INDIANAPOLIS — The Force Indy Racing Team is a team supported by IndyCar as the series’ effort to expand in diversity.
The team is part of Penske Entertainment’s Race for Equality & Change program to appeal to and find opportunities in racing for people of color. Force Indy has been competing in the under series’ of the IndyCar development ladder, most recently in USF2000.
In an announcement on Thursday, Force Indy will be elevated to the Indy Lights series, one rung lower than the NTT IndyCar Series. Their driver will be Ernie Francis, Jr., who gained popularity racing with the SRX Series in the summer of 2021.
It’s not lost on him that he will be among the first drivers of color to race in Indy Lights.
“Growing up racing out here I’ve always been a younger kid and being from a Haitian-American background I look different than a lot of the other drivers out there,” Francis said. “I understand that the younger generation looks up to me as a driver and I’m ready for that.”
At 24-years-old Francis is a decorated driver in his own right along with success at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park last year winning the SRX Series race held there. He was also a multi-time class champion in the Trans-Am Series. Francis has also run stock cars in the K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Force Indy owner Rod Reid says the addition of Francis to their team and the elevation to the Indy Lights Series is a huge step forward for the overall goal for their racing team and the Race for Equality & Change program. But he says the overall premise of both is twofold.
“We’ve got to perform well anyway. We want to win races,” Reid said. “As we sit here and talk about programs for diversity and inclusion, that’s a goal, but that’s right along with performing well and winning races. So I think if we do that then we become role models for all.”
Force Indy won its first race last year with Myles Rowe in the USF2000 ranks. With the win, Rowe became the first African-American driver to win an IndyCar sanctioned race. Reid said with the addition of Francis in Indy Lights they can build on that success.
Reid said that with the move to Indy Lights, they will be ceasing operation of their USF 2000 program, saying that they want to “concentrate on what’s in front of us.”