Sandberg & Francis Score In Texas
After becoming the youngest winner in series history Saturday, Francis Jr. kept the record-setting streak alive, taking the victory on Sunday in the No. 98 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2. Francis Jr., a 15-year-old high school student, set a record that may prove tough to beat, becoming the youngest driver to win three-consecutive races in Pirelli World Challenge. Francis also collected the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race and Kia Turning Point of the Race en route to his win.
“In the beginning, I was battling with the Honda [Lipperini] and trying to keep the pressure on him,” Francis Jr. said. “Once I saw my opportunity to get past, I took it. They started battling behind me and I was able to pull away from them.
“I knew a couple spots where they were slowing me down, when I was behind. I knew that if I could get in front that I wouldn’t have to worry, that I could run faster. I just needed to focus and do my laps.
“For my second-ever pro race, to sweep the weekend is great. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Charlie James brought the No. 0 SafeRacer MINI Cooper home in second for his third runner-up finish of the weekend. In one of the closer battles in the race, James got around Robbie Davis on lap 15. James then passed Lipperini on the next lap, and held off the charging Davis at the line. James also scored the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race.
“It was a different race than the races Saturday,” James said. “It was quite a bit longer and Joel [Lipperini] getting out front kind of stacked up the group and made for a totally different race. Once [Francis] Junior got around and Robbie [Davis] and I were stuck behind Joel the race was over for the win. Joel drives a great race and makes it hard to get past him. That was a challenge throughout the whole race. Robbie and I had a good battle. MINI second and third, we’ll take that.”
Davis, who started fifth, had a good start, making the most of having the inside line into Turn One, getting the nose of his No. 37 MINI USA/MINI Financial Services MINI Cooper into the lead battle. Davis continued his pursuit of the top spot, hounding Francis Jr., then Joel Lipperini, of Pittston, Penn., swapping positions throughout a lap more often than the official position changes at the timing line would suggest.
“Very good battle,” said Davis. “Me and Charlie were biding our time and using the draft as much as we could. Later in the race we were going to start making some moves. Charlie made the first move to get by Joel and then I was able to get by him as well. Thought I might get a chance at Charlie but I just didn’t have enough oomph coming off the last corner. My first World Challenge weekend was a lot of fun. I’m super excited to attend all the races this season.”
Lipperini started second, in the No. 81 Race Labz/Honda/HPD/BEST Brakes Honda Fit, and got the drop on polesitter Francis Jr., taking the lead following the exit of Turn One. Francis Jr. pressured Lipperini hard, until the eventual race winner made it around him, getting a run out of Turn 20 on lap 14. Davis and James were then able to make it around Lipperini, who pushed his Pirelli P-Zeros to the max en route to a four-place result.
Proud father Ernie Francis Sr. joined his son in the top-five for the second time in the weekend. Francis Sr. guided the No. 2 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2 to fifth, making up 12 positions from his 17-place grid spot, earning him the Sunoco Hard Charger and Optima Batteries Best Standing Start awards.