SERIES NEWS: Crone Sees Rewards of Diverse Driver Development Scholarship On and Off Track
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As she stood in the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park paddock July 9, Courtney Crone was reminded of just how far-reaching the implications are from being named the 2023-24 recipient of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship.
To her right was parked the No. 99 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine D08, decked out in its iconic Red Dragon livery. Crone had just completed her best weekend thus far in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge with finishes of third and fourth place in the two sprint races.
But standing in front of the 22-year-old Californian was an even more poignant reason the scholarship was created. A girl, 4 or 5 years old, had returned to talk with Crone after visiting the day before. Soon, crewmembers were placing the youngster into Crone’s Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) racer to give her a sense of what it could be like years from now if she wanted to follow Crone’s career path. The girl’s wide eyes and ear-to-ear grin said it all.
“I can’t tell you how many especially little girls have come by this weekend,” Crone said with a smile of her own as she glanced at the girl gleefully sitting in the LMP3. “A lot of their parents said, ‘Do girls race?’ I’m happy to be the one that kind of introduced them into the car, and they all got to sit in the car and they all had a great time. When I first asked them if they’d want to race, they kind of shook their head no, but by the time I got them in the car and talked to them about it, I asked them, ‘So now do you want to race?’ and they all said, ‘Yes!’”
Crone considers it a primary responsibility of hers, as the second scholarship recipient, to show girls and others who may not have considered a career in racing what’s possible. The IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship offers more than $250,000 in benefits in the first year of the two-year scholarship, including a full-season prepaid entry fee for the first year in either the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge or IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, and 50 percent of the prepaid entry fee for a second season in one of those series. Crone chose the VP Racing Challenge to further develop her skill racing prototypes.
“The scholarship obviously provided this opportunity this year for me,” she said, “and just to have IMSA’s support and all of IMSA’s partners – Michelin, VP, OMP, Recaro, just everybody. As they say, it takes a village to do this and they’re all a little piece of my village.
“I’m super grateful for that and hope to keep pushing with IMSA to help the diversity side of things and keep showing that we can all race together and have a good time. I’m fortunate to be the one that gets to be the ambassador for that.”
Crone is displaying her improving talent on the racetrack as well. Her third-place finish in the first race at CTMP marked her second podium result of the season and she ran second through most of the second race before slipping to fourth at the end.
“I drove the best couple races I ever have in the LMP3 and the hardest I’ve ever driven,” Crone said. “Forty7 Motorsports put in a lot of work between Sebring and now, and we got really a nice setup on the car for Mosport. I was really comfortable the whole weekend and so I was able to kind of push really hard the whole weekend. I’m really happy to come away with a third and a fourth.”
The VP Racing Challenge heads to Lime Rock Park this week for the doubleheader that sees both 45-minute races run on Saturday. Crone is eager for the challenge.
“I’m just feeling more confident than ever and mentally better than ever, and it’s only going to get better from here,” she professed. “I’m really excited to just keep that positive momentum going for Lime Rock.”