Indy Lights ties season-high in entries at Mid-Ohio

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We noted yesterday how much of a haven for one-offs the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Turns out, it is for the Firestone Indy Lights Series as well.

Indy Lights’ car count has been the subject of much criticism throughout the year but to its credit, it’s provided a relatively balanced field at the top with several championship challengers. Carlos Munoz leads Sage Karam by just eight points, 317-309, heading into the weekend.

This week at Mid-Ohio, the field grows from nine cars to 11, tying the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis for the largest grid of the season.

Belardi Auto Racing has added a third car for ex-GP2 driver Giancarlo Serenelli, a Venezuelan. Meanwhile Bryan Herta Autosport has rolled out its chassis for the second time this year, to provide 19-year-old Zimbabwe driver Axcil Jeffries an opportunity in partnership with Starting Grid, Inc. Both drivers will make their Indy Lights debuts. Matthew Di Leo, a Canadian, will make his third start of the season as well for his family-run MDL Racing team.

The series’ return to Mid-Ohio for the first time since 2010 will air Sunday, August 4, at 2 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. While 11 cars is far from great, it’s still a needed improvement.

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.