For the Francises, racing efforts are all in the family

On Motor Sports

November 16, 1997|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Drag racing is a family affair for Michelle Francis and her family. They race from March through November and work on their cars during the winter.

Normally, when two people get married, it is the bride that becomes part of a drag racing family. But when Michelle and Jeff Francis were married, it was the husband that became part of the sport.

"I've been going to races all my life with my parents," Michelle said. "Jeff never went to a race until we started dating. Now we all do it together."

Michell's parents, Donnie and Carol Kile of Essex, raced every weekend taking their daughter with them from track-to-track. Her mother, instead of staying home while her dad went to the track, raced regularly on an all-women's circuit.

Michelle followed in her mother's tracks. In her first race, she went four rounds. "I was nervous the first couple times," she said. "After that night I didn't need any convincing to go racing. I knew it was for me."

The Francis family, their two children and Michelle's parents are racing every weekend together. This year, they traveled by motor home outside the area to Virginia Motorsports, Maryland International and Maple Grove raceways to compete in the Bill Mitchell Shootout Series.

This past year, Jeff did more driving than Michelle, racing her 1993 Ford Mustang at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia when they weren't traveling to other tracks. For someone who never went to a race until he met his wife, Jeff has turned out to be a good driver in only a few short years.

He finished 19th out of 124 in the Mitchell Series point standings and was runner-up in the Shootout Series at Virginia Motorsports Park earlier in the year. Actually, they are both good drivers. Jeff and Michelle both won their class in the Fall Ford Spectacular at 75-80 two years ago.

Having Jeff drive her car didn't keep Michelle from racing. She kept her skills sharp by racing a '86 BMW 325 in the street class.

"It was slow compared to the Mustang I was racing before," said the Michelle, 31. "But it was fun. I wanted to do something, so I got in and raced it. The car did the quarter-mile in 19 seconds. I felt like I would never get to the finish line. But it still had the thrill of racing and taking off from the line."

Michelle won't be without a car too long. Her husband and father have been working on a '86 Mustang since last spring and are hoping to get it out a couple of times before this season is over.

"My husband and Dad have put a new engine in it and done everything that needs to be done. They are making the headers for the engine now," said Michelle. "The car belonged to my brother, Ken Kile. He was racing in the Ford Nationals at Maple Grove last year when the engine blew a part and lost control in the oil and hit the guard rail."

Michelle's brother escaped injury, but the car suffered severe front-end damage and the motor was beyond repair.

Ken hasn't raced since and once they were sure that he didn't want to race again, Michelle's husband and father started the task of rebuilding the car.

When Michelle's new Mustang is finished, it is going to be a fast one, faster than the '93. Her father has always worked with 428-cubic-inch Ford motors. Since parts for those motors are getting hard to come by, he is taking on a new challenge and building a 460-cubic-inch Ford.

"We expect the car to do the quarter-mile in 9.20 seconds or 145 miles per hour," said Michelle. "The '93 Mustang is a 9.9-second car and about 10 mph slower. I am looking forward to racing [the new one]."

It looks like this Westminster family will be racing for a long time to come. Michelle's parents both take spins in their '94 Cobra when they feel the need to. Her father helps with the mechanical work and is the burnout man while the mother serves as baby sitter and cooks so the two can race. It won't be long before their oldest son, Travis, will be racing in the Junior Dragster division.

"My brother's boy, Kenny Kile Jr., races in the junior dragster and Travis sits in the car every chance he can," Michelle said. "He will be 8 next year and is counting on racing."

The Francis family is indeed a racing family. It is easy to see why they will call their new Mustang "Family Affair."

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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