Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

Driver Profile: Court Vernon

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted January 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm Driver Profile

Harry Vernon Jr. (Court's grandfather)

During the 1950’s Harry Vernon Jr. traveled the east coast competing in stock cars at various race tracks.  He drove alongside the likes of Red Farmer and Bobby Allison.   He had no idea that his pastime would have such a huge influence on both his son (Harry Vernon III) and his grandson (Court Vernon).  While growing up, Harry Vernon III—who was heavily influenced by his father’s racing— wanted to race anything he could get his hands on.  He spent time in the karting ranks, racing ATVs and he even dabbled in stock cars at the local level.  But, this story isn’t about Harry Vernon Jr. or Harry Vernon III; it’s about Court Vernon, the grandson of Harry Vernon Jr. and son of Harry Vernon III.

It sort of goes without saying, Court was destined to have “racing in his blood” long before he was born.  His father always encouraged him to participate in more traditional sports.  Court wasn’t particularly interested though.  He had one focus; Racing.  All of this probably stems back to the days of watching his father race karts and looking through old photo albums of Harry Vernon Jr.’s NASCAR days.

The Need-For-Speed Was Developed Early on for Court.

I’ve wanted to go fast for as long as I can remember.  I always went as fast as I could whether I was on my tricycle or my Big Wheel while growing up.  My father was still karting when I was little and I remember sitting in his lap while he drove around the track,” Court stated when I asked about the early days of his need for speed.

He enjoyed the thrill of going fast but he wasn’t truly bitten by the racing bug until he was nine years old.

When I was nine years old, my father bought me my first go-kart.  From that moment on my fate was sealed.  I started running in the Cadet series and the Easy Kart 60cc division and have just worked my way up since,” continued Court.

He competed in the karting ranks for six years prior to making the transition to open-wheel race cars through the Skip Barber Racing School.  In 2008, at the age of sixteen, he competed in the Skip Barber Eastern Regional Championship where he was eventually crowned champion with eight wins to his name.

Court testing a Star Mazda car this fall with World Speed Motorsports

At the end of the 2008 season, he decided to sample a Star Mazda car by competing at Road Atlanta with Team GDT.  The jump from Skip Barber regional competition to Star Mazda is pretty unorthodox, but Court managed just fine and impressed a lot of people with his results.  He drove from 20th to 9th, earning a top-ten finish in his very first race.

That winter, December 2008, he won the top prize (along with Sage Karam) in the annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-Out; a fully-funded ride in the Skip Barber National Championship.  The scholarship is designed to give top karters a chance at proving themselves in the car ranks.

After winning the fully-funded ride he spent the 2009 season in the Skip Barber National Championship.  He produced some really solid results and finished 2nd in the overall championship to Connor De Phillippi.  His performance—which included 2 wins, 8 podiums, 4 pole positions, 3 fast laps, 33 laps lead and 2 hard charger awards—led to him winning the 2009 Skip Barber National Rookie of the Year title.  Subsequently, he was awarded a Star Mazda test with World Speed Motorsports.

Court Vernon

This brings us up to date.  With the 2010 season looming, Court is currently evaluating his options carefully and has yet to commit to a specific series.  His prize funding is gone and his next step will be a very important one if he wants to put himself in a position to continue his move up the ladder.

I’m not sure if he will end up racing in NASCAR like his grandfather Harry Vernon Jr. did, but one thing is certain, he has the talent to race just about anywhere he wants if given a proper opportunity.

Read the interview with Court Vernon after the jump.

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Court Vernon Q & A

Junior Open Wheel Talent

JOWT:  First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

CV: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in the interview.

JOWT:  Let’s start this out the way I usually conclude interviews… What are your long-term goals in racing?  Where do you want to end up?

CV: My long term goal is to become a well rounded, experienced driver.  I plan to work my way up through the ranks while gaining as much experience as possible along the way.  I hope to end up competing in the IndyCar Series.

JOWT:  On your website, you mention how you’ve learned a lot while competing in go-karts.  Would you care to tell us a little about how karting has helped you develop as a race car driver?

CVKarting was the starting point for my racing career.  Karting is a very fast paced sport and I learned how to pass, how to find the race line quickly at new tracks, and how to react quickly in many different situations.

JOWT:  While doing my own research for this article, I came across a story that was published by the Broward-Palm Beach New Times in 2003.  The article mentions that you were in a pretty severe accident during one of your first karting events.  You even spent some time in intensive care following the incident.  Did that have any impact on your passion for racing?

CV:  Not at all…. in fact while I was in the Intensive Care Unit I was begging to go back to the track.  I even said to myself, “That crash wasn’t so bad” .

JOWT:  When I write these ‘Driver Profile’ articles, I traditionally ask drivers for a unique story line (something that improved their race craft) and in your case, you mentioned spearfishing… which I found pretty interesting.  Would you tell us a little about that and how it may have improved your racing skills?

CVI believe that spearfishing has helped me refine my concentration skills, and my breathing. When you are underwater looking for a fish that is blending into the reef, it takes a huge amount of concentration to spot the fish. If you lose your focus then you might end up losing your dinner.  In order to increase your dive time with one breath it is necessary to control your breathing.  My breathing technique helps me relax which enables me to minimize my blood flow to keep my body from consuming too much oxygen.  That same breathing technique is used when I am driving.  When I’m out on the track my breathing helps me stay relaxed, and focused even in the most difficult situations.

JOWT:  Can we expect to see you in a Star Mazda car this season or do you plan to return to the Skip Barber National Championship and pursue the title?  Or perhaps you have other plans?

CV:  Right now I am striving to compete in the Star Mazda Series and to continue working my way up the MazdaSpeed Development Driver Ladder program.

JOWT:  As I noted above, you had the chance to sample a Star Mazda car this fall with World Speed Motorsports as a reward for your ‘Rookie of the Year’ honor in SBN competition.  How did the test go?  Have you done any other off-season testing?

CV: The test with World Speed was fantastic because I was able to gain experience while driving the car in the rain, for the first time in a Star Mazda car. I also had the opportunity to gain experience on a new track.  I’d like to give a big thanks to Telo and his crew for giving me the opportunity to test with such a talented and experienced team.

JOWT:  What are some of your hobbies away from the racetrack?  Do you have a fitness routine in place?

CVOff the track I enjoy practicing on iRacing with my simulator, and free diving.  As for my fitness routine I like to combine a cardio workout with light weight training.

JOWT:  Thanks, Court.  Congratulations on a very impressive 2009 season.  I’m looking forward to watching your progress in 2010 and beyond.  Best of luck!

CVOnce again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this interview and driver profile. Your web site provides a great venue for viewers to see the steps that junior drivers take to become professional race car drivers.

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4 Comments

  1. Doug on January 20, 2010 9:59 pm

    Best of luck, Court. Hopefully we’ll see you running in the Star Mazda race in Indianapolis?

  2. Suzanne on January 22, 2010 3:58 pm

    Enjoyed reading the article. Can’t wait to hear more! Good Luck this year!

  3. Michelle on January 24, 2010 1:30 pm

    Great article! Want to hear what happens next! Keep us posted!

  4. Claire on January 24, 2010 10:29 pm

    Enjoyed reading this article. Your hard work is paying off. Wishing you continued success.

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