Ernie Francis Jr. has been consistent in two areas competing in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli. The 23-year-old South Floridian has captured the championship every year since joining the series full-time in 2014 – and has included a victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course all seven years.
Francis won in TA3 in 2014-15; TA3 in 2016; and the premier TA category from 2017-20. When the series returns for the 34th time June 25-27, he is expected to be at the wheel of the No. 98 Future Star Racing Ford Mustang.
Mid-Ohio was part of the Golden Years of Trans Am. Jerry Titus won in a Carroll Shelby Ford Mustang in the debut race in 1967 during Trans Am’s second season. Roger Penske then won back-to-back events with his Sunoco Camaros in 1968-69, piloted by Mark Donohue and Ronnie Bucknum.
The series was a Mid-Ohio fixture in the 1980s and early 1990s. Winners included Willy T. Ribbs in 1983; Wally Dallenbach Jr., Scott Pruett, Dorsey Schroeder and Tommy Kendall for Jack Roush; Jack Baldwin in the Hot Wheels Camaro and Hans Stuck in a Group 44 Audi. Greg Pickett and Darrin Brassfield were two-time victors.
Paul Gentilozzi won three consecutive Mid-Ohio races over a four-year span beginning in 1998, driving a Corvette, Ford Mustang and Jaguar XKR. Butch Leitzinger won in 2002 in a Tom Gloy Corvette.
Trans Am returned in 2012, and has been competing at Mid-Ohio annually since then. Simon Gregg is a two-time Mid-Ohio winner, scoring in 2012 and 2016 in a Corvette. Other TA winners include Cliff Ebben in 2013 (Mustang); Doug Peterson in 2014 (Corvette); and Paul Fix in 2015 (Corvette).
“I’ve got a lot of memories from Mid-Ohio, and most of them are good,” said Peterson, who led the TA2 Masters Class last year with a fifth-place finish. “I won the Run-Offs there in Formula Mazda in 2003, but got DQed because of a restrictor, so I came back and won it again. My favorite times were working with Tommy Byrne, Calvin Fish and others during the Friday test days, giving me fantastic feedback. I’ve had a lot of great races there, I’ve raced there a lot. I think the key is just to let the car roll; you can really go fast there in Turn 1 if you turn in a little early. And, be patient; don’t outrace yourself, especially in these bigger cars.”
Thomas Merrill won in TA2 in 2020, beating Scott Lagasse Jr. and Mike Skeen by less than a second. Other TA2 races were won by Bob Stretch (2012), Cameron Lawrence (2013), Adam Andretti (2014), Gar Robinson (2015), Lawrence Loshak (2016), Tony Buffomante (2017), Rafa Matos (2018) and Marc Miller (2019).
Trans Am returns to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Vintage Grand Prix June 25-27. Live stream coverage will start Saturday for the Trans Am TA2 race (12:55pm Eastern) on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App. Download and subscribe: https://nagrasports.app.link/lIQjdAuxq7