Ground(ed) Effects

Indycar and general autosport opinion

I am, perhaps, quite predictable. 

I can’t possibly know this, however, unless evidenced by others. 

For those that know me well, they register only faint surprise when I produce one of two sports-related anecdotes; one that employs use of comparative statistics, or one that reflects my nostalgic nature.

Today’s post is a little of both.

As a nostalgist, a willful tethering to the past is standard operating procedure for better or worse and when it comes to the subject of Indycars and the Indy 500, I am tethered thusly. So on a day like yesterday, that deep spring day when the cars begin their first ovoid circuits of The Track in May, I eagerly recall familiar places and things past from the greatest of all speedways. 

One such thing was a website that silently orbited the internet, maintaining its critical function for only a few years, until it was taken down, it’s original mission essentially complete. IMS produced an interesting site for the 100th Anniversary race in 2011 called The Greatest 33. While the site his since been taken down, it produced much fodder for Indy 500 fans and I also participated in assembling my own ‘Greatest 33’.

The process for doing the original was enjoyable and so I’ve been fairly diligent in maintaining a spreadsheet with the formula I used and data entered to make my selections (only active drivers with wins or with many years of experience need updating). Every year around the start of May, I open it again and review it for ‘accuracy’. In other words, I ponder whether I feel that the formula used is still fair and producing ‘accurate’ relative rankings. I’ve never been one to rely on totally subjective feelings and thoughts when considering something of this magnitude. Mine is perhaps quite the opposite. I rely first and foremost on the statistics of performance as this is my personal preference for assessing the Greatest 33.

One exception I made to the hardness of the numbers was a play on the “Last Row Party” made famous by the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation members for the rather dubious honor of starting in the last row.  My last row was to be made a specially designated place for the three best ever to have never won. Essentially, I have a Greatest 30, plus three with careers of significance, but lacking that final verse of the turn into victory lane.

Here is my Greatest 33 following the 2014 Indy 500 results:


Rows 1 – 3:

Rows 4 – 7:

Rows 8 – 11:


And my criteria for helping select these drivers:

As you can see, emphasis is weighted heavily on winning the race, with additional consideration for Top 5 finishes, Poles won, Laps lead, and making the race. Michael Andretti, Ted Horn, and Rex Mays are the three highest rated non-winners at the expense of Buddy Lazier and Sam Hanks. 

For 2015, I am considering tinkering very slightly with the amounts of weight between these categories and also have given an intangible additional consideration for those who’ve also held track records or currently own a track record. 

I’m actually quite happy with this list although I think fair arguments could be made for other drivers in the one-win and no-win positions. This is how I choose to delineate my “Greatest” from the “merely great” or “very good”. 

What is of most importance and most exciting to me now is seeing what changes from year to year with the active drivers moving in the list. 

Will Helio, Dixon, or Kanaan, gain an additional win and move them each into the most rarefied of air in my Greatest 33? 

Can Carpenter, Marco, Hunter-Reay, Montoya, or even Lazier move into the discussion based on their results this year? 

What do you think of these cold, hard, numbers that marginalize the likes of Lloyd Ruby, Dan Gurney, Gary Bettenhausen, Jules Goux? 

These are things I enjoy pondering and makes following along consistently much more interesting. 

Let me know what you think about the legacy of The Greatest 33..




2 thoughts on “The Legacy of ‘The Greatest 33’

  1. Man, I'd be hard pressed to tinker much with that formula, given the solid results that it turned out. You must have done some pretty extensive noodling around to get it to come out quite so rationally. Great stuff!

    Like

  2. DZ says:

    I did some noodling, except for the categories that I was using to assess the greatest. Basically, from the very first one, just fine tuning the relative values of the categories.

    Like

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