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Ryan Hunter-Reay tops IndyCar Mid-Ohio practice; Pato O’Ward spins

IndyCar practice Mid-Ohio

AUSTIN, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 12: Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 DHL Honda, drives during NTT Indycar Series testing at Circuit of The Americas on February 12, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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Ryan Hunter-Reay paced practice Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the NTT IndyCar Series hit the road course for the first time on its doubleheader race weekend.

The No. 28 Dallara-Honda driver turned a lap of 1 minute, 6.33 seconds, putting him just ahead of Will Power (1:06.395). Alexander Rossi, Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport teammate, was third quickets at 1:06.430.

Points leader Scott Dixon, who won at Mid-Ohio last year, was fourth fastest, followed by Santino Ferrucci.

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Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Conor Daly and Marco Andretti rounded out the top 10 as Andretti placed four of its cars in the top half of the 23-car field.

There were two significant incidents during the session involving championship contenders.

Dixon went off course for a half-spin 25 minutes into the session. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who was second fastest at the time, avoided any damage to his No. 9 Dallara-Honda, and the five-time series champion rebounded to get back on track and run top-five speeds near the end of the session.

Pato O’Ward, who is third in the standings after consecutive podiums two weeks ago at Gateway, wasn’t so lucky 35 minutes into the session.

The Arrow McLaren SP driver lost control of his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet in Turn 12 and backed into the tire barrier, making contact with the left rear and left front. The session went under a red flag for 12 minutes.

O’Ward was unhurt but was left with only 12 laps in the session (all the other drivers made at least 23 laps). He thought his team could fix the car in time for qualifying at 2 p.m.

“It just seems like the car maybe bottomed out, and I lost the rear,” O’Ward told NBC Sports Gold pit reporter Kelli Stavast. “Obviously, not the start we wanted. Wanted to get more laps in here, and I truly don’t think I was pushing that hard to get in a situation like that. We’ll fix it back up, get ready for qualifying. We’ll be going in a little blindsided, but there’s not much more we can than try to do the best we can.

“It doesn’t seem like the damage is too bad. Track position is absolutely key, so we’re in a little stress point now, but we’ll be fine. We’ll just have to tackle it and see what we can come up with later today.”