Most people refer to him simply as Bernie, primarily because they are intimidated by the uncertainty of how to correctly pronounce his last name.
But no matter how one ends up saying it, there’s no denying Bernie Stuebgen has emerged as a major player in open-wheel, short-track racing.
In addition to owning and managing Indy Race Parts, an Indianapolis-based business that specializes in parts for sprint car, midget and mini sprint racing, Stuebgen fields the familiar No. 71 winged sprint car that has been driven by some the sport’s biggest names.
Like so many others, Stuebgen’s interest in racing began through his family.
“My dad used to drag race when we lived in western Pennsylvania, and my uncle raced at Lernerville Speedway,” Stuebgen shared with SPEED SPORT. “I grew up about seven miles from the back straightaway at Lernerville. I went there a little bit as a kid and started going more and more as I got older and I became more and more interested in it.
“We moved around a little bit in western Pennsylvania and I became really interested in micro sprints. They were really big in Pennsylvania — 270cc micro sprints. I bought one and drove it in Central Pa. — Hill Valley, Path Valley, those places,” Stuebgen continued. “Hickory Speedway was going to open up and that was about 30 miles from where I was living on the other side of Butler, Pa., and I really wanted to open a micro sprint shop and be my own boss. I was about 19 when I decided to do that. I made a deal with (chassis builder) Mark Stallard that if I opened a shop I couldn’t drive anymore. That’s how I got into that part of it. I basically opened a micro sprint shop and was really successful at it. We sold a lot of cars and grew the industry in western Pennsylvania.”
A desire to expand his business eventually took Stuebgen to Indianapolis.
“I was probably two to three years into that deal and I had been doing some business with Corey Fillip at Advanced Racing Suspensions. I went to the Chili Bowl as a fan in 1995 and then went back in 1996 and happened to hook up with Corey and we talked a little bit,” Stuebgen recalled. “At the time, my business in western Pennsylvania was kind of stagnant. I was thinking about expanding and Indiana was a hotbed for micro sprint racing. I was telling Corey about that and about two weeks after the Chili Bowl he called and said, ‘I’ve got a deal for you. I had a couple of guys quit and I know you were thinking about coming here to Indiana to see if you could open up another shop. I’ll make you a deal. You come here, you feel it out, check it out; you come and work for me for a little bit and that way you’re not spending any money out of your pocket. It helps me and I’m helping you, and we’ll go from there.’
“I actually moved to Indy in February 1996 and started working for Corey. I lived in a Red Roof Inn in Speedway for a month while I decided if I wanted to stay. I ended up staying and I probably worked for Corey for three or four months and was going back and forth, trying to run my business in western Pennsylvania. I’d come back and work all week for Corey, building shocks at Advanced Racing Suspensions,” Stuebgen added. “It felt nice. I was getting a paycheck and I didn’t have to worry about how to pay the bills each month. I sold my business in western Pennsylvania and continued to work for Corey. I opened Indy Race Parts in February 2002, but I just did it as a part-time thing in the evenings after I did the shock thing all day. I did that for a couple of years before I went full time into Indy Race Parts.”
Today, at age 50, Stuebgen is the modern version of a one-man band as he somehow juggles three roles — business owner, race team owner and crew chief.