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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to add Nationwide as a primary sponsor for next three years

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We have our first answer as to what Nationwide Insurance will be doing after it ends its title sponsorship of the NASCAR Nationwide Series: it will move to being a primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series side.

The deal is a three-year deal, for 12 races as primary sponsor in 2015 and 13 in each of 2016 and 2017. In all three years, Nationwide will be a major associate sponsor as well.

“The Earnhardt family has trusted Nationwide for their insurance needs for more than 35 years, and Dale Jr. has a positive impact on our brand’s reputation and brings pride to Nationwide members and our associates,” Matt Jauchius, chief marketing officer for Nationwide Insurance said in a release. “Expanding that relationship to incorporate the prestigious operations at Hendrick Motorsports and collaborating with Rick Hendrick and his team is a great fit for Nationwide Insurance.”

Added team principal Rick Hendrick, “Nationwide is always top of mind when you think of companies that truly leverage the power of NASCAR. We’re proud to welcome them to the No. 88 team and grow their relationship with Dale Jr. Working together, we’ll build another program that moves the needle for their business. The opportunities are endless.”

Junior himself, on behalf of Nationwide, released this video this morning:

As for what happens to rival company Farmers’ Insurance, which sponsors Kasey Kahne, that is yet to be determined.

A statement attributed to HMS, via Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass, reads as follows: “The announcement regarding the No. 88 team does not impact our ability to continue the (Farmers) partnership beyond 2014. Our team has a terrific relationship with the people at Farmers Insurance, and we’re having positive discussions about the future.”

Which is about all you’d expect them to say at this moment.

Roush Fenway Racing, which has Nationwide on for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for selected Cup races as well, has also not made a statement regarding their partnership.

On an actual JR Motorsports-Nationwide Series note, JR Motorsports has hired 20-year-old late model racer Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, Maine, to race in three Nationwide races later this year, starting with Iowa on May 18.

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

Roborace unveils ‘Robocar’ at Mobile World Congress

Robocar by Roborace. Image by Chief Design Officer Daniel Simon
© Roborace
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Roborace has formally unveiled the ‘Robocar’ that will take part in the world’s first electric autonomous motorsport series in the near future.

Roborace was announced as a new support series for Formula E late in 2015, planning to push the boundaries of autonomous vehicle development through a racing championship.

Roborace has been present at Formula E rounds throughout season three, with its software being tested out on the ‘Devbot’, a self-driving Ginetta LMP3 car.

On Monday at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Roborace officially unveiled the Robocar, with CEO Denis Sverdlov expressing his pride at the launch.

“This is a huge moment for Roborace as we share the Robocar with the world and take another big step in advancing driverless electric technology,” Sverdlov said.

“I am so proud of the entire team and our partners and particularly the work Daniel has done creating this beautiful machine. It was very important for us that we created an emotional connection to driverless cars and bring humans and robots closer together to define our future.

“The progress with Devbot on track and building the Robocar in less than a year has been extraordinary and we cannot wait to continue the journey of learning with the Robocar.”

The Robocar was designed by Daniel Simon, who has created vehicles for Hollywood sci-fi films such as Tron Legacy and Oblivion. It has four 300kW motors and a 540kW battery, capable of producing speeds of almost 200 mph, according to Roborace.

“Roborace opens a new dimension where motorsport as we know it meets the unstoppable rise of artificial intelligence,” Simon said.

“Whilst pushing the boundaries of engineering, we styled every single part of the Robocar. We take special pride in revealing a functional machine that stays true to the initial concept shared, a rarity in automotive design and a testament of our determination. It’s a great feeling to set this free.”

Roborace plans to continue to test with its Devbots at Formula E rounds throughout 2017 before putting two Robocars on-track together towards the end of the year.