MotoAmerica: From homeless to Superbike racer, exclusive interview with Sam Verderico
Sam Verderico has one of the most inspiring stories you’ve never heard of, until now.
It’s not quite a rags-to-riches story (yet), but Sam Verderico has had to overcome some pretty big obstacles to make it to the MotoAmerica Superbike paddock. His journey to national championship road racing in the United States didn’t start like many of the other riders that he lines up next to on the starting grid.
“I grew up basically in a poverty situation,” notes Verderico. “Growing up poor, sometimes homeless. It took me a while to get on my feet, get a job and have money enough to afford a motorcycle. The passion was there, the money wasn’t. I didn’t get on my first bike until I was 23 years old.”
Even though he didn’t have the financial means to go racing from an early age, he definitely had the desire, his dad made sure of that.
“My dad drove it into me kind of young. We used to watch racing on TV. He would always tell me how awesome those riders were, and I just sort of grew up loving it. I always wanted to do it.”
Unlike many of the other riders in the series, Verderico holds a day job to help in pursuit of his racing dreams. However, the struggle to find time to train makes things a little more difficult. Finding the right balance is an ongoing challenge.
“It’s extremely difficult. You can’t push as hard as the top guys can because if you fall, you don’t work and you don’t make money. I own a painting company; it’s starting to get on its feet pretty well. It’s helping me out racing but if I were a full-time racer, I would be a lot faster than I am right now. Unfortunately, I sort of have to stay at that 90% range and not go past it.”
Verderico had the good fortune to partner up with FLY Racing to help him compete on the national level. It was an offer he couldn’t turn down.
“Well, I got my superbike license and they just called me and said ‘hey, I see you got your superbike license, you want to ride with us?’ I said yes and that was it. I love that team, they’re really great people.”
Coming from regional club racing and being one of the dominant riders, the jump to MotoAmerica was a little more than what was expected.
“It was extremely difficult,” explains Verderico. “I came in thinking I was really fast, you know. I was state champion, winning all my races and then going into nationals I got my ass kicked. It was shocking. That’s when I really saw just how fast and talented those guys are. It’s incredible.”
2020 proved to be a challenging year for many riders not named Beaubier. From COVID-19 to crashing to just trying to keep up, Verderico preserved through it all.
“I had a really tough season this year. I had a big crash in New Jersey that kind of messed my body up, I was fighting that. I changed electronics and was fighting with that. Kind of a downhill year. Then I went to Laguna and just sort of fizzled out.”
But perhaps the biggest frustration of them all was maybe the one thing he could have the most control over.
“My body has been my biggest frustration,” notes Verderico. “It was just not quite able to do what I wanted it to do. I’ve not been able to get to the gym, then COVID-19 hit and the gym’s closed, so it’s been hard to rehabilitate. Just a crappy year really. I can’t wait for it to get over and start 2021.”
The MotoAmerica series visited a couple of new tracks in 2020, including The Ridge in Verderico’s home state of Washington. While The Ridge is certainly up there as a favourite track, his favourite circuit just might surprise you.
“Definitely Circuit of The Americas (COTA). I love that one.”
Life in racing can be a lonely place if you let it. But, spending countless hours at the track, hanging out in the paddock, talking racing with other riders and teams, Verderico has developed good relationships with many of the other riders in the series.
“I’ve made friends with many of the guys in the paddock,” explains Verderico. “Max Flinders and David Anthony are probably the closest for sure.“
There are countless challenges and obstacles to overcome to be successful as a motorcycle racer. Whether it’s equipment, money, weather or logistics, there’s always something waiting to trip you up. For Verderico, one challenge really stands out.
“Honestly, the hardest part for me is just my talent. Those other guys are thoroughbreds, they were raised as motorcycle racers. They grew up on it. I’m trying to get there but, man, they’re just doing things on those bikes that are just incredible.”
If someone said it would take more than talent to win at the national level, it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise. It takes a lot of financial wherewithal to compete, let alone win a championship. Riders and teams spend a lot of time finding sponsors and other support. Verderico is no stranger to that process.
“Oh boy, the biggest thing right now is definitely financial,” observes Verderico. “Anything financial would be a huge benefit. I’m trying to get some big sponsors this year but they’re so hard to find.”
After a challenging year, what will 2021 hold for Verderico and FLY Racing.
“Same team, same bike. I’m going to come screaming! I’m hitting the gym trying to get my body back in shape. Once my body is there my mind comes. It’s hard to really ride a bike when you’re weak. It’s really challenging.”
Like all riders, Sam finds ways to get away from the sport, unwind and decompress. Whether it’s out on the trails or on the water, he knows having something to help him relax is incredibly important.
“I used to be a professional mountain biker, so I do a lot of mountain biking and after biking I hit the gym every day and then I go boating. Just enjoy life.”
Featured images – https://brianjnelson.com/