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.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.