SRX winner Ernie Francis Jr. will drive Indy Lights in 2022 season for Force Indy’s No. 99

Ernie Francis Indy Lights
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Force Indy will move up from USF2000 to the Indy Lights Series for the 2022 season with new driver Ernie Francis Jr. in its No. 99.

The Hatian-American finished second in the inaugural season of the Superstar Racing Experience last year, winning Round 4 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. He also is a seven-time champion in the Trans-Am Series from 2014-20 with a series-record 47 career victories. He has 24 wins in the premier TA division, trailing only Paul Gentilozzi (31), Mark Donohue (29) and Tommy Kendall (28).

“This is an incredible opportunity,” Francis, 24, said in a release. “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.”

INDY LIGHTS 2022 SCHEDULE: When to watch the races on Peacock

As part of IndyCar’s Race for Equality and Change, the formation of Force Indy was announced in December 2020 in a technical support alliance with Team Penske.

Force Indy is led by African-American team principal Rod Reid, who has put an emphasis on hiring Black men and women in all departments of the team (from office staff to mechanics to drivers).

Last year, Myles Rowe, the team’s first driver, became the first Black driver to win in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, completing a thrilling last-lap pass for victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey.

“Being able to finish our first season with a win showed what this team is capable of doing,” Reid said in a release. “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.”

Francis also scored three victories during his lone season in the Formula Regional Americas Championship.

“I was pleased to learn that Ernie would be driving for Force Indy in 2022,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “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.”

The Indy Lights Series, which is streamed on Peacock, will open its 2022 season Feb. 25-27 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.