Jaden Conwright, the inaugural recipient of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship, said the award did exactly what it was designed to do for young, aspiring drivers: to get seat time in IMSA competition, gain recognition, make connections and open doors that otherwise would have been closed.
The scholarship helped Conwright obtain a ride in the No. 42 NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo, which competed this season in the four IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, plus three additional IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship sprint events in the GTD class.
“The scholarship really helped with things like entry fees and other financial benefits, but also connection-wise, it was super beneficial,” said the 23-year-old driver from Newark, Calif. “It wasn’t like I was filling in for somebody. I got established (in IMSA). The team and I were all fairly new trying to get our feet wet in the sport. The scholarship was able to give me that leg up to solidify that spot I was able to have this year with the team.”
Conwright was among 10 finalists selected from scholarship applicants, with criteria 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.
Along with co-driver Marco Holzer, their best finishes were fifth at Road America and sixth at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Conwright also displayed his prowess by qualifying second at WeatherTech Raceway and third for the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I learned a lot this season,” Conwright said. “This was my first full year doing GTD endurance and sprint racing. I was just kind of taking everything in as a whole (and) I learned a lot. It was a new car for me, the team, everybody. It was kind of like a year where we experimented on things. We figured out what things were positive, what things needed work.
“The best part of 2022 that maybe didn’t show up in the results was lots of trial and error, and now we have a lot better understanding of what we need heading into next year. We will improve on stuff we learned this year for next year. We want to roll into 2023 and be more consistent. We always showed pace, but obviously there’s more to endurance racing than just being fast. I’m hoping our approach going into next year would be to be a lot more consistent and have a better picture of what we need.”
Conwright, who will also receive benefits in 2023 as part of the scholarship, said his place with the No. 42 Lamborghini isn’t fully confirmed, but all signs point to a second year with the team. Since the end of the 2022 racing season, he has participated in several tests with the team, which has the updated Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 on order for the upcoming season.
“Nothing has been solidified right now but we are still working together to pull together a full program for 2023 and getting closer to the people at Lamborghini,” he said. “At the moment, things are looking good, and hopefully, I continue forward with this program next year.”
Seven finalists are in the running to earn the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship for the 2023 and ’24 seasons.