Local Teen Competes at SCCA Majors at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Ernie Francis Jr

Making your way through the infield at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday, you would think that Ford Championship Weekend came early to the track.  Actually, that won’t take place until November 20-22, as champions will be crowned once again in each of NASCAR’s three series – Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck.

What is on-track this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway is the Sports Club Cars of America (SCCA).  Approximately 300 cars from around the country are on site Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the SCCA opens its 2015 season with its first Majors event, as part of the Palm Tree Majors.  A 10-day Florida swing, the Palm Tree Majors begins at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finishes at Sebring International Raceway. America’s best amateur drivers will race this weekend on Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 2.21-mile road course.  Friday is qualifying, while the actual racing will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

One of the participants in the weekend’s competition is 16-year-old Ernie Francis Jr., who grew up in Kendall and now lives in Southwest Ranches.  For him, Homestead-Miami Speedway is familiar territory, having started racing go-karts at the track’s adjacent go-kart course at the tender age of four.  At 13 he began racing on the road course track.

“I’ve always loved this track,” Francis said during a break in qualifying on Friday.  “I’ve been coming here long before I started racing cars - for 7-8 years, since my dad started doing track stuff for guys out here.  So I always wanted to drive on this track, and the first time that I had the chance to do that I was so happy.”

Francis, who drives for the Breathless Performance Racing Team, gained his love of racing from his father, Ernie Sr., who also did some racing, including at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“My dad got me into racing,” said Ernie Jr., who will turn 17 on January 23.  “He’s always owned a speed shop and did racing work to cars.  I would come to the track with him and strap in the drivers, download their videos for them and do simple stuff like that.  I’ve always been waiting for the opportunity, and when I turned 13 I was able to start racing on the track here.”

Ernie Jr. has experienced some pretty impressive success in a relatively short period of time.  He is coming off a 2014 season in which he was the Trans Am TA3 Champion, while also finishing third in the World Challenge TC.

In 2013, he was youngest licensed professional driver competing in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships, and came away with "Rookie of the Year" honors as he won more races (7) than any other driver in any class.  He finished the season third in the TCB Class.

In 2012, while 14 years old, he captured championships in both NASA (National Auto Sport Association) and FARA (Formula Automobile Racing Association), producing 21 wins, 26 Top Five finishes and 32 Top 10 finishes in 34 races.

Ernie Jr. would like nothing more than to continue racing as a career.

“I really want to see myself racing Le Mans or in some kind of high up GT racing,” he said.  “I want to try and stay in sports cars.  But anywhere that I can race I will be happy.”

The SCCA event will continue on Saturday and Sunday.  Racing starts at 8 am and concludes at 5 pm both days.  For more information, visit www.scca.com.  

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