MILWAUKEE – It was another good day for Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, as they ended third after Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.
Rahal banked his fifth podium of the season, and was again top Honda finisher.
Rahal started sixth and ended third, and was rarely out of the top-five all day. One of the keys to his success on the day was his long first stint; he stretched to Lap 60 to lead the race. In the final stages, he pitted for fresh tires and went forward from there.
He’s now tied for third in points with Helio Castroneves, who finished second after a mix of great driving and great strategy to end second after starting 24th and last.
“These Steak ‘n Shake guys did a heck of a job today,” Rahal said. “We were looking at a three-stop strategy. I think we were the only one who could do it and we bailed on it for some reason. I was pretty frustrated.
“But with the way the yellows worked out, it worked out fine. We were quicker than Helio at the end. We just couldn’t get around him.”
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.
Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter