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Fans Debate: What is the BIGGEST Waste of Talent in NASCAR

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To be successful in NASCAR, having enough driving talent is only half the battle. Some drivers are unable to reach their full potential for reasons outside of pure driving talent, and NASCAR Reddit gave their thoughts on who were the biggest wastes of talent in the history of NASCAR.

  • There were a variety of drivers mentioned for a variety of reasons. Some were self-inflicted by these drivers, but others were reasons outside of their control. A “Wasted Talent” to these fans does not necessarily mean a driver threw away a golden opportunity.
  • Here, we take a look at 10 drivers that were mentioned by these Reddit users. People did not necessarily mention drivers who were failures at the Cup level. Rather, drivers who could have done a bit better than they were.
  • Fans came out in droves as over 300 Redditors commented on who they felt was the biggest waste of talent in NASCAR. They came up with plenty of different interesting answers.

Shane Hmiel

Shane Hmiel is an example of a driver whose wasted talent was self-inflicted. The son of legendary NASCAR crew chief, Steve Hmiel, Shane was destined to work in racing.

He showed his talent early in his career. He sat eighth in the points 26 races into the 2003 Xfinity Series season, but things started going downhill for Hmiel after that. He failed a drug test following a race at Richmond, and he was consequently suspended from NASCAR.

In 2004, he was reinstated before moving to the Truck Series full-time. He won a race at Las Vegas, but in 2005 he failed another drug test before failing another in 2006. He was then banned for life from NASCAR.

Hmiel eventually went to rehab, and he worked his way back into racing through USAC. A severe spinal injury sustained while racing in Indiana in 2010 paralyzed him ending his racing career. Still, Hmiel remained involved in racing, starting his own team. Despite never reaching his NASCAR potential, he found a way to turn his life around.

Marcos Ambrose

SeattlePassedTheBall pointed out Marcos Ambrose as a wasted talent primarily because of his equipment. Ambrose spent his career with Richard Petty Motorsports in the 9-car, and he won two races at Watkins Glen. SeattlePassedTheBall pointed out how Ambrose ran so well on road courses.

Obviously, RPM was not one of the top teams in the sport while Ambrose was with them. Early in his career, Ambrose was with JTG Daugherty, who had not won a race yet while Ambrose was with them.

Could Ambrose have done a better job if he was in better equipment? Maybe he could have. His NASCAR career was far from a failure, however.

Dylan Kwasniewski

Dylan Kwasniewski won Championships in both the ARCA Menards East and West Series before moving up to the Xfinity Series in 2014. His season started well with a pole in the season-opening race at Daytona. However, he was done after one full-time Xfinity Series season plus a part-time effort in 2015.

SBMVPJustinHerbert argues that Kwasniewski was “Done dirty” by not getting a second year. Sure, letting a driver go after only one season is strange, but Kwasniewski was objectively bad in 2014. He had only three top-10s over a full season, while teammate Kyle Larson had two wins and 21 top-10s in only 28 races that same season.

Was he truly a wasted talent? He never really proved himself in his lone Xfinity Series season, but having only one year feels a bit premature.

Sam Hornish Jr.

ym179 feels that Hornish’s performances in the Xfinity Series prove that he should have gotten a better opportunity. Hornish is an IndyCar Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, and he jumped to NASCAR full-time starting in 2008.

His first three Cup Series seasons from 2008-2010 saw Hornish fail to win a race, and he never finished higher than 28th in the standings. In 2011, he won a race while running part-time in the Xfinity Series before two consecutive top-5 points finishes in 2012 and 2013. He won a total of five races in the Xfinity Series.

Could he have become better in the Cup Series should he have stayed at Penske just a little while longer? Maybe, but, even in his second opportunity with Penske in 2012, he only had one top-10 finish in 20 races.

Wendell Scott

My_son_is_a_box points out Wendell Scott due to actors out of his control. Scott was African American, and many in the sport did not take kindly to that during his era. Despite this, he had a very good career.

In 13 seasons, Scott had 147 top-10s in 495 races, a win, a pole, and 4 top-10 points finishes. He was a very good driver, but being a black driver in that era, it was always going to be an uphill battle.

What if Wendell Scott was welcomed by everyone while he was racing? Could he have gotten a better opportunity? Even if he did not get that opportunity, one cannot argue that he maximized the performance of his race cars. He was a serious talent, and no one can say anything different.

Robby Gordon

FalseWeeknd points out Robby Gordon. Gordon won four races in NASCAR, and he drove for one of the top teams in the sport at Richard Childress Racing. Yet, FalseWeeknd points how that Gordon could not get out of his own way.

He let Tony Stewart get past him at Sonoma in 2001 after getting caught up with a latter car. Gordon also allegedly threw out a piece of roll bad padding to bring out a caution at Atlanta in 2006. He also got black-flagged for wrecking Jimmie Johnson in 2002 at Bristol after getting mad for restarting behind Johnson.

Gordon had multiple incidents throughout his career. If he stayed out of his own way, would he have had a better?

Greg Biffle

Greg Biffle spent the entirety of his Cup Series career with Jack Roush. AnchorDrown feels that Biffle could have done better later in his career if he moved on from Roush.

He failed to win a race in his final three years with the team. Teammate Carl Edwards moved on from the team during this time as well. Roush continued to falter despite Biffle still remaining with the team.

Biffle actually talked about this on the Dale Jr. Download. He mentioned that he had an opportunity to take over for Tony Stewart in the 20-car at Joe Gibbs Racing. Biffle did express some regret about his loyalty to Roush.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Joe_WVU_88 brought up Juan Pablo Montoya. He feels that Chip Ganassi Racing did not have equipment that was good enough for Montoya.

Montoya won two races in the Cup Series and he made the Playoffs once in 2009. However, he failed to win on an oval. Was Ganassi’s equipment really as bad as Joe_WVU_88 claimed it to be?

Montoya’s replacement, Kyle Larson, could never make it out of the Round of 12 in Ganassi equipment. Once he moved on to Hendrick, he won a Championship. It’s certainly possible that Montoya could have done better with better equipment.

Steve Park

JunkLateModel26 points out Steve Park. He thinks that Park’s issues with injuries and big hits are what caused his career to falter.

Park won two races in his Cup Series career, but, he also had two seasons cut short by injury. This included his best season yet in 2001 when he was in the top-10 in points. After that, he could never rekindle his winning ways.

If Park never got injured, could he have had a better career? Dale Earnhardt Jr. kept winning races in DEI equipment during the early 2000s, so, Park was in good equipment. It’s certainly possible that injuries wasted away Park’s talent.

Elliot Sadler

Puzzleheaded_Cash413 points out Elliot Sadler. Sadler had good success in lower divisions, but he could not translate it to the Cup Series.

He won three races in his Cup Series career, but, he only finished in the top-10 in the standings once. He dropped down to the Xfinity Series from 2011 until 2018 where he finished in the top-5 in points every year with 8 wins.

Sadler is a driver where you can ask “What might have been?” It’s hard to tell what exactly held him back in the Cup Series, but, his talent just did not translate.

Drivers can be considered “Wasted talents” for multiple reasons as was evidenced by this Reddit thread. Sometimes, they are wasted because of self-inflicted reasons, but, others are for reasons outside of their control.

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