Vernon competed in the inaugural season of Australian Formula 4 in 2015, finishing fifth in the standings, before budget constraints saw him revert to a predominantly state level program the following year.
However, a strong showing in NSW Production Touring Cars, in which Vernon won the Endurance Cup in a production-spec Toyota 86, helped catch the eye of Bruce Williams, who picked up the 20-year-old to drive the #9 Aisin entry in this year's Toyota 86 Racing Series.
Vernon has since burst back onto the national scene, winning two races at the Phillip Island season and leading the series after the first two rounds, having not yet finished a race outside the top two.
The Sydneysider says that the path has proven thus far to be beneficial for his development, and has led him to refocus his medium-term goals away from open-wheelers and into GT racing.
“At the time, I was going to go back for a second year of F4, because we really thought we had a good chance to try and win the championship then,” Vernon told Speedcafe.com of his original 2016 plans.
“However, budget was really, really tight for us and while we did step up to Australian GT Trophy, that was also just too expensive.
“We really wanted to actually get into the 86 Series but we just couldn't put the money together to build a car and be able to race the entire championship, so we bought the next-best thing, which was an 86 production car, and there were two reasons for that.
“Firstly, I felt that it would be great for me to be able to prove myself in an 86 to then try and build on what we've done this year in getting into someone else's car.
“Secondly, was moving out of open-wheelers, because open-wheelers you really struggle in Australia and the only other option you've got is to go overseas, which is just another whole kettle of fish with money.
“We decided we'd go back to state level and try and prove ourselves.
“I've learned a hell of a lot through that category (NSW Production Touring Cars) and it really made me step up from where I was an open-wheeler driver who just went out and concentrated on going as fast as I possibly could.
“It's probably what's matured my racecraft so much to this day because I can learn what I do in that car and that category, so I think it's been a really good learning curve.”
After a test drive in European Formula 3 fell through due to finances, Vernon made the decision to switch his focus to tin-top racing and ultimately pursue a more sportscar-oriented path.
“I did want to stay in open-wheelers but the reality for me was that there was more chance of me making it if I did step into a production car,” he explained.
“It was definitely a big choice I had to make, but I definitely think it was the best choice I could have made.
“I've actually got to sit down and talk with a few people at the moment about what I want to do with my next step.
“I'd love to go down the Supercars path but that's a very niche market as well and it's pretty hard to secure a deal in that.
“I still look at the Australian GT Championship as offering a lot of potential to expand and even get into some of the manufacturers' faces and prove to them what you can do in their cars.
“I'm looking at that avenue, and at the same time I've still got Carrera Cup which I can look at as well.”
Round 3 of the Toyota 86 Racing Series takes place this weekend (August 18-20) at the Red Rooster Sydney Super Sprint.