Just turned 20 in March 2021 when the word came she’d been awarded the prestigious Gorsline Company Scholarship for Young Racers, Courtney Crone could already boast a 16-year racing career. Through karting to quarter midgets, dirt and pavement midgets, speedway motorcycles, Formula F, F4 and more, the young Californian had logged countless race miles and achieved a measure of success.
The race miles, though, as well as her emerging reputation were entirely West Coast-centric. That, though, has changed.
Gorsline patriarch John Gorsline dusted off his scholarship last March after a five-year hiatus, adding Crone’s name to the list of illustrious former recipients — Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Josef Newgarden, NASCAR’s Ricky Stenhouse and sports car standouts Patrick Long, Colin Braun and Dane Cameron.
It was, needless to say, a significant boost to Crone’s career, helping her not only cement a first foray into a national series, IMSA’s Prototype Challenge, but keep her head up throughout the campaign.
In truth, the 2021 season in the Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine LMP3 prototype was a lot tougher than Crone, accustomed to regular wins and podiums, expected. “It [was] a big learning curve for sure,” she said. “Not just the car, but the tracks. Every track I went to last year was my first time there.”
She looks back at the experience with only gratitude, for along with the financial boost, the prized contact list and the race-weekend support of Gorsline himself, there were noteworthy scholarship fringe benefits including training sessions with Jim Leo’s PitFit and mental training with Jacques Dallaire, Ph.D, author and founder of Performance Prime.
“I spent two days with Jacques Dallaire in North Carolina and I think that has been probably the biggest help in my career so far,” Crone said. “Jacques was able to help me in mental areas I needed to work on; things that I knew but didn’t know how to implement. He was able to help me implement some useful strategies. I showed up at Watkins Glen fresh off of Jacques’ program, and it really helped.
“I’m still ‘bringing it’, and it’s still helping, even in everyday life.
“I can’t thank Jacques enough,” Crone continued. “It’s always great catching up with him at the track. Any time you have a conversation with Jacques at the track, it’s… well, he gets your mind going.”
Then there was that tough Pit Fit training…
“The prototype cars are maybe not quite as physical as some of the other [cars] I have driven,” Crone noted, “but obviously the longer [race] distances make a difference. The physical preparation I got at Pit Fit was something else I needed help with. The [LMP3 cars] get pretty hot inside, especially under a caution. It’s tough to keep your mind in it. When there’s a long yellow and it gets really hot inside there, especially on the east coast with the humidity…well, it’s definitely draining.
“Jacques taught me that ‘You can’t control the B factors.’ And that was something I had to remind myself multiple times. I’d run my own program since I was super young, with my dad obviously helping me growing up. But driving on my own, getting my own partners, getting my own this and that — I’ve always been kind of in control of things.
“But when you step up the racing ladder, you depend on others, and more and more is out of your control. Jacques’ training has helped me deal with that much better.”
Approaching the one-year anniversary of her Gorsline scholarship, there were two big upturns in Crone’s career, the first her signing with a new team, Jr III Racing, for a sophomore IPC assault in one of the NorthCarolina-based team’s two Ligier JS P320s.
The second is a new backer Don Cusick, Stefan Wilson’s IndyCar and now IMSA patron, whose Cusick Motorsports support adds sponsorship from his own GNARLY Jerky plus LOHLA SPORTS to the list of long-time Crone supporters MyoBrace, Bob Stallings, the Morgan Group, Frontier Fire Protection and others.
“Don is so great,” Crone said. “We’re looking forward to a good long-term relationship with them hopefully moving up the ranks even further with Cusick.”
A new team and extra backing have increased expectations exponentially –and for Crone, the biggest hurdle will be off-track.
“Me being me and kind of how I grew up, I don’t always have my phone on me,” she said. “Some people find that hard to believe, that a 20-year-old girl doesn’t have her phone on all the time, but I’ll take day off to go snowboarding or something like that and leave my phone.
“Now, though, I’m working with people on the media side of things who always have their phones on and they’re always texting or emailing, and here am I with my, ‘Sorry, I’ll get back to you.’
The phone was no issue in the weeks leading up to the January 21 IMSA Prototype Challenge 2022 season opener at Daytona, as Crone was with the Jr III crew and new teammate Terry Olson virtually around the clock.
“Terry did two races in the Prototype Challenge last year and he also used to race Radicals. I’d heard his name. He did some races on the West Coast, we raced against each other last year, and I think we’ll be a really good pairing. We both have backgrounds in midgets and sprint cars, and we get along super well.”
Indeed, the good chemistry was on display in a treacherous Daytona 3-hour, marked by rain and ever-changing conditions. Olson had moved the Jr III Ligier up from an eighth-row starting position into third in the first 90 minutes, turning over to Crone as the rain stopped and the track began to dry. With fresh wet weather tires on a drying track, Crone, was sixth leaving the pits and forced to seek out puddles to keep the tires cool. Finally getting slicks during a late-race full-course yellow, she gained a position with a superb restart and rolled on to her best-ever IPC result.
No longer “just a West Coaster,” Crone is making good on the promise John Gorsline saw. If she would just keep her phone close …