Force Indy aligns with other teams to field cars for Myles Rowe, Ernie Francis Jr. in 2023

Force Indy Francis Rowe
Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Force Indy will align with two existing teams for the 2023 season to put drivers Myles Rowe and Ernie Francis Jr. in feeder circuits to the NTT IndyCar Series.

Francis Jr. will drive a No. 99 Force Indy entry for HMD Motorsports in Indy Lights.

Francis, a winner in the Superstar Racing Experience and Trans-Am series, finished 10th in the 2022 points standings in his first Indy Lights season with Force Indy. He will be among several drivers in Indy Lights cars prepared by HMD Motorsports, which won the 2022 championship with Linus Lundqvist.

Rowe will drive a No. 99 Force Indy car for Pabst Racing in the rebranded USF Pro 2000 Championship (formerly Indy Pro 2000) presented by Cooper Tires. The New York native will be moving up from USF2000, where he won five races and finished second in points last season with Pabst (despite scrambling to secure funding).

Rowe became the first Black driver to win in USF2000 with Force Indy during the team’s inaugural 2021 season. Force Indy was formed in 2020 as part of IndyCar’s Race for Equality and Change in a technical support alliance with Team Penske. African-American team owner Rod Reid put an emphasis on hiring Black American men and women in all departments of the team.

Myles Rowe finished second in the 2022 USF2000 points standings as a winner with Pabst Racing (USF2000).

In a release, Force Indy said crew members who worked on Francis’ Indy Lights car last season will be integrated in roles at HMD Motorsports. The team also will transfer cars and equipment to HMD Motorsports as “focus will shift toward establishing a program that sponsors multiple drivers at top teams while fostering additional pathways for diverse talent across the motorsports spectrum.”

Reid also will continue to mentor Francis and Rowe while running the NXG Youth Motorsports diversity program.

“Force Indy already has a lot to celebrate,” Reid said in a release. “In 2021, we made history as the first African American-owned team and driver to win an IndyCar-sanctioned race. Now we are aligning ourselves with two championship-caliber teams as we seek growth and continued success both on and off the track.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.