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NASCAR: Matt Kenseth hopes recent success at New Hampshire continues

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Prior to last season, Matt Kenseth and New Hampshire Motor Speedway didn’t get along too well.

From 2008 to 2012, Kenseth was only able to earn one Top-10 finish in 10 starts at the Magic Mile.

But in 2013, Kenseth finally appeared to get a handle on NHMS with Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished ninth that July, and when the Sprint Cup series returned to Loudon for Chase Race No. 2 that September, Kenseth won in his 500th career Cup start.

Kenseth is still winless this year, but at fifth in the championship standings, his chances of making the Chase on points alone look decent with eight regular season races to go.

Surely though, he’d like to remove all doubt by taking another win this weekend at Loudon.

“Last year, I thought we ran pretty well in both of our races there and of course we were able to win the fall race where I thought our car handled pretty good overall,” Kenseth said recently.

“It’s just one of those tracks where you have to turn good in the corner and still be able to get off the corner. It’s about keeping up your middle of the corner momentum the best you can, which is typical of any flat or short track.”

Whereas Kenseth thrived on 1.5-mile tracks last year (four of his seven 2013 wins were on those intermediate ovals), the 2003 Cup champion has appeared to be the strongest this year on shorter tracks such as Loudon.

In the five races staged so far this year on tracks of one mile or smaller, Kenseth has earned an average finish of 7.8 with his best result in those races being a third at Dover in early June.

That has Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, feeling confident about the No. 20 team’s chances this weekend.

“I think that our short-track program has been a little better this season than our intermediate stuff so far, even though last year that program seemed to be our bread and butter,” he said.

“I thought we had a good run at Bristol.  Martinsville, we had a decent finish and Richmond, I thought we had a shot of winning that thing at the end. I anticipate a good weekend at Loudon and know that we’ll have another strong Dollar General Toyota, so I’m ready to head up there.”

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
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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.

Pascal Wehrlein’s timetable to return ‘still unclear’

during practice ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 18, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.
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Sauber F1 Team’s new recruit for the year, Pascal Wehrlein, is yet to make his driving debut with the new team and is unclear at the moment when he will.

The German suffered a back injury in an accident at January’s Race of Champions in Miami and was ruled out of action for this week’s first test of the new Formula 1 season at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, with Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi filling in for him this week.

Wehrlein is still on site in Barcelona this week and updated reporters of his progress, although still doesn’t have a timetable yet for his return.

“I’m feeling okay, no pain, nothing, just something as a precaution, to avoid any more difficult injury than I have at the moment so it’s just something to be safe for the future and that’s it,” Wehrlein told reporters at the test.

“I hope, at the moment it’s still unclear as I will have a check again at the end of this week, I will see some doctors and then let’s see, I hope for sure that they will give me green light and they say everything is fine and you can get back to racing but you never know.”

Wehrlein joined Sebastian Vettel for the RoC Team Germany at the event, and while he didn’t feel the injury was that bad at the time, he said the lingering effects have continued to persist longer than he expected.

“After the crash everything felt fine, I checked that everything was fine with the passenger,” Wehrlein explained. “I said tomorrow I will drive again, (and) was already speaking with Sebastian about the next day and felt completely fine, but after a crash you always go to a doctor and check yourself and they said it’s better you don’t drive tomorrow, then I went to the doctors again in Europe and said I should skip this test.

“Just in the first few days I had a bit of pain, sore everywhere which is normal after a crash, but at the moment I have no pain, feeling fine, doing my training as normal, and I can’t wait to go back into the car.”

It stands to reason Wehrlein would need at least next week’s test at Barcelona, from March 7-10, to get enough running in before the season starts. If he isn’t cleared by doctors, it could open the door for Giovinazzi to make his Grand Prix debut in Melbourne.

Bottas debuts, McLaren and Red Bull struggle in F1 testing

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 locks a wheel under braking 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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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Valtteri Bottas impressed in his debut drive for world champion Mercedes on Monday as the new Formula One pre-season got under way.

Bottas outworked the rest of the field with 79 laps during the morning session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. That total surpasses the 66 laps of the Spanish Grand Prix held at the same venue each season.

The 27-year-old Finn also owned the fastest time until Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel bettered Bottas’ best effort by 0.378 seconds.

Bottas, formerly of Williams, inherited the driver’s seat at Mercedes from world champion Nico Rosberg, who retired in December five days after clinching the title.

Bottas’ teammate and three-time former champion Lewis Hamilton will take over driving for the Silver Arrows during Monday’s afternoon session.

While Bottas and Vettel took turns churning out the laps under sunny and dry conditions, McLaren and Red Bull endured inauspicious starts to the new campaign.

Fernando Alonso’s McLaren was stuck in the garage following a sole trip around the track as its technicians reportedly tried to repair an oil-related problem with its Honda motor.

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo didn’t do much better, getting through just four laps before his new RB13 car ground to a halt near Turn 4 because of what the team called “a sensor issue.” The stranded Australian was ferried back to the boxes under a red flag.

Neither Ricciardo nor Alonso got back behind the wheel before the end of the four-hour opening session.

The opening test will continue later Monday and run through Thursday.

Teams are trying out their cars after a rulebook overhaul produced new aerodynamic and tire regulations. The designs have led to wider vehicles, which increases downforce and grip with the goal of boosting speeds.

Mercedes’ rivals are hoping the changes will help them make up ground on a team that has won 51 of the last 59 races en route to three consecutive driver and constructor titles.

To compare with times on the same track from last year, Vettel’s fastest effort of 1 minute, 22.791 seconds on Monday marks an improvement on his own leading time of 1:22.810 he set over the four days of last year’s opening test.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.