Coke Zero 400 - Practice

Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally break 34-race restrictor plate track drought Saturday at Daytona?

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. once was the undisputed king of restrictor plate racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

From 2001 to 2004, Earnhardt won seven plate races. Five came at Talladega Superspeedway (including four in a row from 2001 to 2003).

Two other wins came at Daytona International Speedway: the 2001 Pepsi 400, an emotional homage to his father, who was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500 less than five months earlier, as well as the 2004 Daytona 500.

But Junior has not won a plate race in nearly nine years, the last being in October 2004 at Talladega.

Add it up and he hasn’t won a restrictor plate race in his last 34 attempts!

Sure, he’s come close with three runner-up and three other third-place finishes at Daytona, and a runner-up at Talladega, but the fact remains he isn’t the plate racer he once was.

And no one knows that better than Junior.

“We’ve come awfully close trying to win the 500 in the last few years,” Earnhardt said during his weekly media availability Thursday at Daytona. “We’ve been finishing well, but haven’t really been able to figure out what I need to do to get into first place on the last lap.

“We’ve had no problem finding our way to the front, but not been able to overtake the leaders. So, I think we might need to try to be at a better position sooner, where we’re not having to have to do so much right at the end of the race and not have an opportunity to challenge for the win.”

As he prepares for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400, Earnhardt knows what he has to do in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – both in the race itself as well as for the remainder of the season as he once again continues to chase his first Sprint Cup championship.

“Maybe throughout the race trying to be a little more proactive toward improving track position, being a little more aggressive just trying to improve track position might be in our best interest if we want to try to have a shot at winning,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt was aggressive earlier this season, with finishes of second (Daytona 500), fifth, seventh, sixth and second (Fontana) in his first five starts. In fact, Earnhardt even was No. 1 in the Sprint Cup standings after Fontana – albeit for just one week.

But in the last seven weeks, Earnhardt hasn’t had the same kind of performance as earlier in the season, battling inconsistency and, surprisingly, engine issues in at least two races.

As a result, he’s dropped from third to a season-low of seventh before climbing back to sixth place in the weekly standings the last two weeks.

He’s looking to climb back up even further Saturday and has his strategy already set in his mind.

“Being aggressive and trying to get track position or make track position happen or move forward, just mentally aggressive, not out there driving in the side of everybody, more so, just trying to force myself to take a few more chances,” Earnhardt said.

One other thing that Earnhardt, who hasn’t won a race now in more than a year, will likely change for Saturday: to make what he hopes is his race-winning kick a little bit sooner than he typically does.

“You just continue to leap frog one at a time, but that one guy you aren’t successful with (as a drafting partner) you go all the way to the back,” he said. “It’s a gamble, but maybe if you want to win the race, I’ve got to be further ahead than fourth on the last lap.

“We had enough race car to win the (Daytona) 500 and just ran out of laps. I need to be a little further forward to be able to have that shot.”

(By the way, in case you want to take a trip back memory lane to see Junior’s last plate race win, here it is:)

Here’s all 2017 F1 cars on track today at Barcelona (PHOTOS)

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari leads Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Yesterday we took a look at all 10 Formula 1 chassis for the 2017 season, most standing still with the exception of the both the Ferrari SF70H and Haas VF-17, shot during a shakedown at Fiorano and a filming day at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, respectively.

Today though provided an opportunity to see all 10 Formula 1 cars on track with the first day of testing, a recap of which is linked here. You can hear all four engine notes and most of the cars here.

Here’s a run through of photos of them (all photos by Getty Images):

Mercedes W08 EQ Power+

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Red Bull RB13

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari SF70H

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Force India VJM10

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM10 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Williams FW40

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

McLaren-Honda MCL32

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Toro Rosso STR12

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Haas VF-17

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Renault R.S.17

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sauber C36

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C36 Ferrari on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Times plunge as Hamilton leads first day of first Barcelona test

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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All the talk heading into the 2017 Formula 1 season was that the new cars would be significantly quicker than their predecessors, and in day one of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, that was exactly the case.

Lewis Hamilton took the new Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+ to a best time of 1:21.765, which was nearly 3.2 seconds faster than the quickest time on day one of testing last year, set by Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari (1:24.939).

Vettel was second today in the Scuderia Ferrari SF70H, also in the 1:21 bracket at 1:21.878. Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, now back for 2017 despite his planned retirement, was third in Williams Martini Racing’s FW40 chassis at 1:22.076.

MORE: Hear sounds from the cars at today’s test (VIDEO)

Vettel led the way from a lap count standpoint at 128 of them, with Massa also cracking the 100-lap threshold at 103.

But as Mercedes AMG Petronas banked over 150 laps on day one last year, they’ve done the same this year – albeit with both drivers.

Hamilton ran the afternoon session and completed 73 laps while the team’s new recruit, Valtteri Bottas, did 79 for his first official running with the team in the morning session. That meant Mercedes had 152 laps in the books out of the box.

While Mercedes was pounding away, others were less successful from a lap count and mileage standpoint.

Sensor and battery issues limited Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo to 50 total laps on the day, but the Australian was back going fuller in the afternoon in the not-so-unlucky RB13.

Kevin Magnussen completed the same number of laps in his first day at Haas F1 Team, despite an off at Turn 10 that damaged his front wing of the VF-17 chassi. Magnussen (1:22.894) and Ricciardo (1:22.926) were fourth and fifth on the day.

Their days were still slightly better than Sahara Force India, with Sergio Perez only clocking 39 laps in his VJM10 and McLaren, which lost most of the day to an oil systems issue for Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard made it out for 29 laps.

All drivers with the exception of Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson ran a faster lap today than Vettel’s best time of last year; Ericsson was only able to muster a 1:26.841.

Most of the fast runs were set on Pirelli’s red labeled supersoft compounds.

As ever, times aren’t as important as lap counts in testing and from that standpoint, Mercedes seems to have got off to another fast start with the other two 100-lap teams not as far behind.

Times are below; more to follow.

OVERALL

MORNING

IMSA 2017 Sebring test results

imsa_29055418
Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing for the 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring took place last week on Thursday and Friday, with Cadillac DPi-V.Rs again setting the pace across the board for the quartet of sessions.

A busy couple of days occurred, with the majority (if not all) those that raced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona joined by a handful of intriguing newcomers or returnees.

The Ferrari debut of Juan Pablo Montoya, along with the U.S. debut of Alex Lynn for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac team and the return of sports car veterans Marino Franchitti (Mazda) and Spencer Pumpelly (Alegra Motorsports) highlighted the new drivers.

IMSA’s recaps from Thursday and Friday are linked in this sentence, with test times below. Use this as a reference for when the series returns from March 16-18 for the second round of both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup seasons.

THURSDAY

Session 1
Session 2

FRIDAY

Session 3
Session 4

F1 testing returns, as do the sounds of this year’s cars (VIDEO)

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS17 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Today marked the first day of running for Formula 1’s new 2017 cars in anger at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, as this week sees a four-day test from today through March 2.

And thanks to an apparent relaxing of the rules to allow for teams to post quick video on social media, you can hear the new cars as well as see them.

This is a good spot from F1 on NBC Sports producer Jason Swales:

Teams and onlookers at the test have taken the opportunity to post up these video clips to Twitter. An assortment of clips are below:

MERCEDES

RED BULL

FORCE INDIA

WILLIAMS

MCLAREN

TORO ROSSO

HAAS

RENAULT

Ferrari and Sauber haven’t yet released clips from their official accounts, but those may come later today. In the meantime, here’s a couple still shots the teams released:

FERRARI

SAUBER