to check out the ring. She posed with it, showing it off.

When she finally caught up with Giesler, he grasped her hand and slid the ring off her finger. With Jackson whisked away to other post-race obligations, Giesler slipped it into his pocket.

If only passing Jackson on the track was that easy.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @murphsturph

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