Learning weekend for DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports at Ozarks
 April 26, 2022| 
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Veteran team will put lessons learned at the inaugural USF Juniors event into play this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park 

GRAVIOS MILLS, Mo. – Round One of the debut USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires season was a learning experience for all three DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports drivers, as inclement weather Sunday meant the series held only two of the scheduled three races at Ozarks International Raceway in Missouri.

Knowing that significant weather was coming on Sunday, the series held two races on Saturday instead of the scheduled one. With steady rain continuing through the morning on Sunday, series sanctioning body USAC made the decision to cancel all racing.

Ozarks International Raceway presented the Don Conner-led team – and drivers Nicholas d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY), Earl Tucker IV (Branford, Conn.), and Ethan Ho (Los Angeles) – with a wide range of challenges on its 19-turn layout. The track, located midway between Kansas City and St. Louis, features a 150-foot elevation difference and a total of 1200 feet of elevation changes through a full lap.

The team came off the truck well, with d’Orlando and Ho in the top five after three test sessions on Friday and Tucker ranking 13th. All three drivers were gearing up for their quick laps in Saturday morning qualifying but d’Orlando found the wall in Turn 10, bringing out the red flag with five minutes remaining. The session restarted, only to be cut short when another car went off course, leaving Ho starting seventh in race one, with d’Orlando 12th and Tucker 13th.

Temperatures in the low 80s greeted the teams for the inaugural race of the series. Unfortunately, damage to the right rear of d’Orlando’s Ligier was too extensive to repair in time for race one, meaning the young New Yorker was forced to sit out race one. Misfortune continued for the team on the opening lap, as Ho spun in the chicane and returned to the race at the back of the field. But Ho was determined to make back as many spots as possible and by lap six, he had passed several drivers to come up to the rear wing of teammate Tucker who was running 12th. Ho took the position with five laps remaining but was able to go no further, as an incident with two laps remaining forced the race to end under the yellow flag.

Race two took the green later in the afternoon but very quickly went to yellow when three cars came together and ended up in the tires in turn nine, with d’Orlando having an off-and-on later in the lap. When it became clear that it would take a while to extract the cars, the series threw the red flag and stopped the race in order to maximize drivers’ race time. The green flew at the start of lap four with Ho and Tucker fighting for seventh position and d’Orlando pacing in 11th. All three drivers focused on consistent lap times and staying out of trouble, taking the checkered flag with Ho seventh, Tucker ninth and d’Orlando 11th.

“It was certainly a learning experience for everyone,” said team owner Don Conner. “We had our share of issues through the weekend, and cars to repair, and I’m proud of the team for how hard they worked though, of course, everyone was disappointed not to be able to get Nick’s car repaired in time for race one. The drivers got up to speed well on the new track, which was tough given the length of the track and the fact that each driver only had one set of tires through testing and practice. We’d have loved to get in a third race, but I think the series made a wise call, since we have an extremely short time between now and Barber. We’ll get everything ready to go quickly and be back on track in just a couple of days!”

Next up for DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports and the USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires series will be a doubleheader this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, alongside the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Tune into USFJuniors.com for all the action!

QUOTEBOARD

ETHAN HO – No. 71 MEGA Automotive

Race 1: Start – 7th / Finish – 12th

Race 2: Start – 9th / Finish – 7th

Championship standing:  9th

“Race one was my first real race. I spun by myself on the first lap but was able to make up three spots by the end which was good. I made up spots in the second race when everyone crashed, but I didn’t have a good restart and wasn’t able to make a pass. I thought that both myself and the car fell off a bit toward the end, with the car developing understeer and me focusing on that too much. So I need to focus on my racecraft, including starts and passes. I’m learning what I like in the car and I’m looking forward to working on that in the coming races.”

EARL TUCKER IV – No. 24 Empire Paving / Equip Sales & Leasing Corp.

Race 1: Start – 13th / Finish – 13th

Race 2: Start – 13th / Finish – 9th

Championship standing:  12th

“Coming into the weekend, I wanted to learn the track as quickly as possible since we’d had no sim time there, and was hoping for top 10s, which I got. We knew it would be a challenging weekend but my goal was to show constant improvement through the weekend. My race pace was good, my starts were good, though I had some small mistakes in that first race. I bagged a P9 in race two so there are tons of positives from the weekend. I’m sorry we didn’t get the race Sunday, we’ve tested in the rain so we’re looking forward to that at some point!”

NICHOLAS D’ORLANDO – No. 61 Focus Project Management

Race 1: Start – DNS

Race 2: Start – 16th / Finish – 11th

Championship standing:  15th

“I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the weekend, since no one in the series had been there before, but my experience helped me get up to speed quickly. We weren’t able to show it in qualifying and we missed race one, but we were able to get out there for race two, which was more about shaking down the car than speed. Unfortunately, we lost race three but the team worked well together and it brought my confidence up going into this weekend at Barber. We learned a lot about the competition and the thought processes, and how the program works, so the plan for this weekend is to find time as fast as possible. We have to qualify well, and stay on the racetrack and get some points.”

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