For various reasons, many drivers are never able to reach their full potential in the now Sprint Cup Series.
This list takes a look, in no particular order, at some of the most notable and the lesser known drivers who never reached the pinnacle of their driving abilities.
To say Davey Allison would be a NASCAR Cup Champion if not for that fateful day in Talladega, is as certain as a Kyle Busch temper tantrum.
The 1992 season was the culmination of the building of Allison's career, and while the 1993 season did not start out how Allison and his team would have hoped, he still would have had a long and storied career.
The fact that Allison never had the chance to race with Tony Stewart or longer with Jeff Gordon is one of the true tragedies of the sport.
A NASCAR champion on this list?
Alan Kulwicki had his fairy tale come true during the 1992 Cup season. Building your own team is no easy task, let alone when you're as detail oriented as Kulwicki.
His 1992 Championship signaled the arrival of what could have been one of the true powerhouse teams of the 1990s. Sadly, Kulwicki never would have the chance and the sport would be left without a champion.
Rob Moroso was Jeff Gordon before Jeff Gordon burst onto the scene.
A 19 year old kid battling a veteran for a Busch Grand National Championship in just his second season is unheard of even today.
Moroso's Cup stats are not indicative of his talent, as he and his newly promoted team struggled throughout the 1990 season. A poor choice near the end of the 1990 season would leave the sport without its Rookie of the Year and a father with an empty team built around his son.
This would be echoed in our next driver on the list.
The death of Adam Petty would have a profound effect around those in the sport.
Petty was destined to be the future of Petty Enterprises, but would only complete one full Busch Grand National Season. His true potential will never be known, but his death cast a shadow over his father, Kyle, and Petty Enterprises for years to come.
Tim Richmond was NASCAR's movie star of the 1980s. A driver who was quite literally ahead of his time in more ways than one, he was the Kyle Busch of his time but without a public relations department.
Richmond could accomplish things in a car that were unbelievable. It wasn't until he moved over to the burgeoning powerhouse of Hendrick Motorsports that Richmond truly challenged for a championship.
The sheer fact he could come back to the sport after several months off and win back to back races speaks volumes. His death, overshadowed by the stigma of AIDS in the 1980s, has deprived him of the respect he truly deserves.
Steve Park's Winston Cup career was almost over before he even had a chance.
Tapped to be the first driver for the newly Cup promoted DEI, Park was involved in a debilitating practice crash during the third race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Park would never truly recover, and his Cup career was finally halted after a second severe accident.
Many have christened Park the unluckiest driver in the history of Cup racing—a driver who was never given a chance to show his true skills.
Can you name the driver to win his first four career races in a row?
Billy Wade may be forgotten in the evolution of the sport, but he was yet another driver whose career was tragically cut short. Driving for Bud Moore, Wade finished fourth in the 1964 Cup standings.
But Wade would lose his life during a tire test at Daytona International Speedway in January 1965, smothering yet another promising career.
Has there ever been an Allison who has not excelled in NASCAR Cup racing?
Bobby, Donnie and Davey had all experienced great success on the circuit, and it was naturally assumed that Clifford would as well. A practice accident at Michigan International Speedway took the life of Allison, just a under a year before his brother's death at Talladega.
In the three full seasons Jody Ridley ran in Cup competition, he finished in the top ten a remarkable fifty percent of the time. Ridley was truly the lone bright spot in Junie Donlavey's long ownership career.
After finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in points his first two seasons, Ridley seemed poised to make several runs for championships over his career. The 1982 season would signal his last full season and by 1987, Ridley was no longer seen in Cup competition.
In the early 1990s, no driver was more controversial than Ernie Irvan. The bright yellow car of 'Swervin' Irvan was often found at the center of some driver's frustration.
Moving over to Robert Yates' fabled #28 to replace the late Davey Allison seemed to focus Irvan's talent. As the 1993 season started its third race, Irvan found himself nipping at the heels of Dale Earnhardt in points.
But a near-fatal accident during practice at Michigan would sideline Irvan for more than a season. Despite a miraculous comeback, including an emotional win at the track which almost took his life, Irvan could never recapture that magic of the 1993 season.
What is a man with 18 career Cups and 21 career Busch Grand National wins doing on this list?
Consider this fact: Gant never ran a full season in NASCAR until he was 40 years old. At the age of 51, he won four straight races. The mere thought of a 20-25 year old Gant battling on the NASCAR circuit with the likes of Ned Jarrett, Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen, and others is one of the biggest 'What ifs' in the history of the sport.
Out of all the drivers on this list, Shane Hmiel's is the only self-induced limiting factor.
Hmiel was a rising star in the NASCAR ranks, making his Cup debut in 2004. As erratic off the track as he could be on, Hmiel was eventually suspended by NASCAR for violating its substance abuse policy. Repeated violations resulted in Hmiel being permanently banned from the sport.
Racing purists often salivate at the thought of Hmiel battling Kyle Busch in both the then Busch Series and in the Cup series. With similar personalities, it would be a certainty that fireworks would burst whenever the two were in the same vicinity.