Jeff Gordon in the wall early at Texas

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Trouble has struck for Jeff Gordon, who entered today’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. On Lap 74, Gordon slid up Turn 2 and hit the wall, inflicting significant damage to the right side of his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Gordon had kept his title hopes alive with a victory last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but his bid for a fifth Sprint Cup could be done for now as his team continues to work in the garage to fix the damaged No. 24. He was running 12th at the time of the crash.

“I just know the left front [tire] went down as I was going down the front straightaway,” Gordon told ESPN. “I felt it before I got there, but I couldn’t get it slowed down enough. I don’t know – the wind was so strong that the car was doing funky things down the straightaway, so I don’t know if that was a slow leak or if it just went all of a sudden.”

Gordon felt that his car, while not good off restarts, was very strong on the long runs prior to the crash. But now, he’ll have to focus on trying to salvage the afternoon.

“This is definitely gonna hurt and we just need to get what we can out of this day and go on to Phoenix,” Gordon said.

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”