Ernie Francis Jr. rolls into the Daytona International Speedway for the final race of the 2017 Trans Am racing season this week with a rare luxury: he has already clinched the TA1 season championship.
Driving the Katech-powered FramlessShowerDoors.com Breathless Racing Team Ford TA, Francis will seek his 10th win of the season at Daytona having already become, at age19, the youngest champion in series history.
“Coming into this season we weren’t expecting to win the Trans Am championship, let alone win with two races remaining in the season,” Francis, Jr. said.
Saturday’s 29-lap, 103.2-mile chase around the famous Daytona International Speedway road course that includes a healthy dose of the venue’s famed high banks will start at 10:15 a.m.
Even if he never drives a Trans Am car again, Francis’ mark on the famed series is indelible. He has won 32 races and four championships in the four Trans Am classes he’s competed in, and Katech has played a major role in all of that.
Katech Director of Motorsports Kevin Pranger recalled, “I saw something in Ernie Jr. and in their team. I pursued his dad, Ernie Sr., for over a year before he decided to come on board with Katech. We won championships together in 2014 and 2015 in the Camaro and last year we won it in the Mustang. It was at Mid-Ohio last year that Ernie Sr. told me they’d be moving to TA1 racing in 2017 so, of course, we were interested in working with them on their TA1 engines. It was the perfect gateway for Katech to get involved in TA1 competition, and we’re proud it’s paid off with yet another championship.”
Few road racing facilities place a heavy premium on sheer horsepower the way Daytona does. Katech’s 800 horsepower engine will give Ernie Jr. an excellent chance to capture win number 10.
“I knew that if we were going to have a chance in 2017, we were going to need a brand new car, including a new engine. Katech Performance has been supplying Breathless Racing with incredible Chevrolet and Ford powered engines throughout Ernie Jr’s career, so we commissioned them to build us our first of two Ford TA engines,” said Ernie Francis, Sr. “We owe many, many thanks to our Katech friends as, without their dedication and the amazing power plant they provided, we may not have accomplished our fourth championship.”
“We’ve worked really well together, and we’ve built a solid partnership,” Katech’s Pranger said. “All of us, Ernie Jr., the entire race team, as well as our expert engine builders have become very good friends and business partners.”
The Trans Am TA1 class features high-powered, purpose-built race cars modeled after production cars like Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers and Corvettes. The so-called ‘heavy iron’ cars have been a popular staple of American road racing for decades. But even with all of that history, Trans Am has seldom seen a star as bright as Francis Jr’s.
Ernie Jr. is from South Florida and was raised around racing his entire life as his father, Ernie Francis, Sr., was also a race car driver. Since Ernie Jr.’s transition from karts to cars at the age of 13, he has earned numerous podium appearances and more than 20 wins. At just 14 years old, he won championships in both the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and Formula Automobile Racing Association (FARA). The 19-year-old racer hopes to secure his 10th Trans Am TA1 win to show all those at Daytona exactly why he is the youngest champion in the history of the series.
In addition to Ernie Jr.’s monumental success within Trans Am, he was just selected as a driver for NASCAR with Rev Racing for the 2018 season through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. Since its inception in 2004, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program has produced NASCAR drivers from across the country in multiple levels of racing. The Driver Development Program targets marketable minority and female drivers with grassroots, local and regional racing experience. The academy-style program is designed to develop and train drivers both on and off the track. Drivers interested in participating in the program must apply to attend the annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine. A limited number of candidates are selected to attend the tryout camp. After undergoing a rigorous three-day assessment, the selected candidates join Rev Racing to compete in one of several developmental series.
The members of the Breathless Racing Team include Ernie Francis, Sr. as Team Owner/Engineer, Ernie Francis, Jr. as the driver, Billy Roper as crew chief, Ira Paskow as the Track Support Manager, Bill Hofmann as Public Relations Director, Marc Buoniconti as Ernie Jr’s Drivers Agent and Mark Meissen as the team’s engineer.
Sponsors of the Breathless Racing Team are include: Buoniconti Fund, Title Sponsor for first 11 Races; The Original Frameless Shower Doors Company, Title Sponsor for Last 2 Races; R & B Company; Beta Tools; Driving Impressions; JRI Shocks; Liquid Performance; Exotic Car Society.
*From media release
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