Tiana Berkeley knows what she wants and her apparently quiet, but steadfast persistence gets her just that. So when she asked her parents to let her try her hand at stock car racing two years ago, she wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer.
“I just figured she would get out there, get dirty and not enjoy it, because it’s pretty rough,” says her mother, Holly Berkeley. “But when she got out there (on the track) she was enjoying it so much, and to see her big smile when she got out of the car…she loves it. I’ve never seen her so passionate about anything else.”
It’s safe to say that racing runs in the Berkeley blood. Tiana’s father, Tony, was a racer for several years and won a championship title at the Eagle Track Raceway in Republic. His father, Jerry Berkeley, also raced, sporting the number 45 on his car, the same number Tiana has adopted as her own.
“I’m number 45 for my grandpa Jerry and my car is purple, which is the ribbon color for pancreatic cancer, which my grandpa Brad died from,” explains Tiana of the 98’ Pontiac Sunfire stock car she drives. Both of her grandfathers passed away in 2006, so her vehicle serves as a commemoration to their memory.
And like her lineage, the 16-year-old Colville High School student has the propensity to win on the track. At age 14, she was just a few points shy of winning the championship at the Northport track, coming in second when her car ran into the guardrail and slid along it down the front stretch of the track (also her most vexing experience on the track).
She did take home the “Rookie of the Year” award for her efforts and resiliency, and came back the following year to win the championship. Just last month she took home the championship at the Eagle Raceway, winning the Hornet class season title by 86 points.
She is the first female to win a championship on either track.
A family project
“Before every race, I just hope that car is going to do what I want it to do,” says Tiana, who says she used to get nervous and anxious before each race. Occasionally, she still does, but for her, the fun starts as soon as she puts on her helmet.
“For the most part, I’m doing it for the fun of it. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”
Next season, Tiana will compete in the modified division, where drivers are allowed to build and add on to their own car.
She cites her father as a source of inspiration, as well as her younger brother, Chase, 14, who used to race go-carts in Spokane. Her mother and grandmother have been a constant source of support as well, making it obvious to the casual observer that Tiana comes form a close-knit family on and off the track.
“My dad does a lot of work on my cars, and I’ve learned a lot from him in the last three years,” says Tiana, who also works part-time at her mom’s store, Colville Printing LLC. She plans to graduate high school early and learn graphic design so she can help her mom with the business.
“We’ve all had a lot of fun together with Tiana’s racing,” says Holly. “We’ll probably work on modifying her car this winter; it will be something like a family project.”
For those who are looking to get into the sport of racing, Tiana exudes a “can do” mentality, and a focus on enjoying what you’re doing.
“It’s really cool when little girls and boys come up to me after a race and tell me they want to do what I’m doing, and when people of all different ages and genders and backgrounds want to talk to me about racing,” says Tiana. “When I’m not racing, at school, or working, I like to go to other tracks and watch the races, talk to the drivers there, and see what they’re doing…ask them about their experiences on the track.“
Eventually, Tiana would like to try her skills on pavement at Stateline and Spokane County Raceway Park. Either way, racing will still be a major factor in her life.
“If people take away anything from watching me race, I hope that they see that it’s about the fun, and to show other females that it’s possible to be successful in a male-dominated sport,” says Tiana.