By: Ashley McCubbin
For those involved in the road course ranks, they know the name Ernie Francis Jr. very well. After all, he is a seven-time Trans-Am Champion. This summer, he is changing things up by partaking in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) against 11 of the biggest names from across the United States.
Francis Jr. was only originally slated to run any road course events on the calendar. However when Ray Everingham developed a six-race three oval, three dirt schedule, he invited Francis for the whole slate.
“I think the thing that has surprised me the most has just been how aggressive everyone is driving out there on the track,” Francis Jr. told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I don’t think we’ve had an event where the cars have come back very clean. But yeah, it’s just something that’s been different for me being a road course driver. There’s not a lot of contact in Trans-Am, there’s not a lot of contact in the FR program that I race in because it’s an open-wheel car. So I’ve had to get used to the different driving style of being more aggressive out there and don’t be afraid to put the bumper on somebody.”
The adaptive process has happened quickly, with Francis Jr. finding himself mixed in a couple incidents over the past couple of weeks. He was even the subject to Michael Waltrip’s rant on Saturday in saying “the yellow car, you have to watcha round him, he hits everyone.”
The flip side is Francis Jr. has showcased his talent behind the wheel, running inside the top-five mostly each week, whether heat or feature. His eighth at Eldora Raceway was the worst of the year, following a sixth at Stafford Motor Speedway and a third at Knoxville Raceway.
While getting used to turning solely left, there’s also some hopefulness to turn both directions down the road with SRX.
“I would love for some road course races to be on the schedule,” Francis Jr. said. “These cars are very similar to a Trans-Am TA2 car that I am very similar with, and I think if we get some road courses on the schedule, it’ll be totally different mix-up on the order that’s out there.
“But these cars would totally fit a lot of different tracks that we run at – Road Atlanta, VIR, Road America would be a lot of fun where you get up to some high speeds. These cars have a ton of power and if you can use that down some of these long straights, it’d make for some great racing.”