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Ernie Francis Jr. set a fast lap of 1:58.277 at Sebring. (Trans Am photo)

Francis Jr. Tops Trans-Am Speed Charts At Sebring

SEBRING, Fla. — Practice and qualifying are in the books for the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli’s season opener at Sebring International Raceway.

In a surprise appearance, seven-time Trans Am champion and four-time TA class champion Ernie Francis Jr. returned for the first time in two years to fill in for an under-the-weather Brent Crews and shot to the top of the speed charts, claiming the pole award.

Francis Jr.’s last pole with the series was won at Circuit of The Americas in the 2021 season finale, a year in which he earned the top qualifying position five times.

“Winning the pole is pretty cool; this was unexpected for this weekend,” said Francis Jr. “I was just going to be running our old Trans Am car in the SVRA class, and then we got out here and ECC was in need of a driver. I’ve driven for them before, so it kind of worked out pretty well. I was able to hop in their car, and man, it’s fast.

“I’ve never driven a Weaver chassis, never driven a Dodge Challenger, but it’s a pretty good car. I’m enjoying it, it’s pretty fast out here. I think it was the fastest I’ve been around this track for sure, so I’m really liking it. I’ve just got to give a big thanks to the guys from ECC and from Weaver.

“They gave me a really good car, really fast, and hopefully we can just take it home tomorrow.”

TA Qualifying Top Five

1. Ernie Francis Jr., No. 79 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger (1:58.277)

2. Paul Menard, No. 3 Menards Ford Mustang (1:58.479)

3. Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (1:58.547)

4. Adam Andretti, No. 17 Top Liner/Go Share Chevrolet Camaro (1:58.746)

5. Keith Grant, No. 40 Drissi Motorsports/Showtime Chevrolet Camaro (1:59.997)

XGT Qualifying

1. Danny Lowry, No. 42 Bennett/BridgeHaul/Pitboxes.com Mercedes AMG GT3 (2:05.981)

SGT Qualifying

1. Lee Saunders, No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper (2:09.333)

2. Richard Forsythe, No. 58 GSpeed/Sambuca Restaurant Chevrolet Corvette (2:11.539)

3. Joshua Carlson, No. 36 Enseva/TC Fab/Diercks Ltd. Ford Mustang (2:13.889)

4. Kaylee Bryson, No. 01 Logical Systems Inc./Sam Pierce Chevrolet Corvette (2:18.826)

GT Qualifying

1. Chris Coffey, No. 97 Norwood Auto Italia/Traffic Grafix Maserati MC GT4 (2:13.309)

2. Jeff Lindstrom, No. 41 Griffin Auto Care/Sheehan’s Towing Ford Mustang (2:13.517)

3. Joey DaSilva, No. 67 Ave Motorsports Toyota Supra (2:13.939)

4. Colin Cohen, No. 38 Norwood Auto Italia/Traffic Grafix Maserati MC GT4 (2:17.025)

5. Todd Napieralski, No. 39 SKF/Turn-Key/Bell’s Brewery Chevrolet Camaro (2:17.518)