Sitting in a racing chair, gripping a steering wheel and putting his foot to the pedal are the normal motions for a race car driver. But at the age of fifteen, Ernie Francis Jr. is anything but normal. He's the youngest driver on the Pirelli World Challenge series and the youngest to be hitting the streets in St. Petersburg this weekend for the Grand Prix.
Francis Jr. didn't have to use his quick maneuvering skills to evade school this week, but class was in session as he joined drivers teaching lessons to kids at Career day at the Science Center of Pinellas.
"I thought it would be someone in their twenties or thirties, honestly maybe a Formula 1 or Indy Car, but for him to be here is just awesome," said 7th grader at Admiral Farragut Trevor Sandridge.
Even with Indy Car Series super star Tony Kanaan on hand, Ernie garnered most the attention especially with the young ladies. When Francis Jr. addressed the youthful audience, whispers of "He's so cute" could be heard. The teen heart throb will get his pulse running in a 436 horse power Camaro, taking it up to 140 MPH Saturday and Sunday. For most, that that type of speed's a nightmare but for Francis Jr. it's a dream come true.
"I do see myself as a role model for the kids," said Francis Jr. "I think when they see me that they can do whatever they want, that they can achieve their dreams."
His fresh face can barely see over the dashboard, but that doesn't mean the students and teachers didn't witness the message he was sending.
"To see someone their age and living out their dream it's pretty impressive and inspirational for them," said teacher Kristen Anderson.
"I thought you had to be eighteen to be at Career Day, but I'm here and I am pretty sure I am one of the only 15-year olds' with a career right now," said Francis Jr.
It's an enviable career at that and we'll see if Francis Jr. can continue to teach lessons this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg.