Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon were the dominant forces throughout the 1990’s, as they combined to win an astonishing seven championships in ten years. One would assume that the overwhelming success of the two drivers would have kept many others out of victory lane. That was not the case, however. A trio of drivers were able to win races and contend for championships. Unfortunately, they came up short in their championship bids.
If not for a 46-point penalty at Richmond in 1990, Martin may have become a NASCAR champion, dropping Earnhardt’s total to six. He lost to Earnhardt by 36 points. Martin had many near misses over the course of the decade that saw him win 30 races in 390 starts. Martin finished second in the Winston Cup championship standings three times in the 1990’s. He finished in the top five in the standings eight times. He won a race in every season of the 1990’s with the exception of the 1996 season. Martin has enjoyed a tremendous career filled with triumph; however, he his career fell into the peaks of Earnhardt, Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson’s careers.
Wallace captured 33 wins in 309 starts in the 1990’s. The 1989 Winston Cup championship expected more championship hardware heading into the new decade, but to no avail. Nevertheless, he enjoyed some memorable seasons in the 1990’s, such as the 1993 season when he won a career-high 10 races, and finished second in the final NASCAR standings. In 1994, he won eight more races, and finished third in the championship standings. He won five races in 1996. He joined Earnhardt and Gordon as the only drivers to win five more races in three different seasons in the 1990’s. Wallace would not win a second title, and he retired following the 2005 season with 55 career wins in NASCAR’s top level.
Allison only competed in three and a half seasons in the 1990’s, as he tragically passed away mid-way through the 1993 season in a helicopter crash. The son of 1983 NASCAR champion Bobby Allison no doubt had as much talent as his father. Many believe that had Allison lived, Earnhardt and Gordon may not have as many wins or championships to their record. He won five races each in 1991 and 1992, and nearly won the 1992 Winston Cup championship. He was leading the standings heading into the final race at Atlanta, but was caught up in an unfortunate crash with Ernie Irvan. He won 13 races in only 103 starts from 1990 until his death in July of 1993. He finished third in the standings in 1991 and 1992, and won the 1992 Daytona 500.
Honorable mentions include Ernie Irvan; Ricky Rudd; Bobby Labonte; Jeff Burton; Harry Gant, Bill Elliott; Geoff Bodine