Ernie Francis Jr. wins first SRX race at Lucas Oil Raceway
Seven-time Trans Am Series champion Ernie Francis Jr. scored an emphatic inaugural victory in the Camping World SRX Series race Saturday night at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Francis, who has also made three NASCAR series starts in his career, led the final 65 laps in the 76-lap race and held off NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte in a two-lap shootout to the finish.
“Man, I’m totally speechless, this is incredible,” said Francis, who beat Labonte by .649 of a second on the .686-mile, paved oval near Indianapolis. “Those last 10-15 laps felt like they were taking forever. It felt like an eternity out there, all the cautions. I was just trying to focus on a good restart.
“Me and Scott Speed went at it for a few laps there, side-to-side, and I didn’t know how that was going to end up. I ended up with a few donuts on the car, but man, couldn’t be happier with it, super incredible.
“I want to thank everybody from SRX, Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for giving me this opportunity.”
Ernie Francis Jr. at the SRX race at Lucas Oil Raceway
Photo by: SRX
The win moved Francis, 23, into second in the series standings, 30 points behind leader Stewart, who had won two of the first three races.
“That last green-white-checkered when it was just me and Ernie, my car was just too tight and I didn’t want to get into him too hard – just needed to keep it together and bring it home,” Labonte said.
Speed, the former Formula One driver who transitioned to NASCAR and then Rallycross, finished third after leading the first 11 laps.
“Man, we had such a good battle, me and Francis,” said Speed, who won the first heat race. “We were definitely the best two cars and we were playing cat-and-mouse with our tires, saving them.
“And then, with 10 to go, it was ‘game on.’ We were both going to charge and we had such an awesome side-by-side race.”
Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), founded by Stewart, Ray Evernham, Sandy Montag and George Pyne, features six short track races on a mix of pavement and dirt with drivers running identical cars.
SRX heads next to Slinger (Wisc.) Speedway on July 10; and its season finale is July 17 at the Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway.
Every Camping World SRX Series race is broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network with streaming live on Paramount+ Premium.
Feature Results (76 laps)
Note: Starting lineup was based on average finishing positions in Heat Race Nos. 1-2.
1. Ernie Francis Jr. (Started 6th; led laps 12-76; completed 76/76 laps)
2. Bobby Labonte (Started 3rd; completed 76/76 laps)
3. Scott Speed (Started 2nd; led laps 1-22; completed 76/76 laps)
4. Marco Andretti (Started 8th; completed 76/76 laps)
5. Bobby Santos III (Started 9th; completed 76/76 laps)
6. Michael Waltrip (Started 5th; completed 76/76 laps)
7. Tony Stewart (Started 1st; completed 76/76 laps)
8. Paul Tracy (Started 10th; completed 76/76 laps)
9. Helio Castroneves (Started 4th; completed 76/76 laps)
10. Tony Kanaan (Started 7th; completed 76/76 laps)
11. Willy T. Ribbs (Started 12th; completed 76/76 laps)
12. Bill Elliott (Started 11th; completed 76/76 laps)
SRX Series Championship Standings (after Round 4 of 6):
1. Tony Stewart (160 points)
2. Ernie Francis Jr. (130 points, -30)
3. Helio Castroneves (120 points, -40)
4. Bobby Labonte (115 points, -45)
5. Marco Andretti (111 points, -49)
6. Michael Waltrip (86 points, -74)
7. Paul Tracy (83 points, -77)
8. Tony Kanaan (65 points, -95)
9. Bill Elliott (52 points, -108)
10. Willy T. Ribbs (45 points, -115)
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