African-American-led Force Indy soars to Indy Lights with Francis

Rising Star Contributes to Diverse Legacy of Growing Team

Force Indy has announced its entry into the 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Championship, with Ernie Francis Jr. drives the team’s number 99 car.

Haitian American Francis moves to Force Indy after three wins in his lone season in the Formula Regional Americas Championship and a second-place finish in the inaugural season of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), with a win at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Florida-born Francis, 24, is also a seven-time champion in the Trans Am Series (2014-2020). His 47 wins are the most of any driver in Trans Am history. His 24 wins in the premier TA category trail alone are Paul Gentilozzi (31), Mark Donohue (29) and Tommy Kendall (28).

“This is an incredible opportunity,” Francis said. “After tasting and learning about open wheel racing last year, I found I wanted more. Open wheel cars are incredible to drive. Knowing that I will continue my education at Force Indy and be just one step away from the NTT INDYCAR SERIES makes this incredibly special. I can’t wait to get started.”

In December 2020, African American business executive and former race team manager Rod Reid announced the creation of Force Indy, with a focus on hiring men and women of color, including mechanics, engineers, staffers and drivers. During its inaugural season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the team won excitingly at New Jersey Motorsports Park with driver Myles Rowe.

“The fact that we were able to finish our first season with a win showed what this team is capable of,” said Reid. “We would like to thank Myles, who will always be a member of the Force Indy race team, and will continue to provide assistance and mentorship as he pursues another season in USF2000.

“I couldn’t be happier 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 themselves.”

Team Principal Reid’s years of karting and car racing experience have proved invaluable. Are NXG Youth Motorsports Inc. introduced more than 2,300 students from underrepresented communities, ages 11 to 15, to the educational benefits of the sport.

Team Penske continues 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 at all levels of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ultimately creating a community that fundamentally changes the sport.

“I was delighted to learn that Ernie would be driving for Force Indy in 2022,” said Roger Penske. “As someone with a history in Trans Am, I know the kind of skills that come out of that series. Ernie will be a great addition to Indy Lights.

“Watching Force Indy’s growth through their inaugural season has been inspiring, and we will continue to support their progress and mission as the team continues on its path to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.”

Force Indy will make its Indy Lights series debut February 25-27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. The team will continue to use the number 99 on the car in honor of the late Dewey “Rajo Jack” Gatson, who drove a roadster bearing that number toward the end of his career in 1951. Gatson, one of the winning African American drivers and mechanics in racing history, never got a chance to race in the Indianapolis 500.

“We are still very fortunate to have Team Penske offering his guidance and mentorship,” said Reid. “I’ve been in and around the sport for 40 years. Force Indy remains a labor of love and our goals are unchanged: to focus on diversity with a view to competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and, in honor of Rajo Jack, the Indianapolis 500.”

For more information, visit the team’s website: www.ForceIndy.com.

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