Kahne, Rodden gear up for better year in 2015

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The fourth member of the Hendrick Motorsports’ band – Kasey Kahne – seeks a better season in 2015.

Kahne won the fall Atlanta race a year ago to earn a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he was eliminated after the Contender Round along with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Still, Kahne has long-term job security  with a contract extension through 2018 confirmed late last year. Additionally, he’ll have a new crew chief in Keith Rodden, who returns to Hendrick a year after serving as crew chief for Jamie McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Rodden was Kahne’s long-time engineer before joining Ganassi.

Rodden replaces Kahne’s longtime crew chief Kenny Francis, who moves into a research and development role with Hendrick Motorsports.

“Having Keith Rodden back on the 5 team will be huge,” Kahne said during Thursday’s NASCAR media tour in Charlotte. “I worked with him for years. He engineered my car for the first time in 2004 I think.

“We have a great relationship; we’re friends. He did a nice job last year on the crew chief side, and has everything he’s learned from Kenny in the past. Getting back together with Keith will be good, because he brings a lot to the 5 team. It should be neat to get started.”

More pressing than the season ahead – at least in the interim – for Kahne is his beloved Seattle Seahawks going for their second straight Super Bowl championship (Sunday on NBC).

Kahne and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson worked together last year in a charity event that raised funds for the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County.

“We did a golf tournament in June 2014 and we’ll do it again this year right after Sonoma in Washington,” Kahne said.

“Russell’s a good guy, a super focused guy. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game. If they played anywhere close to the last 6-7 minutes they did two weeks ago, they’ll be two-time Super Bowl champions.”

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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