Craig Lowndes crashes out in Townsville
Craig Lowndes has sensationally crashed out of race one of the Townsville V8 Supercars meet, ending a long-running finishing streak and denting his championship hopes.
After being buttered up in a manic first lap, a steering failure on lap 12 sent the former champion into a tyre bank, ending his race.
Lowndes was unhurt in the crash but loses his incredible streak of avoiding DNF results - which will rest at 81 races.
While his teammate Jamie Whincup was able to pick up the slack, winning the race ahead of Garth Tander and Will Davison, all the focus was on Lowndes.
Lowndes told his team radio the steering wheel had "screwed up" meaning he wasn't able to veer left and stay on the track.
He said the crash "looked probably worse that what it felt like," taking a philosophical view of what it meant for his title hopes.
"It's been a hell of a year, it's been up and down like a yo-yo."
"That's motor racing, we take the good and the bad.
"The points are still there for grabs, and I'm going to take them."
It was cavalier racing from several of the front-runners - Lowndes included - that produced a number of incidents on the first lap.
After qualifying fastest, Holden Racing Team's hold on the opening race of three in Townsville failed to last even half a lap.
Lowndes, Garth Tander, James Courtney and Jason Bright were all involved in the opening lap fight, while Scott McLaughlin sailed through to the front.
The 888 car was nudged by Will Davison, turning him round and sending him to the wall near pit lane.
A lengthy pit stop followed, but when the 888 car did rejoin the field, his stay was short.
With the safety car called from Lowndes' crash, race leader McLaughlin chose that moment to pit, re-entering behind Whincup.
Whincup's superior pace meant he was never headed, while a late passing move by Mercedes' Davison on McLaughlin kept him off the podium.
Both Tander and Davison achieved their season-best results, while championship leader Mark Winterbottom finished 11th.
Jack Perkins was also sent to the wall after being clipped by Todd Kelly, ending his race, while Tim Slade also finished early in the garage.