A father and son from Murrieta won the first Double Decker main event of the 2021 Perris Auto Speedway season.
Daryll Berna, who is 56, and 25-year-old Michael Berna partnered to win the May 1 main event.
“You can’t ask for anything more than that,” Daryll said.
The win gave the Bernas their first career victory at Perris Auto Speedway. “It’s been a goal for a while,” Michael said. “It was a bit of a surprise, but I was happy to get it.”
The Double Decker class involves two cars. The driver on top controls the steering wheel and the driver on the bottom has the gas and brake pedal. “Because the motor’s so loud you can’t hear anything from the top car,” Daryll said. “It’s all timing and teamwork.”
During races Michael is in the top car and Daryll has the bottom vehicle. The Bernas’ “Cadzilla” uses a 2002 Cadillac Coupe de Ville as the bottom car with a Pontiac Grand Am on top. Cadzilla thus only has one Cadillac rather than two. “Cadillac wouldn’t make the best top car,” Michael said.
Michael raced bicycles on a mountain bike team when he was a Murrieta Valley High School student. “We went from mountain bikes to racecars,” Daryll said.
The family has lived in Murrieta since 2006 and was in Temecula for 10 years before that. Daryll graduated from Elsinore High School in 1983 and Michael is a 2014 Murrieta Valley High School graduate.
The Bernas had watched Perris Auto Speedway races as spectators including the initial Double Decker races in 2019. “They said they needed more drivers,” Daryll said. “We volunteered.”
The track helped build the car including connecting the steering linkage to the top car. “It takes a few months to build it,” Daryll said.
“It’s a blast every time,” Michael said. “There’s never a dull moment.”
The best 2019 finish for the Bernas was second place. “Our car wasn’t running right,” Daryll said. “We’re having a problem with keeping that Cadzilla motor going.”
Jason and Caroline Cahalan won the 2019 season championship but have moved. “I was looking at beating them fair and square this year,” Daryll said.
Perris Auto Speedway had one race in 2020 before the coronavirus outbreak shut down competition for the rest of the year.
“It’s great to be back out there racing,” Daryll said. “It feels great to be back out there on the track.”
The Bernas have no crew members. “We have a couple of other drivers that help us,” Daryll said.
All three of the Bernas’ sponsors – Speed Tires and Wheel, ANA Crane, and Embroidery and More – are based in Lake Elsinore.
The Bernas began the six-lap heat race on the outside of the front row with Dan Drowns and Kyle Cox beginning on the pole. Drowns and Cox had the lead after the first lap while Daryll and Michael Berna were third after one lap. The Green Machine car driven by Jade Abbott and Ryan Harrison took over third place during the second lap.
The fourth lap of the heat race involved the Cadzilla drivers and the Green Machine drivers trying to keep their cars upright. “We got in a bad spot there,” Michael said.
“We got pushed into the rail,” Daryll said.
“We got boxed in there,” Michael said. “We were lucky the green car was there.”
The Green Machine cushioned Cadzilla, and everybody remained upright during the heat race.
The Bernas began the 10-lap main event on the outside of the first row and led during the first lap but were fourth after one lap. “You can’t give up and you can’t panic,” Daryll said.
A red flag was thrown in the second lap when Abbott and Harrison’s car tipped over after contact with the Bernas. “The Green Machine tried taking one of our lines and that’s when we ended up hitting him,” Daryll said.
A flat tire during the sixth lap removed John Flowers’ car from the lead. In the seventh lap the Green Machine took the lead and Cadzilla moved into second when the cars with Drowns and Cox became disabled.
“We worked our way to first,” Daryll said.
“We were kind of getting behind a bit in the straightaway,” Michael said.
The Bernas took the lead with an inside pass during turn three of the ninth lap. “On that third corner we were able to get in on the inside,” Michael said.
“I don’t know how one of us didn’t end up flipping our car,” Daryll said. “We were up on two wheels quite a few times.”
Cadzilla retained first place. “Even though our car wasn’t running the best we were still able to hold the lead,” Daryll said.
“The car wasn’t running that well for us, but we gave it as much as we could,” Michael said.
Abbott and Harrison finished second and were on turn 4 when the Bernas took the checkered flag.
“It was probably the craziest night we had with the Double Deckers,” Michael said.
“We never went over. That was a good thing,” Daryll said.
Daryll credited his son for the victory. “He’s doing really good at driving that car,” Daryll said.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a few more this season,” Daryll said. “If we can get our car running good, I’m sure we will.”
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at email@example.com.