Michael Waltrip Racing confirms drop to two full-time cars in ’14 (UPDATED)

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UPDATE (2:30 p.m. ET): Michael Waltrip Racing has officially confirmed a drop to two full-time cars, the No. 15 5-Hour Energy and No. 55 Aaron’s Toyotas, for next year’s Sprint Cup season. The team’s workforce will be cut by 15 percent as a result.

A third MWR car will be rolled out for a partial 2014 schedule that includes the Daytona 500, which team co-owner Waltrip himself will compete in.

Additionally, driver Martin Truex Jr. and his crew chief, Chad Johnston, have been informed that they are free to negotiate with other teams. MWR executive vice president of competition Scott Miller will continue on as crew chief for the team’s No. 55 car.

“Today was about doing what we had to do, not what we wanted to do,” co-owner Rob Kauffman said in his statement. “It was important to let those whose jobs were affected know as early as possible, and a majority of those will remain with MWR through the end of the season.”

The Associated Press first reported this morning that MWR would downsize to two cars in 2014 due to the departure of major team sponsor NAPA Auto Parts.

Shortly after MWR’s attempt to manipulate the finish of the Sept. 7 race at Richmond International Raceway and secure a Chase for the Sprint Cup spot for Truex, NAPA announced it would leave the squad at the conclusion of the 2013 season. 5-Hour Energy and Aaron’s, the team’s other major sponsors, have since decided to continue their support.

NAPA has been by Waltrip’s side through his two Daytona 500 victories (2001, 2003) and the inception of MWR in 2007, but also has had to face two severe controversies with him: The 2007 “jet fuel” episode that involved MWR leading up to that year’s Daytona 500 and last month’s scandal at Richmond.

The company’s call to leave MWR was perhaps the most devastating hit to the team post-Richmond, even more so than the series of penalties levied by NASCAR that resulted in Truex getting booted from the Chase, the team getting fined $300,000, and its general manager, Ty Norris, being suspended indefinitely.

WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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