Ernie Francis Jr has been confirmed as Force Indy’s driver for the upcoming Indy Lights season in the No. 99 Dallara IL15-AER turbo.
The native of Florida comes to Force Indy as part of Penske Entertainment’s Race for Equality & Change program, and follows after an impressive career in the Trans Am Series. Despite his young age, the 24-year-old has amassed seven championships and 47 victories. In his open-wheel debut last year, Francis also captured three wins in the Formula Regional Americas series and claimed a win and second place in the SRX championship.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” Francis said. “After getting a taste last year and beginning to learn what open-wheel racing is all about, I found myself wanting more. Open-wheel cars are incredible to drive. To know that I’ll continue my education with Force Indy and only one step away from the NTT IndyCar Series makes this unbelievably special. I cannot wait to get started.”
Race for Equality & Change made its on-track debut in 2021 with Myles Rowe in USF2000 representing the new Force Indy program led by Rod Reid, and Beth Paretta, whose Paretta Autosport Indy 500 effort with driver Simona De Silvestro received support from Team Penske. For 2022, the RE&C has moved on from USF2000 and Rowe, and Paretta is also searching for team-based support of her own as the RE&C initiative has leapt to Indy Lights with a desire of seeing Force Indy and Francis reach IndyCar.
“Being able to finish our first season with a win showed what this team is capable of doing,” Reid said. “We want to thank Myles, who will always be a member of the Force Indy race team, and will continue to offer assistance and mentorship as he pursues another season in USF2000. I could not be more thrilled 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 itself.”
Penske also welcomed Francis to the Road to Indy.
“I was pleased to learn that Ernie would be driving for Force Indy in 2022,” he said. “As someone who has a history in Trans Am, I know the type of skillset that comes from that series. Ernie will be a wonderful addition to Indy Lights.
“It was inspiring to see the growth of Force Indy during their first season, and we will continue to support their progress and mission as the team continues on a path to compete in the NTT IndyCar Series.”