Hunter-Reay, Rahal give high marks for new Honda in testing

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It’s early days yet, but Honda’s new twin-turbo IndyCar Series engine seems to have won over a mainstay from the manufacturer’s new flagship team.

“I’m very impressed with the power and delivery,” said Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (pictured), who was among several Honda drivers to test the new motor today at Sebring International Raceway.

“We’re all happy with how we started testing. The development side of it is a lot of fun. You have an opportunity to customize and personalize and have your impact on a program.

“What we do right now is important. To get every bit of data out of every day is crucial to the 2014 championship. All the hard work going into it will make a big difference come the season opener at St. Pete. It’s great to get back to it.”

Also testing Honda’s new twin-turbo today at Sebring were Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud. This past summer, the sanctioning body announced that all engines starting next season would be required to be twin-turbo; Honda had been running a single-turbo powerplant.

In addition to today marking his first run with the Honda twin-turbo, Rahal also got to work with new race engineer Bill Pappas for the first time.

“It was really great to be out here with Bill, [engi­neer] Eddie [Jones], and all of the guys to go through a list of things to test,” Rahal said in a team statement.

“…For the first time running on a road course, the twin-turbo ran awfully well. We made a lot of changes, made a lot of improvements that will help us going forward and we have some ideas for things that will help us even more.

“At the end of the day, that’s all we can ask for.”

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.