Francis Continues Trans-Am Domination

0
229
Ernie Francis Jr. continued his domination of the Trans-Am Series TA class on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. (Chris Clark Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Ernie Francis Jr. captured his fourth win of the season Saturday in the FirstEnergy Trans-Am 100 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, emerging atop an eventful TA, TA3 and TA4 multi-class competition.

Also securing class victories were Mark Boden, his second consecutive in TA3 at Mid-Ohio, and Warren Dexter, his third consecutive in the TA4 class this year.

Francis, driving the No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang, would start the race in seventh position but surged into second position on the first lap under green taking advantage of jostling between cars at the front of the field. Francis would settle in behind pole sitter Paul Fix, in the No. 4 StopFlex/CarCoach Ford Mustang, as a full-course caution came out on the second lap to retrieve the No. 20 Plaid Crafts Ford Mustang of Chris Dyson stopped off course following contact.

After the restart on lap six, Francis would pursue Fix relentlessly, often while being hounded himself by the No. 2 Pennzoil/ETE Reman/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro of Lawrence Loshak but was unable to make the pass. Multi-class traffic ahead of the leaders would lay down grass on the Mid-Ohio circuit, forcing Francis to pit and clean off the No. 98’s grill, yielding the position to Loshak only to see it reclaimed as he followed suit three laps later.

Francis would reclaim second position in pursuit of Fix and even saw the race leader pulled back into the field by a second full-course caution on the 24th lap, setting up a battle between the No. 4 and No. 98. However, prior to the restart, the No. 4 of Fix was clipped by a lapped car undergoing wave-by procedures puncturing a tire on the No. 4, forcing Fix to pit as the rest of the field resumed green flag racing.

Francis would lead the remainder of the race maintaining a gap on the No. 2 of Loshak, bringing home his second consecutive TA class victory at Mid-Ohio.

“It was definitely an eventful race for us,” said Francis. “We knew it would be difficult for us starting near the back. I knew the car had the pace in it, but we struggled with the car in qualifying since I’m running TA and TA2 this weekend. On the first lap everyone struggled a bit; and we were able to get up to second pretty easily, from there we just followed Fix running consistent laps and putting some pressure on him. We hit some lapped traffic and they got tangled up a bit and put some grass on the track and we’d need to come in and clean off the radiators— we just wanted to be the first to do so and make it. Then things came our way; I’ve got to thank our guys back home at Frameless Shower Door—they make this all happen and I/m thankful for all of their support.”

Loshak would secure the second place finish, his third podium of the year, while turning a new track record 1:21.613 lap. Boris Said battled back up from sixth to his finishing position of third on the 29th lap, his first podium following his Trans-Am return.

David Pintaric would finish fourth while Paul Fix would recover to fifth position by the 35th lap.

For contacting the No. 4 of Fix, the then race leader, during the wave-by and under yellow, the No. 71 of Dave Ricci was penalized for avoidable contact, resulting in his exclusion from the results, being issued a one-race suspension and being placed on probation for the remainder of the Trans-Am Championship.

In the TA3 class, Boden once again shown from behind the wheel of the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3 cup, leading every lap from pole and capturing his second consecutive Mid-Ohio victory and second win of the season. Boden was joined on the TA3 class podium by his teammate Tom Herb, in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, giving the Fall-Line team a one-two sweep.

Marko Radisic, in the No. 22 Precision Driving BMW M4, would finish third in his first Trans-Am appearance of the 2018 season, making his way up through the field after starting in fifth position.

In TA4, it was once again Warren Dexter, in the No. 61 Joe’s Hand Cleaner, who captured the top spot on the class podium but had to catch a fast starting Todd Napieralski, who overtook Dexter early and worked his way through the field.

The No. 61 would catch the No. 39 of Napieralski on the 14th lap with an outside pass for the lead, one he would not relinquish.