The engine on Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet has blown, bringing an end to the day for the defending champion of the Aaron's 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway. The five-time Sprint Cup champion was able to get his car off the track before a caution flag flew for the smoke billowing from his stricken Hendrick Motorsports mount.
Johnson's engine let go after he had completed 62 laps. There has been only one caution flag - for Regan Smith's blown engine at lap 17 - but Ryan Newman's motor had also broken since Smith fell out. Newman, like Johnson, runs Hendrick-built engines. Hendrick's other three drivers - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon (who blew up in the Daytona 500), and Kasey Kahne - along with Newman's teammate and car-owner Tony Stewart are also running Hendrick powerplants.
As Johnson fell out of the race, his usual drafting partner and the NASCAR fan favorite Earnhardt Jr. took over the lead. Earnhardt, of course seeking his first win since June 2008, had a record four-consecutive wins at Talladega from October 2001-April 2003, and added a fifth win in October 2004. He has not won a restrictor plate race since that victory, however, but he always finds himself among the contenders.