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ANIMATED: Jeff Gordon Blown Engine Ends His Daytona 500 Early

Three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon will not join Cale Yarborough as a four-time winner of NASCAR's biggest race. Gordon's engine blew as he ran in the eighth position on lap 81, sending his No. 24 Chevrolet to the garage just prior to the midpoint of the Great American Race.

Much like his teammate Jimmie Johnson, Gordon has largely struggled since recording his most-recent win in the 500 in 2005. Gordon finished 10th in 2007, his lone top-10 in that stretch and he has been involved in accidents in all but one other year, 2008 when a broken suspension ended his day early.

As the race's midpoint nears, the nerves grow about what might occur as drivers jockey for the $200,000 bonus put up by the Daytona International Speedway for the driver who leads the 100th lap of the race. With one big crash already wiping out five drivers at the conclusion of the first lap - including Johnson, defending race champion Trevor Bayne, and Danica Patrick - there is concern over another crash further dwindling the field.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.