Texas Update: Jeff Gordon leads at halfway

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Texas A&M fans in the stands for today’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway are likely pleased at what’s occurred so far in the race, as Jeff Gordon – bearing a special Aggie maroon paint scheme – was the halfway leader after passing Kyle Busch for the lead on Lap 153 of 334.

Busch was second at Lap 167, followed by Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano to round out the Top 5. Bowyer and Kyle Busch had started 25th and 29th, respectively.

With some spots of the track still damp, the cars rolled out and then ran the first ten laps of the race under “green/yellow” conditions to help track dryers get rid of those patches.

However, multiple cars were forced to pit under the green/yellow after the dryers caused their hood flaps to pop open. Keselowski seemed to have the most persistent problem as his team needed to tape down the sides of the entire hood on his car. Also affected, among others, were Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick and Matt Kenseth.

NASCAR allowed those that had to pit for the hood flap issue to retain their starting spots, and the race finally had its “true” green flag at Lap 11. But just two laps later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the wall in the tri-oval after running his left-side tires through the wet infield grass.

The episode also sent debris and mud into the nose and windshield of teammate Jimmie Johnson, who was trailing behind Junior at the time. Johnson pitted multiple times under the subsequent yellow for fixes but had to restart in 41st.

The defending Sprint Cup champion had more problems a short time later when he suffered a rear tire failure around Lap 42, forcing him to pit again. He’s now two laps off the pace.

Johnson’s tire problem occurred after Kevin Harvick suffered an engine failure that caused him to slow dramatically on Lap 28 while running second to pole sitter Tony Stewart. He was later ruled out of the race, joining Earnhardt on the sidelines.

“It’s frustrating,” Harvick said in a Chevrolet PR release. “I don’t know what else I can say. I didn’t get any indication that anything was going wrong. Hendrick engines are among the fastest and most reliable engines in the garage.

“We’ll take it back to the shop and figure out what happened. But that’s a disappointing end to the day.”

A competition caution came out at Lap 48 and Stewart held on to the lead after pit stops. But on Lap 77, Keselowski was able to catch and then pass Stewart in Turn 3 to take the lead.

Green flag stops started up around Lap 90, and when the cycle ended around ten laps later, Keselowski was holding a small lead over Denny Hamlin.

That edge slowly went away over the next 20 laps however, and on Lap 122, Hamlin jumped ahead of the “Blanco Deuce” to become the new leader; Jeff Gordon then passed Keselowski for second on Lap 128.

Another round of green stops began around Lap 135, and Hamlin pitted from the lead at Lap 142. But NASCAR tagged the Joe Gibbs Racing driver for being too fast on pit road, forcing him to serve a pass-through and hand the lead over to teammate Kyle Busch.

The penalty dropped Hamlin to 16th, although he was able to stay on the lead lap.

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”