Story By: MIKE WARREN / SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES – WEEDSPORT, NY – Steve Bernard finally lived out his dream of joining the Super DIRTcar Series in 2023, overcoming a painful roadblock to get there.
The Granby, QC driver was ready to join the tour in 2022 but injured his back during an off-season training session. After racing at DIRTcar Nationals he found the injury was too severe and was forced to sit out the rest of the season.
Once his back healed, he didn’t hesitate to jump back into his #54 Big Block Modified to run full-time with the Super DIRTcar Series in 2023. But the year off made for a slow start as his unconditioned body hindered his performance.
“I had spinal surgery on my L4 and L5,” Bernard said. “I stopped racing for a year and went directly to the Super DIRTcar Series (in 2023). I was off for a full season. So, at the start of the season I was struggling a bit just to get back in shape. I wasn’t in a good condition.
“But still. It’s part of life, and you need to work with it.”
His body wasn’t his only struggle throughout 2023.
Throughout the season, he tangled with track surfaces he wasn’t used to. Tracks like Autodrome Drummond, where Bernard races regularly, it’s a fast and heavy surface compared to tracks in New York and Pennsylvania that slicken up before the Feature is over.
The “Cowboy” had to build a notebook throughout the season, visiting many venues for the first time.
“That was probably the hardest part,” Bernard said. “We’ve been struggling all year long to find the bite I was looking for and adjust the car to what I want. And we haven’t really found it. So, I’m not able to say it’s me or the car. Maybe a little bit of both. So, I could probably improve myself on those circuits.”
Despite learning all season, the 43-year-old driver said he enjoyed his experience on tour and wishes he could’ve done it when he was a little younger.
One of the younger drivers he competed with in 2023 was Felix Roy, who he finished second to in the battle for Rookie of the Year. Bernard described the feeling as bittersweet, as he hoped to etch his name into Series history.
“I was looking to get that Rookie of the Year (award),” Bernard said. “Felix won it, so I’m happy for him. He had a superb year. It’s kind of bittersweet. It just wasn’t what we were looking for. “But I’m happy to [run the tour] with my dad. That’s something I’ll remember for life. But it would’ve been kind of perfect if we won Series rookie. We just need to go forward from there.”
While Bernard enjoyed the Super DIRTcar Series, he won’t be making a return in 2024, electing to focus on tracks close to his Quebec home. However, there’s another milestone he wants to accomplish—winning his first Super DIRTcar Series race.
He almost earned that feat at Drummond, where he’ll have two chances to defend home turf, July 22-23, for the King of the North. It’s another roadblock Bernard realizes won’t be easy to get through.
“It would be another kind of dream come true,” Bernard said. “I’ve been so close so many times. And it seems to never break on my side. It’s a hard one to win. I think I’m able to accomplish this, but the field is stronger every year. I think I’m able to get that win. We’ll try to get it next year.”
The Super DIRTcar Series starts the 2024 season at Volusia Speedway Park during the 53rd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 14-17. For tickets, visit dirtcarnationals.com.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision, either online or with the DIRTVision app.