Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Ernie Francis Jr. to run full Indy Lights season for Force Indy with an eye towards future in IndyCar

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Last summer, Ernie Francis Jr. turned the heads of many through his success in the Camping World SRX Series, where he won at Indianapolis Raceway Park and finished second in the championship standings to Tony Stewart. With his racing profile now elevated, Francis will take another significant step towards a future at the very highest levels of motorsports

On Thursday, it was announced that Francis¬†will drive the full season in Indy Lights behind the wheel of Force Indy’s No. 99. Force Indy is making the move to Indy Lights, the feeder series for the NTT IndyCar Series, after competing in the USF2000 Championship in 2021.

Francis, a seven-time champion in the Trans-Am Series, makes the move to Indy Lights after winning three times last season in the Formula Regional Americas Championship while also starring in SRX.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” Francis said in a statement released by the team. “After getting a taste last year and beginning to learn what open-wheel racing is all about, I found myself wanting more. Open-wheel cars are incredible to drive. To know that I’ll continue my education with Force Indy and only one step away from the NTT IndyCar Series makes this unbelievably special. I cannot wait to get started.”

The hiring of Francis, a 24-year old from Davie, Florida, ties into Force Indy’s overall goals of advancing diversity efforts within auto racing. The team was founded in December of 2020 with a focus on hiring men and women of color, and is closely affiliated with Team Penske and Penske Entertainment Corp.’s “Race for Equality & Change”. Should he make it to the top level of IndyCar, Francis — who is of Haitian descent — would become the series’ first full-time Black driver since George Mack ran the full season in 2002.

While Francis won seven championships and 47 races in Trans-Am competition, his introduction to much of the racing world came last summer when he stood out in the Camping World SRX Series. Francis won at Indianapolis Raceway Park and scored one other podium finish on his way to a second-place finish in the series standings. Francis has also raced in NASCAR, making one Xfinity Series start in 2017 before making a pair of starts in the K&N Pro Series East.

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