As of two weeks ago, Ernie Francis Jr. had alone apprenticed a banal car four times.
The 19-year-old from Dania, Florida, had been abaft the caster for a analysis at Hickory Speedway, during the two-day attack for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity affairs at New Smyrna Speedway and in this year’s Xfinity Series chase at Alley America.
Even then, Francis still has the numbers for Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi adored in his phone.
“I’ve met alone and had affairs with and still allocution on the buzz with them every brace of weeks,” Franics told NBC Sports on Nov. 7 back he was appear as one of the six associates of the 2018 Drive for Diversity class. “It’s been a acceptable altitude for me in affair these bodies and the added access the better.”
What does an ambitious NASCAR disciplinarian with abutting to no banal car antagonism acquaintance allocution about with two allegorical car owners?
The future. Or abeyant ones.
“Kind of aloof talking about what I’m accomplishing with my career and area I’m aggravating to go and what’s it activity to booty for me to get abaft the caster of their chase cars,” Francis said. “I’ve had a lot of talks with Chip Ganassi about that and acquisitive every footfall that I booty out actuality will get me afterpiece to accepting abaft the caster of one of those cars.”
Why would Penske and Ganassi accept absorption in the 19-year-old driver?
Francis stands in the Rev Antagonism shop, amid beneath than a mile from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Overlooked by banners with the faces and accomplishments of Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr., graduates of the Drive for Diversity program, Francis isn’t intimidated.
Not by the antecedence or by the boxlike banal cars he’ll drive in the K&N Pro Series East’s alley advance contest in 2018.
He’s been in abundant faster cars and won. A lot.
“When I hop abaft the caster of a K&N car or a Xfinity car I already apperceive how to accord with that ability and how to accord with that speed,” Francis said.
While new to NASCAR, Francis has spent the aftermost four years breaking annal in sports car antagonism in the Trans Am Series.
Since he was 16, Francis has won four championships with the aggregation endemic by Ernie Francis Sr., Breathless Performance Antagonism Team. He’s the youngest disciplinarian to ability that mark. The aboriginal three titles came in the TA4 Chic and his 2017 appellation came in T4, active a Ford Mustang.
He’s additionally won 33 races, the aftermost advancing in the division afterpiece at Daytona three canicule afterwards his accession as allotment of the Drive for Diversity program.
So why accomplish the jump to a altered antagonism ladder?
Francis Jr., who grew up a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, sees NASCAR’s aisle to its top akin as added acceptable to adjustment in the continued run.
“I’d say it’s about the aforementioned if not easier in banal car racing,” Francis said. “Road advance antagonism is a actual abrupt ladder and that’s the botheration with banal car racing. The affair with banal car antagonism in accepted additionally is it all costs money to get to the top. Either it costs money or you’ve got to get accustomed by a team. I anticipate it’s easier to get accustomed in the banal car antagonism apple than it is in alley advance racing. Being that there’s so abounding alley advance racers, whether it’s in ability antagonism area there’s four drivers in a car, there’s so abounding drivers you’re aggressive adjoin compared to NASCAR back you’re out there.
“It’s abate fields with one disciplinarian per car and it’s affectionate of easier to be accustomed if you’re a acceptable disciplinarian continuing out in a field.”
With three analysis sessions and 16 Xfinity laps beneath his belt at Alley America afore an agent problem, NASCAR has angry out to be added than he expected.
“After accepting out there on clue I accomplished there’s a lot added to it,” Francis said. “It’s a lot added abstruse than bodies think. Bodies anticipate that it’s aloof activity out there aloof active a car in a circle. There’s a accomplished altered ancillary to it. These cars are so intricate on the way the abeyance set up is and how they charge it to be to go about the clue appropriately that I’ve had to apprentice in the brace of tests I’ve done. I’ve absolutely appear to acknowledge that.”
In accession to his K&N alley advance contest for Rev Racing, Francis will additionally attempt for the program’s backward archetypal team. But there’s additionally the achievability of Francis active in his aboriginal K&N egg-shaped chase against the end of the year.
“I don’t apperceive how it’s activity to be yet,” Francis said. “I charge some added bench time afore I get out there and aloof convenance on one. The aboriginal ambition is aloof activity to be finishing the chase and afresh the abutting one will be absorption on area we finish.”
When he does get time on an egg-shaped again, he’ll accept the articulation of his anchor from his aboriginal Hickory test, Lee Faulk of Lee Faulk Antagonism and Development, still campanology in his ears.
“He was the one babble at me, babble all kinds of things about how I was activity too apathetic and acute the brakes too abundant and all kinds off stuff,” Francis said. “His articulation is still in my arch whenever I go out there and run on the egg-shaped tracks, affectionate of helps me out.”
The acceleration and the adrenaline.
That’s why Ernie Francis Jr. chose antagonism over added sports while growing up in Florida
“There’s no action area you get activity 150, 200 mph on a chase car aerial about branch against a bank and basically cheating afterlife every lap you go around,” Francis said. “It’s appealing exciting.
“There’s no blitz like active a chase car.”
Francis was apparent to that blitz at the age of 4 by Ernie Francis Sr., back he started aggressive in go-karts on the bounded circuit.
Francis Sr. raced in sports cars and his son helped about he could.
“My dad would booty me to the clue and I aloof capital to watch the cars,” Francis Jr. says. “I would apple-pie the cars. I would advice band him in as abundant as I could and I aloof admired it from the beginning.”
The accord swapped roles already Francis Jr. got into go-kart racing, which he competed in until he was 12.
“It was aloof me and my dad, he was the one alive on my go-kart and I was the one active it,” Francis Jr. said.
In 2013, the year afore Francis Jr. began his celebrated administration in the Trans Am Series, the two raced anniversary added for one division in the Pirelli Apple Challenge’s TCB Class. At 15, Francis was the youngest disciplinarian aggressive in the Pirelli.
Francis Jr. won seven contest and accomplished third in the standings, additionally earning Rookie of the Year ceremoniousness while his dad placed fifth.
With three Trans Am titles beneath his belt, the duo aboriginal visited North Carolina aftermost year to get a bout of the Rev Antagonism boutique Francis Jr.’s cars will be congenital out of and area a approaching that could absorb the names Penske and Ganassi will begin.
The adolescent Francis says his ancestor has “never absolutely been” into NASCAR, but says “he likes” what his son is accepting into.
Though Francis Sr. does accept one demand.
“His capital affair that he says is, if I alpha accomplishing NASCAR antagonism he wants tickets for every race,” Francis Jr. said.
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