NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 18 Jamie McMurray

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Jamie McMurray

Season finish: 18th

2014 Season Stats: 0 Wins (won non-points Sprint All-Star Race), 7 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 2 Poles.

What went right: A late run enabled McMurray to win the Sprint All-Star Race in May at Charlotte, and while the event was non-points, we doubt he cared too much about that considering he banked a cool $1 million for his victory. His performance in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet also picked up noticeably towards the end of the season with four Top-5s and five Top-10s during the Chase stretch. That run included his best finish of the year, a third at – where else? – Charlotte.

What went wrong: McMurray couldn’t follow up the All-Star triumph with a berth in the Chase. Inconsistent results over the summer meant that he would have to win a regular season race in order to make the post-season. With that in mind, he endured perhaps the toughest moment of his year in the Bristol night race. McMurray came alive in the second half of that event and was leading when a debris caution came out at 70 laps to go. He pitted but instead of moving back up with the fresh rubber, handling issues made him fade to eighth by the finish.

2015 Prospectus: After a year where he improved in Top-5 and Top-10 results from 2013 but failed to enter the battle for the championship, McMurray will look to take care of the latter problem with a new crew chief in Matt McCall (former race engineer for Championship 4 contender Ryan Newman). If they can find a rhythm early together, the Hendrick-powered 1 camp could more often be among the series’ regular group of front-runners.

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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