Since this is mostly a NASCAR based blog, I can't help but lead off with a few NASCAR drivers that died far ahead of their time. Of course there's Dale Earnhardt, but I get tears in my eyes when I think about Davey and Clifford Allison and what their lost lives mean to the NASCAR world.
Had Davey and Clifford lived, there is no telling what the sport would be like today. I doubt that anyone who was a fan of the sport in the early 1990's doubts that Davey Allison would have eventually won championships. We'll never know about Clifford, who lost his life only a few months before we lost Davey.
In the year 2000, Nascar took a very tragic double hit when Kenny Irwin Jr. and Adam Petty lost their lives. Irwin was a hot young driver in the Cup series at the time of his death, and Adam was just getting started. Adam was the 4th generation from Petty Enterprises to get into racing, and his death effectively snuffed out the hopes of the Petty name continuing to be what it once was in racing. We of course will never know what Adam Petty might have meant to racing. He died at such a young age that his true potential was never realized.
NASCAR stars obviously aren't they only people who sometimes die at an early age. Ronnie Van Zant, front man for the band Lynyrd Skynyrd died in a plane crash while still in his 20's. Perhaps Ronnie's most famous performance was the live rendition of the song "Free Bird", which was performed at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. The song was basically a tribute to Duane Allman, who in my opinion might have been the greatest guitarest of all time. Duane died in motorcycle accident in Macon, Ga, back in the early 1970's. Just a few years later, Van Zant died in Mississippi. They both died way too young. But then, so did Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. So did Stevie Ray Vaughan.
What would the music world be like had Jimi Hendrix lived? What would the NASCAR world be like if Dale Earnhardt was still with us? Neither are questions we can answer for sure, but I'm guessing either way, it would be a better world.