Solid USF Juniors weekend for DC Autosport at VIR
 June 9, 2023| 
  • Team News
23VIRJrsGB07476 (002)
Ethan Ho captures his first pole position while Carson Etter earns a season-high finish
 
Alton, Va. – There were plenty of positive takeaways for DCA Autosport in the USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires tripleheader at VIRginia International Raceway last weekend – but in equal measure, the team rued what might have been.
 
Ethan Ho (Los Angeles) and Carson Etter (Villa Park, Calif.) both experienced the kind of roller coaster weekend that has become a hallmark of the series, the first rung on the USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires ladder. Ho, 17, earned pole position in the lone qualifying session and started on the front two rows for all three races – but fighting damp conditions on a draft-intensive racetrack, he came away with little results to show for his outstanding efforts. Etter, 19, battled hard throughout, honing his race craft and earning his best finish of the year in the weekend’s finale.
 
"It was great to get pole in qualifying with Ethan and see him run up at the front,” said team principal Don Conner. “Carson made fantastic progress through the weekend, and we were all glad to see him fight his way up the order in race three ending up seventh."
 
The pair of drivers came at the event from two very different angles. Ho, 17, competed in the series last year and contested all three races on VIR’s scenic 17-turn, 3.270-mile layout, scoring a best finish of seventh in race one while Etter, 19, saw his first action at the track. But the Boise State University student estimates he has put in over 600 laps on the simulator over the past several weeks, with more time available now that classes are finished until the fall semester.  
 
Both drivers worked on setup adjustments through Friday’s test sessions and Saturday morning’s official practice, with Etter focusing on mastering the Oak Tree (12) and Hog Pen (17) corners, and Ho balancing clean air, long run pace and working the draft to find that fast lap. Ho finished the practice in P9, with Etter P12 – successfully narrowing the time gap to the leaders.
 
Etter put that knowledge to good use immediately, up to fifth midway through qualifying, with Ho right behind. But midway through the session, Ho put together a perfect lap, catching timely drafts and going to the top of the speed charts. He held that position through the remainder of qualifying, though Joey Brienza incredibly tied Ho’s time to the 1/1000s of a second. Since Ho set his time first, the spot was his, scoring his first series pole position. Etter continued his learning curve, setting the 12th quickest time for race one.
 
Race One (Saturday afternoon)
 
On Lap 1, Ho solidly defended but, knowing the draft would make holding the lead difficult, slid in behind Jack Jeffers and set up to return the favor. But on Lap 3, Nicolas Giaffone was able to set up a move, putting Ho back into third. Meanwhile, Etter began working his way forward, making solid passes to take 10th by Lap 3.
 
But frustration ensued midway through the race, as Etter battled hard but was unable to make significant progress, and Ho was tagged by a driver who put a wheel into the grass and lost control. He spun in Turn 2, coming back on track in 10th position as several other drivers went off. The issue quickly became clear, as rain had begun to fall, catching all the drivers out on track with slick Cooper tires. Ho and Etter took advantage of the chaotic conditions to take sixth and 10th, respectively, before the yellow flag came out.
 
The race returned to green with four laps remaining, with Ho and Etter each losing two spots in the inevitable chaos, eventually coming home 13th and 10th, respectively.
 
Race Two (Sunday morning)
 

Very different conditions greeted the drivers on Sunday morning, as the warm, humid weather gave way to cloudy and cool (61F) conditions. As the green flag flew, Ho launched from P2, racing side-by-side with Joey Brienza through the first five corners. Ho held the position as Etter made a pass for 11th.
 
Ho used the draft to stay with leader Jeffers, but when Ho moved alongside Jeffers on Lap 4, Giaffone used the opportunity to make the move past to take P2 as Ho held 3rd. Ho stayed on the rear wing of Jeffers, using the draft to stay close and make the pass in Turn One. Meanwhile, Etter battled with Brady Golan and Lucas Fecury for 10th, gaining valuable race craft knowledge.
 
After a mid-race yellow, Ho pulled alongside Giaffone for the lead on the restart, but locked up in Turn Two, went off track into the wet grass, while a piece of debris stuck in Etter’s throttle, shutting down power and sending him to pit lane. Ho recovered through the final laps of the race to bring it home in 10th, while Etter finished in 13th.
 
Race Three (Sunday afternoon)
 
Ho started race three in fourth only to find himself caught out in the draft, falling to eighth with Etter positioned in 14th as his car wouldn’t go into gear on the grid. He caught up to the field at the green flag, with plenty of momentum. A full course caution on Lap 3 brought the field back together and gave both drivers the chance to get back in the race.
 
Back to green on Lap 5, and Etter began working his way forward, up to P11 while Ho steadily climbed to P6. Ho to seventh while Etter climbed to 10th. Ho battled hard with Erick Shotten to hold that position but was knocked into the grass in Turn 14 by Quinn Armstrong and was shuffled back to 10th, just behind his teammate in 9th. Etter made a brilliant pass over Golan to capture eighth with two laps to go, only a second behind the leader’s pace. At the checkered flag, both drivers finished in the top 10, with Etter earning his best finish of the season in seventh and Ho coming home ninth.
 
Next up for DC Autosport and the USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires will be the doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course, July 6 through 8. Tune into USFJuniors.com for all the action!
 
QUOTEBOARD
 
ETHAN HO – No. 68 Triple S Suspensions
Race 1: Start – 1st / Finish – 13th
Race 2: Start – 2nd / Finish – 10th
Race 3: Start – 4th / Finish – 9th
Championship standing:  8th
 
“It was great to see the big step up in pace from last year at VIR, and I’m a lot more comfortable in the car. It’s tricky to start on pole, with the long front straight and plenty of drafting, and Jeffers and Giaffone were able to get around in that first race. I saw Max Taylor behind me trying to make a move but I didn’t think it was close enough – until he tagged my rear wheel and I spun. In that second race, the track was a lot colder than it had been all weekend and it really took a long time to warm the tires. I had a good run on Giaffone on the restart but I misjudged the brake zone and went off, which was really disappointing after all the effort we’d put in. I didn’t have a great start in race three and got freight trained, and it just felt like the rhythm was off. It’s been a bit of a trend, to have good pace but not the results, so hopefully we can break that trend soon.”
 
CARSON ETTER – Priority Workforce
Race 1: Start – 12th / Finish – 10th
Race 2: Start – 12th / Finish – 13th
Race 3: Start – 13th / Finish – 7th
Championship standing:  12th
 
“It was an awesome weekend. I was a bit off pace early in the weekend, which was a bit de-motivating, given all the work I’d done before the weekend, especially being four seconds off after the test sessions. The first race was good practice, battling for positions but I made a few mistakes as well – if you get out of the draft, it’s hard to stay up. But I felt great Sunday morning – I gave it my all in those two races and really closed up the pace gap.  The throttle issue in race two and race three had a bit of a scary start, but I had tons of momentum in the early going in that race and it ended up as one of the most enjoyable races I’ve had. It all just clicked for me in that third race – I ran well and earned those positions. I just focused on my race and ran consistent lap times. I expect to see more of that in future races!”

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