The Californian Will Race an LMP3 in the New IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – California’s Courtney Crone has been awarded the prestigious 2023 IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship and landed a fulltime ride in the new IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge.
The 21-year-old driver from Corona, California, who was a finalist for the inaugural award in 2022, will take the wheel of the No. 99 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine D08 Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) for the single-driver sprint series.
“This really is an honor and it shows that a lot of my hard work has paid off,” Crone said. “For IMSA to recognize me and my hard work to move forward in IMSA is really a pleasure.
“This will be my third season driving an LMP3 car,” added Crone, who raced the past two seasons in the IMSA Prototype Challenge development series for LMP3 teams and drivers. “They have proven to be a very good race car and a decent endurance car. I’m really excited to feel it out in the sprint-race format. I really can’t wait to do a whole race on my own.”
Scholarship criteria was based on drivers having a strong desire to compete in IMSA, outstanding previous race results and/or proven on-track potential in junior racing categories and the ability to build a compelling business plan for securing funding. Support for the scholarship comes from IMSA and partners including Michelin, VP Racing Fuels, OMP, RECARO and LAT Photo USA.
“The IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship takes another step forward with naming Courtney Crone as the 2023-24 recipient,” IMSA President John Doonan said. “Courtney has shown true potential both on and off the track. She typifies what this award is about: creating opportunities for developing a more diverse pool of deserving talent in the IMSA community. We look forward to seeing what Courtney is able to accomplish in 2023.”
The VP Racing SportsCar Challenge replaces the IMSA Prototype Challenge, which featured only LMP3 cars. The new series will mix in LMP3 and GT4 cars. Competitors will participate in a dozen 45-minute sprint races – with two races on each of six competition weekends – with no planned pit stops at any event.
“With IMSA implementing this new series, it is the perfect step for me in IMSA to help prove myself and my individual driving with my results in a sprint-race format,” Crone said. “It will be interesting mixing the LMP3 and GT4 cars in the same races. I’m really looking forward to getting some multiclass racing this season. This is a great format for me to showcase what I am capable of doing.”
Crone won’t be hard to spot in the field. The No. 99 will carry the “Red Dragon” livery made famous by GAINSCO Racing and Bob Stallings.
“Again, I want to thank IMSA for choosing me to represent this award.” Crone said. “I want to thank Bob Stallings. He’s been out of motorsports for a while but he has been helping me the last few years run the prototypes. And, I’ve had many other supporters, who helped get me to where I am today.”
The IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship is a multi-dimensional scholarship that assists the recipients with improving their interview, social media and overall professional skills for holistic success both on and off the track. One new scholarship will be awarded each year, with additional benefits extending to a second year for that selected recipient.
Crone is the second winner of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship. Jaden Conwright was the inaugural recipient and used the support to secure a ride with NTE Sport in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.