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Trans Am star Francis to race Indy Lights with Force Indy

Force Indy has announced its entry for the 2022 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship with Ernie Francis Jr. driving the team’s #99 car.

Ernie Francis Jr.

Francis, a 24 Haitian American, is a seven-time champion in Trans Am, and has scored 47 career victories in the series, including 24 in the premier TA category.

Now, after notching up three wins in the Formula Regional Americas Championship last year, will join Force Indy as it moves into the top junior open-wheel series in the USA.

Florida native Francis said: “This is an incredible opportunity. 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.”

African American business leader and former racing team manager Rod Reid formed Force Indy in December 2020, declaring his focus on hiring men and women of color, including mechanics, engineers, staffers and drivers. During its inaugural season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship last year, Myles Rowe drove the team to victory lane at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

“Being able to finish our first season with a win showed what this team is capable of doing,”

Reid said. “We want to thank Myles, who will always be a member of the Force Indy race team, and will continue to offer assistance and mentorship as he pursues another season in USF2000.

“I could not be more thrilled to promote our group to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship with Ernie Francis Jr. His work ethic and history of success speak for itself.”

Team principal Reid’s NXG Youth Motorsports Inc., has introduced more than 2300 students from under-represented communities, ages 11 to 15, to the educational benefits of the sport.

Team Penske will continue to offer mentorship for Force Indy, as the initiative also falls under Penske Entertainment Corp.’s “Race for Equality & Change” announced in July 2020. The goals include recruiting and developing a diverse workforce throughout all levels of IndyCar and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I was pleased to learn that Ernie would be driving for Force Indy in 2022,” Roger Penske said. “As someone who has a history in Trans Am, I know the type of skillset that comes from that series. Ernie will be a wonderful addition to Indy Lights.

“It was inspiring to see the growth of Force Indy during their first season, and we will continue to support their progress and mission as the team continues on a path to compete in the NTT IndyCar Series.”

Reid responded: “We remain very fortunate to have Team Penske offer its guidance and mentorship. I have been in and around the sport for 40 years. Force Indy remains a labor of love, and our goals are unchanged – focusing on diversity with an eye toward competing in the NTT IndyCar Series and, in honor of Rajo Jack, the Indianapolis 500.”

The team’s choice of #99 on the car is in honor of Dewey “Rajo Jack” Gatson, an African American driver who raced a roadster with that number toward the end of his career in 1951. He is one of the most successful African American drivers and mechanics in history but never got a chance to race at Indy.

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