When the Camping World SRX Series was formed, series owners Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham promised exciting, door-to-door action between top drivers from multiple disciplines. And Saturday night’s feature at Lucas Oil Raceway delivered in a big way.
A late yellow flag bunched up the field for a 10-lap shootout to decide the winner, and business picked up. Drivers knocked fenders with each other throughout the field before Ernie Francis, Jr. was able to break free for his first win with the series.
The seven-time Trans Am champion took the lead in the early laps and pulled away at times, but he saw himself in a heated battle with Scott Speed late. He was able to get clear of Speed after running side-by-side and trading paint for several laps, then held off Bobby Labonte on the final green-white-checkered restart to become the series’ third different winner in four races.
"Those last few laps took forever. I thought we had it there at the end and they threw that caution with two to go and that sank my heart right there,” Francis told Speed51. “I thought man, I have to do one more restart? Luckily Scott (Speed) wasn’t the one right beside me, he was racing me really hard there wheel-to-wheel and banging on each other.
“I was able to get clear of Labonte there and never looked back, I was able to take it home. I don’t even know what else to say, that was incredible.”
With his win Saturday night, Francis closes the gap on points leader Tony Stewart considerably with just two races left in the inaugural season. He came into the six-race set looking to prove himself on a national stage, and he has done just that in the first four races so far.
My goal was to come out here and show I can run with the best and I deserve a shot to race in any series, whether it be NASCAR, IndyCar, whatever I’d be doing. Hopefully we showed it out there today.
Bobby Labonte snuck through the late-race chaos and was rewarded with a runner-up finish after 76 laps. The 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion had a shot at Francis during the last restart, but came up just short.
After an 11th place finish at Eldora last week, Labonte was more than happy with a second at Lucas Oil.
“My car got really tight there two runs before that and we had a caution, then that last ten lap run we had another caution. I was getting too tight, the right front was giving up a lot of grip so I really didn’t have a lap to do something,” Labonte said. “Having that green-white-checkered and running with Ernie trying to get underneath him, I just wasn’t even with him going into three to try and get a run. All in all, we had a fast race car in the heat races and finished second so after last week, I’ll take a solid day.”
Scott Speed would make his way back to third after losing several positions in the waning laps. Marco Andretti and short track ringer Bobby Santos III rounded out the top-five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo
SRX – Lucas Oil Raceway Results:
- Ernie Francis Jr
- Bobby Labonte
- Scott Speed
- Marco Andretti
- Bobby Santos III
- Michael Waltrip
- Tony Stewart
- Paul Tracy
- Helio Castroneves
- Tony Kanaan
- Willy T Ribbs
- Bill Elliott