Team Penske gunning for a championship trifecta this weekend

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Team Penske’s list of accolades in motorsports is staggering. But one of American racing’s greatest outfits may pull off its greatest feat yet this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

At the end of this past summer, Will Power brought Penske its first Verizon IndyCar Series championship since 2006. Now, Roger Penske’s boys are out to capture a pair of major NASCAR titles – the Nationwide Series owner’s title today in the Ford Ecoboost 300, and the Sprint Cup Series driver’s title with Joey Logano in Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400.

“I think, if memory serves, we would be the only team in North America ever to win two major championships [in a single year], let alone three, ever,” Penske Corp. vice president Walter Czarnecki said as he filled in for “The Captain” during this week’s Championship 4 team owners’ press conference. “So that will be quite an accomplishment, and certainly we’re aiming for that…Arguably, it would be the greatest achievement in the history of our company.

“To be able to accomplish this would be really quite something, and that was really our goal from the beginning of the season. Maybe we didn’t verbalize it quite that way, but we really felt we were going to be competitive in all three of these series, and the results have demonstrated that.”

Indeed.

Power rattled off three wins and seven podium finishes en route to his 2014 IndyCar title for Penske. Add in the production of teammates Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, and altogether, Penske IndyCar drivers were responsible this past year for five wins and 17 podiums.

In NASCAR, Penske has been even better. Logano and Brad Keselowski have combined for 11 Sprint Cup race wins, the most that the team’s ever had in a single season.

It took 29 years before Keselowski gave Penske its first Cup crown in 2012. Now, it’ll be up to the 24-year-old Logano – who jumped to Penske in 2013 after a tumultuous four-year run with Joe Gibbs Racing – to give them their second.

“If you look at some of the drivers that Team Penske has had win championships for him, not just in NASCAR but in all the other series that they’ve raced in before, to have your name on that list as a Team Penske champion would mean a lot,” Logano said about the opportunity.

“There’s definitely some legends that they have there. When you get to walk through the shop, you see a lot of the trophies and you see all the [Indianapolis] 500 championship trophies there and all that, so it would be really cool to be able to add your name as a champion driving for Roger and Walt.

“I think that would be a dream come true on top of just winning the championship in general. For anyone, it would be amazing, but doing it for Team Penske is my goal.”

And in the Nationwide Series, a six-win season (five from Keselowski, one from young gun Ryan Blaney) has put the Penske No. 22 car on the verge of the owner’s title – it’s up 29 points on JGR’s No. 54 going into the NNS finale.

Logano’s also contributed with eight Top-5 finishes in 10 NNS starts this year, but with him focusing on winning the Cup title, it’ll be up to Keselowski to get this particular piece of hardware.

“The way it worked out, I get a chance to win another race and, ideally, sew up Team Penske’s second Nationwide Series owner’s title,” Keselowski said this week. “This No. 22 Hertz Ford team prepares Mustangs that are capable of winning each time we race. We’ve been strong every time I’ve been in the car, and they’ve been solid all year long.

“I am looking forward to this race. I was fortunate enough to win the last two Nationwide Series races that I’ve run [at Homestead], and making it a three in a row is a perfect way to cap off the year.”

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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