Sean Verwys Looking To Build On Solid Rookie Season

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Sean Verwys (88) goes toe-to-toe with veteran John Markovic last season at Mahoning Valley Speedway (Cady Frey Photo)
Sean Verwys (88) goes toe-to-toe with veteran John Markovic last season at Mahoning Valley Speedway (Cady Frey Photo)

LEHIGHTON, Pa. – The shortened 2020 race season at Mahoning Valley Speedway was not much different than other tracks that had to deal with the delayed start all due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By not getting on track until mid-June drivers had to fight twice as hard working for a win knowing that half a season was already lost.

That same aspect applied for rookie drivers too who looked-for the needed seat time in order to hone their skillset and in the Modified ranks at the paved quarter-mile oval there was a young contender who despite the limited racing turned quite a few heads by the time the season completed.

Sean Verwys, a 17-year old who was a true-blue Modified rookie in 2020, earned satisfactory grades thanks to some clean driving and consistent finishes. For a Modified apprentice Verwys scored a respectable sixth in points that included a pair of top five’s and five top ten’s in only nine starts.

“As a team we looked at 2020 as a huge stepping point. My uncles raced Modifieds for quite a few years and could never put up the numbers like we did last year and not because of talent but rather what they had to work with,” said Verwys, a second generation driver.

“The biggest thing was to get as much seat time as possible and gain that experience trying to do better and keep improving, that’s our entire goal.”

Like most others he began in karting and did the ladder climb which included Bandolero and Legends cars before getting seated in the Modified.

“Legends cars really taught me so much on how to drive. The Modified has given me a lot more consistency in tire management,” said Verwys.

Although there is plenty of support from his family and others, the team mainly consists of just him and his dad Bill, who is also a driver. They work out a one-car garage putting in countless hours in order to race.

“I can’t thank him enough for everything he does for me. He’s my engineer, crew chief, my ride to the track, my tire changer, he’s everything,” said Verwys.

For Verwys last year was a realization come to fruition running a modified at Mahoning Valley Speedway. It meant competing against a huge host of star power drivers whom he admired for a long time.

“The drivers I literally watched since I was a kid sitting in the stands – Bobby Jones, Brian DeFebo, Earl Paules, Matt Hirschman, Eric and Austin Beers, Don Wagner and the list goes on with the amount of talent there is at Mahoning,” he explained.

“It’s said how it’s one of the toughest tracks in the country for how hard it is to pass and to just the pure stout competition for this area. It was really awesome for me to not only race against those guys but also gain their respect,” he continued.

“I know at the beginning of the year they may have been cautious to drive alongside me but by the end of the season I felt confident enough that anyone can go side-by-side with us and we all held our own.”

Amazingly it didn’t take long to show his ability as he raced to his first top-5 in just his second start. He drove the rest of the year always smooth and clean before capping off the final point race with a second top five.

“Getting those two top-5s during the year was awesome because not only to you see the drivers who are in front of you and are ‘name’ drivers but you also have those behind you that are just as good with all the years of experience and here I was in the middle of all them in just my first year of Modifieds,” disclosed Verwys.

With the season just around the corner Verwys will be looking to build on his rookie momentum in more ways than one. After recently applying for and receiving early graduate status at East Stroudsburg High School, he has begun studies in High Performance and Regular Automotive at the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) in Lima, OH.

“I want to learn as much as possible to better our own racing program but also build connections within the sport whether it be working in a race shop or even better yet getting an opportunity to drive,” he noted.

With studies taking precedence, his race plans will be fine-tuned to work around that. UNOH is basically a year-round school. He will be back at Mahoning Valley, limited albeit, and he is looking towards action on the Race of Champions (RoC) Modified Series.

At Mahoning he will run the entire Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series. He wants to contend for RoC Rookie of the Year also.

“Right now we’re leaning on doing the full RoC Tour and go for Rookie of the Year there and that means hitting Mahoning for the first race and all of the (Mahoning) Hall of Fame Series races. We’ve been looking at taking in a race or two at Evergreen (Raceway). We’ll have some time off of school in August but the biggest thing is where’s the budget at and how will the car be.”

With his eye-catching 2020, Verwys feels confident that a first of many wins is close at hand.

“The top 10’s will lead to top 5’s and eventually a win and that first win is going to mean close to everything,” he admits.

“I’ve been watching Modifieds since I was old enough to remember and these are the cars that are steppingstones to get into the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour or maybe getting my name even further out there.

“That win – when it comes – is going to hopefully project my name out there and have people see that even though we don’t have the big bucks we’re still a solid team that is able to contend. I feel we’re a good driver and a good team able to race against the big names and talented drivers.”

Verwys will be back on track when Mahoning Valley Speedway kicks off the 2021 season on Saturday, April 3 at 2 p.m. which is the opening event of the Hall of Fame Series featuring the Bill Teel Tribute. He’ll then be right back at Mahoning on April 24 when the RoC begins their season with a 75-lapper slated for 2 p.m.

“We wanted to show that we were there to contend.”