Hunter-Reay leads Wednesday’s open test at Mid-Ohio

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Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of the last and thus far only IZOD IndyCar Series race on a permanent road course in 2013 (Barber Motorsports Park), led the timesheets in a series open test at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Wednesday.

As the 2.238-mile road course rubbered in and dried up from mixed conditions earlier in the day, times naturally improved. Hunter-Reay, in the No. 1 DHL Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport, got down to a 1:05.6358 on his 39th and last lap of the day. But earlier in the day, Hunter-Reay took advantage of the wet weather to test a new Firestone rain tire it hopes to use next season.

Simon Pagenaud, in the No. 77 HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda, was second with Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves rounding out the top five. Pagenaud was the only Honda in that group; all in the top five were in the 1:05 range.

Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Marco Andretti and Charlie Kimball completed the top 10. Runners from sixth to 20th set laps in the 1:06 bracket.

Oriol Servia, back for Panther Racing, was 12th after logging 58 laps on the day. Series newcomers Luca Filippi and James Davison, driving for Barracuda Racing and Dale Coyne Racing, respectively, clocked in 18th and 21st. Filippi ran 56 laps in anticipation of his debut, Davison 39.

Kimball ran the most laps on the day, 71, while Dario Franchitti was only able to turn 16. Graham Rahal had a fuel issue and was unable to set a representative time; it’s particularly unfortunate for the hometown driver as he also lost a day’s worth of running at the Barber open test before the season started.

There were several red flags for off-course excursions by Tristan Vautier, Tony Kanaan twice, Takuma Sato twice (Turn 9) and Josef Newgarden (Turn 11). None of the cars sustained significant damage and all will be back in play for official practice on Friday. The race is live Sunday, at 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Network.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.