HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Ernie Francis Jr. secured his second Trans-Am Series TA class victory of the year on Sunday morning in dominating fashion at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The reigning TA class champion has now won the past two Trans-Am Series competitions at Homestead-Miami and set a new track record en route to the winner’s circle.
Shane Lewis shared in the celebrations with a TA3 class victory, outlasting Sebastian Carazo after a battle that spanned much of the multi-class competition.
The victory, the 12th of Francis’ career in the TA class, came in dominant fashion on his home track. The No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang often led the remainder of the TA class field by a gap that extended beyond ten seconds — despite being reeled in by a full-course yellow in the middle of the competition.
“This is our home track,” said Francis. “We knew we needed to put on a good show for our friends and family, but the car was absolutely hooked up today. We knew we had the pace from the very beginning of the weekend, right off the trailer. We have a great setup for Homestead-Miami, I have plenty of track time here, and we run old tires during all the testing and practice sessions— it gives you a good feel for what the car will be like here towards the end of the race. While everyone else was slipping and sliding, our car still was hooked up.”
Despite the win only coming three races into the 11-round championship, Francis hopes the hometown win will help him go the distances in his TA class title defense, particularly as his multi-series schedule begins to heat up.
“It’s great to have the points lead and grow it a bit more,” said Francis. “It’s unfortunate what happened to Chris Dyson out there, but it helps our lead and gives us a bit of a gap. We’re going to need it come Indianapolis; I’ll be missing practice and qualifying due to a NASCAR K&N obligation. I’ll be flying in just in time for the green flag and starting from the back of the pack. It should make for a great show.”
The aforementioned Chris Dyson had worked his way up to second position on the 28th lap of the 45-lap contest but was contacted from behind by the No. 06 Tina Bazuca/ Republica Brewing Chevrolet Corvette of R.J. Lopez, causing the No. 20 to spin. Officials black flagged the No. 06 for avoidable contact and ordered a drive-through penalty, which was served.
Lawrence Loshak was able to capitalize on Dyson’s misfortune, retaking his second place starting position while holding off a resurgent Amy Ruman for the remainder of the competition. In doing so, Loshak secured his first podium of the 2018 season, rebounding in full from a challenging Road Atlanta outing marred by mechanical issues.
The third place finish also marked a return to form for Amy Ruman, securing her first podium finish since round nine of 2017, also bidding adieu to her own streak of mechanical frustrations.
The hard-charging David Pintaric, who worked up through the TA class field from 12th starting position, would just outlast Dyson for fourth place, but only just. One hundredth of a second separated the two competitors as they passed the checkered flag, side-by-side.
In the TA3 class, Lewis emerged victorious in the No. 28 MGM Porsche 997.2, bringing home a win for the MGM team in its Trans-Am debut. Lewis would take the lead from pole sitter Randy Kinsland on the second lap of the contest but was pushed hard following the restart by Trans-Am debutant Carazo.
Lewis and Carazo would navigate both oncoming TA class traffic and their own back-and-forth battle for the remainder of the race, with Lewis only truly gaining separation with three laps remaining.
“It was an amazing battle with Sebastian,” said Lewis. “It was just back and forth; he’s an awesome driver — the guys prepped an awesome car. After the restart, I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen. We obviously didn’t want to get involved in the TA class’ race, but we had a battle of our own too. It just shows the professionalism of all the drivers involved that we could race that hard and keep it clean amongst classes.”
Carazo would secure second place in the TA3 class, while Dave Ricci completed the production class’ podium.