DC Autosport drivers continue forward progress at Barber
 May 8, 2023| 
  • Team News
23USF_BMP_GB_01353

DC Autosport and the USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires series contested two races at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, part of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix weekend.

DC Autosport drivers Ethan Ho (Los Angeles) Carson Etter (Villa Park, Calif.) each came to Barber Motorsports Park with a goal in mind: for Ho, it was the chance to progress closer to his first series podium, while Etter continued the steep learning curve that has taken him from off-road racing to the first rung of the preeminent US junior formula ladder series.

At the end of the “weekend” (with both races on Friday), both drivers had accomplished those goals, in two 20-lap, action packed races.

Barber Motorsports Park is one of the premier racing facilities in the country. Its 880 acres includes a “proving ground” skid pad, motocross and vehicle off-road courses, and a nationally famous vintage racing museum. The track itself has earned the nickname “the Alabama roller coaster” with its 16-turn, 2.366-mile layout that incorporates elevation changes of more than 80 ft.

Ho, who qualified sixth in both USF Juniors races at Barber last year, used his experience to his advantage and set the quickest time in the first of two test sessions on Thursday – the session was run on a very wet track, giving the DC Autosport drivers and the rest of the field a good chance to test their mettle in difficult conditions. The track was still a bit damp in the afternoon, reducing speeds and limiting the team’s ability to formalize setups.

In the lone official practice session that afternoon, two incidents involving cars off in the wet grass meant there was very little real time on track to get that fast lap – and with qualifying just an hour away, time was at a premium. Ho finished the session eighth, but Etter’s car slid off track just enough to find the wet grass, and he ended the session in the tires.

Cool and dry (but overcast) conditions greeted the drivers for qualifying late in the afternoon. Both Ho and Etter built their times steadily through the 30-minute session, with Ho up to fifth and Etter making up for lost track time in 14th. But just as both drivers were gearing up for their flyer laps, a car went into the Turn 13 tires, damaging the wall and ending the session with nearly five minutes remaining. Race two qualifying took place very early Friday morning, with incidents once again reducing the drivers to one flyer lap at the end of the session. Both drivers improved their times, with Ho setting the ­­seventh quickest time while Etter settled for 14th.

Race One

The green flag fell just after 10:15 a.m., with Ho getting on the gas quickly, moving to the inside in turn one and grabbing the fourth position. But with cars sliding off track in both turn one and turn five, and Etter tagged by another car in turn two, the race went full course caution with Ho in fourth and Etter in 12th – though series officials dropped Etter back to 14th, deeming the incident “avoidable contact.”

On the lap six restart, Ho found himself in an immediate battle for position, with series points leader Joey Brienza right on his rear wing. Neither driver relented, going side-by-side through turns four through eight before Brienza was able to make the pass in turn 12. Ho would eventually finish sixth while Etter was mired behind a slower car in 14th. He was able to clear a slower car but by the time he did, he didn’t have time to cross the gap to the field, settling for 12th.

Race Two

The second race of the doubleheader saw the green flag at 4:15 p.m. Friday. Ho was under attack immediately, battling to fend off drivers making dive bombs on both the inside and outside through the first few corners. The young Californian settled into eighth position, with Etter battling in 14th.

Ho then began setting about taking as many positions as possible through the 20-lap race, taking seventh on lap seven and trying to bridge the gap to the leaders. Pacing faster than Brienza in sixth, Ho did everything he could to make a move, holding right on his rear wing and hoping to force a mistake on a track with a reputation for its passing difficulty. But with the cars so evenly matched, he was unable to make a move, coming home seventh, with Etter 14th.

QUOTEBOARD

ETHAN HO – No. 68 Triple S Suspensions

Race 1: Start – 5th / Finish – 6th

Race 2: Start – 7th / Finish – 7th

Championship standing:  7th

“Having driven here last year, I picked up things a lot more quickly, but we struggled on setup after basically losing those test sessions because of the rain. With the compressed schedule, we went into qualifying just with what we had, so our starting position wasn’t great. Race one really gave us our first chance to really work with the car.

“One area of improvement I’ve really looked at this year is my starts, and both race starts were good. I had some good battles in both races, but also got stuck behind a few cars as well. The drivers and cars are so evenly matched, it’s hard to make a move – especially at Barber, where there are few corners to really set up a pass. But I feel that my race craft has really improved, I just need to get up to speed more quickly at the beginning of the weekend.”

CARSON ETTER – Priority Workforce

Race 1: Start – 14th / Finish – 12th

Race 2: Start – 14th / Finish – 14th

Championship standing:  12th

“Barber is awesome: it’s become one of my favorite tracks. It’s a cool facility and a fun track – definitely hard but not as hard as Sebring, so we were able to close the gap to the rest of the field. It’s such a smooth track, but the high-speed corners have a lot of grip, so it’s all about building up the courage to really commit to the corner, to go through it the way it’s meant to be handled.

“What happened in the first race was really unfortunate. I dropped my right front slightly off track and the car next to me turned down on me. He spun and the officials blamed it on me, though I felt I had nowhere to go. Once the race restarted, I had to get around the guy in front of me and the rest of the field was gone. That was disappointing, because it meant I was just out there by myself instead of really learning. Same thing in the second race.

“I do feel as though I’m progressing, though not at the rate I want it to be. My race craft is better but to learn from my mistakes, I need to get faster to get more up toward the front. But this year is about learning the tracks so I can be more competitive next year.”

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