Third place at Iowa ties season-best for Hunter-Reay (VIDEO)

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Prior to Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign could be described with such words as disappointing, difficult, challenging, and troublesome.

Brief highlights in the otherwise tough year include a fourth-place finish at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and a third-place at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but otherwise, Hunter-Reay’s season has featured eight finishes of 11th or worse, including three DNFs.

However, a strong history at Iowa Speedway, highlighted by three wins, left room for optimism ahead of Sunday’s 300-lap outing, and Hunter-Reay was able to deliver on that optimism.

Starting 15th, Hunter-Reay was on the move from the outset, climbing all the way up to seventh in the opening stint. He then cracked the top five just after lap 100.

Although he couldn’t quite muster the speed to challenge for the win, Hunter-Reay battled with the leaders the rest of the race and ended up in third at the end to match his best result of the season.

Speaking to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt afterward, Hunter-Reay explained that he and the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport team made a slew of changes to the chassis to improve its handling and speed, and their changes paid big dividends.

“We made a ton of changes. Credit to this team. When I got here it was so loose,” Hunter-Reay explained. “We made some changes. Only (one hour and 15 minutes) of practice. Made the most of it. Made the most for warmup and the race. Had too little front wing. But we got it dialed in there. I had the car that I needed, finally.”

Hunter-Reay added that it was nice to be fighting at the front again. “It was fun. Nice to be back on the podium. Great for DHL, Andretti Autosport and the 28 team. We’ve had two or three podiums. We just need the momentum,” he finished.

Hunter-Reay now sits 14th in the championship standings, 23 points behind tenth-place Max Chilton.

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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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