NASCAR: RCR, Roush teams looking strong in NNS practice at Kentucky

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While the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series are up in New Hampshire, the Nationwide Series has started its stand-alone weekend at Kentucky Speedway with a pair of Friday practice sessions for the 300.

If the sessions are an indication, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing will be in the hunt come tomorrow night on the 1.5-mile oval outside Cincinnati.

RFR’s Chris Buescher led the first practice earlier this afternoon with a lap of 174.701 mph in the No. 60 Ford Mustang. But right behind him were all three of RCR’s full-time Nationwide drivers: Brian Scott (pictured, 173.980) in second, Brendan Gaughan (173.210) in third, and rookie Ty Dillon in fourth (173.205).

The second practice largely followed the same script, only with RCR part-timer Cale Conley atop the leaderboard with a lap of 175.404 mph in his No. 33 Chevy Camaro.

Trevor Bayne of RFR was second at 175.239 mph, then came Scott in third (175.075), Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sam Hornish Jr. in fourth (174.944), and Buescher again in fifth (174.419).

Hornish may be able to put himself into the mix, however, as he was fifth in the first practice, too. And of course, we can’t forget Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott, who had the eighth-fastest time in both sessions.

Elliott holds an 18-point advantage over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith going into Saturday night’s main event. Smith, who has never finished higher than 12th in a Nationwide event at Kentucky, was 12th and 16th-fastest today.

Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford won both NNS events last year at Kentucky, and this weekend, it’s in the hands of Michael McDowell. He went 11th-fastest in each of the practices.

Qualifying will go off tomorrow afternoon at 4:10 p.m. ET, followed by the 300-mile race at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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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