2022 Greatest 33 & Post-race Update


Back again and it’s over a week dealing with the post-Indy 500 withdrawal that befalls us annually. Perhaps the feeling is also abetted by the renewal of my tickets for 2023, which reminds me that the next Indy 500 is 350-some-odd days away.

To ease my pain, I return to the numbing coolness of bland columns and rows of race statistics, including the annual update to my Greatest 33 and some other noted bits from this year’s race.


The Greatest 33 As a refresher, IMS put out this list in 2011 and fans could vote on their Greatest 33 to race in the Indy 500. To help me choose my candidates, I used a select batch of statistics to make my choices then and since have maintained this list every year, updating following the 500. The selected stats are weighted based on my relative value in an overall score by driver. My categories are; Races Started (10 pts. each), Pole Positions (20 pts. each), Laps Lead (1 pt. each), Races Won (250 pts. each), and Top 5 finishes (40 pts. each). I have been considering for some years adding a category for Total Miles Completed and updating the entire list as well, more on that another time. At any rate, here it is in all it’s unabashed boringness:

The “Field”

In addition to all the active drivers gaining another 10 points for another race started, Scott Dixon moved up three positions via another pole and increased his laps lead total by 95 this year to surpass Ralph DePalma (612) and Al Unser (644) to become the all-time leader of laps lead of the Indy 500 (to date) with 665. I’m fairly certain he’d preferred a win with no pole and only one lap lead this year to this year’s result, but alas, it wasn’t to be once again for the Iceman whose disappointment in not winning this race in a month he dominated may also have set a new high. The utter pain on his face after the race was easily seen and we all could empathize. As it stands, Dixon remains the highest scoring single-winner on my Greatest 33.


The “Lead Pack”

Who’s Next? – Active drivers from this year’s race that are the closest to moving into the Greatest 33 would be Power (664), Pagenaud (629), Rossi (557), Marco (534), or Ed Carpenter (516). The current driver ‘on the bubble’ is Jim Clark with 738 points and a win by the aforementioned drivers (minimally adds 301 points if leading only 1 lap) would put them well ahead of Clark on points, moving into a place amid Montoya, Sato, Sneva, and Parnelli Jones somewhere in the 8th or 9th rows.

If you recall, my list is essentially a top 30 plus the 3 best to never win it, in an homage to the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation Last Row Party. Michael Andretti, Ted Horn, and Rex Mays currently occupy Row 11, placing Clark on the ’30th place bubble’.

“One Lap Down”

Winner, Winner – The checkers fell to the newest first-time, and second native Swedish winner in Indy 500 history – Marcus Ericsson. My Greatest 33 list contains all multiple winners of the Indy 500 and being a one-time winner with relatively few races or laps lead means Marcus jumped from 127th to 81st now totaling 343 points (and one notch ahead of Graham Hill), but is still trailing the mid-pack of all Indy 500 winners in my list. Certainly a win is a huge bump up the list, but one-time winners in the Top 33 are few and distinguished.

Top 5 finishes for Ericsson, O’Ward, Kanaan, Rosenqvist, and Rossi all boosted their standings. Kanaan especially gained as he was able to distinguish himself sufficiently from Bill Vukovich and Rodger Ward placing squarely in 15th.

Photo by Indycar/Joe Skibinski (c) 2022

Not Bad For A Pay Driver – Marcus becomes the second native of Sweden to win the 500 (Kenny Brack in 1999 being the first). As noted above, his place among 1-time winners is fairly low trailing all others but Graham Hill, Floyd Davis (a co-driver credited with a win), and Gaston Chevrolet (the lowest ranked winner with 324 points).

“Mid-Pack”

Miscellany – “Ground Control to Major Correction, come in Correction!” Somehow, in the hoary, early days of this spreadsheet, I lost Joe Dawson. For the life of me I can’t comprehend why, but somewhere in 2013, the 1912 winner disappeared from my list. Mr. Dawson was not in my Greatest 33, however to be missing him entirely was certainly an error. He returns to the grid in 79th with his 362 points, placing him between Ralph Hepburn and Wally Dallenbach, and two spaces ahead of this year’s winner Ericsson.

Miscellany 2 – One thing I miss most about the new scoring pylon versus the old one is the average race speed shown at the top of the stack. The Indy 500 qualifying field was the fastest average in history so it stands to reason that the 2022 race would be among the fastest as well. It was the 7th fastest race of all time, but it also had 31 laps of yellow, the second most compared to the 13 fastest races run (all under 3 hours running time). Only 1991 had more laps of yellow (35). 1991 stands as the 5th fastest all-time, and just a blink under 1 minute faster than 2022. Not coincidentally, the fastest race of all-time in 2013 had the fewest laps under yellow.


“Also-Rans”

Photo by Indycar/Karl Zemlin (c) 2022

Wither TK? – Fan-favored Antoine Rizkallah Kanaan Filho, currently in 15th with 1192 points is a relatively scant 108 points away from moving up two places, passing fellow Brazilian Emo Fittipaldi, and former teammate/best bud Dario Franchitti who sit at 13th and 14th places with 1295 and 1299 respectively.

That move would align him right behind the great Mario Andretti (1396) for 13th overall. Another race and a Top 5 would seal a minimum of 50 points, not to mention what a win or leading 50 more laps would do. Although he’s on his second “Last Lap” of the Indycar scene, he did little the entire month to dissuade a smart owner from putting the popular driver in a highly-competitive second/third seat for Indy should the funding be there. Every driver stops racing at some point, and there’s much to be said for going out on a high, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve not seen the last of TK at Indy.


The drivers in the Greatest 33 change very little, although this generation of legendary Indycar drivers continue to march steadily up the list.

Dixon’s disappointing day should also be assuaged in the fact that he now owns a very impressive record at IMS – The Most Laps Lead of all-time. For now, it will always come with the caveat that he also hold only one win. If Dixon manages to grab that second win and maybe one more pole (tying Rick Mears for Most Pole Positions) before he’s done, the records will mean even more in combination with multiple wins, and cementing his place among the greatest of the Greatest 33 to race at Indy.


2022 Rows 1-3
Rows 4-7
Rows 8-11
The Full Field

A Few Quick Thoughts

As a final entry before leaving for Indy a ‘dark-o-thirty’ AM, I’ve thought about a number of suitable subjects, but none stands out in particular. So, I’ll just briefly touch on a number of the scattered themes that were bouncing around before I hit the hay.


Off Years – I was thinking about how an all-time instant classic/historic race comes along that we celebrate for many years following, but what about that race that follows the next year? This will be my 35th race and I’ve seen several races for the ages, but I also recall feeling a bit of trepidation in the years following a classic. Tempering my expectations always isn’t as easy as it might seem to be, but in the years following a great all-time race, there is usually something memorable to happen.

Following the closest finish in history in 1992, the 1993 was actually quite good for as little as it gets talked about. Perhaps most only recall that being the year Emerson thrice eschewed the milk on national TV, only to swig a bottle of orange juice to promote his farms in Brazil.

1983 usually pales in comparison with one of the most memorable races the year prior, although the notable rookie and pole-sitting performance by Teo Fabi was quite the introduction to this year’s race. The late-race drama between Al Unser, Al Unser Jr., and Tom Sneva made for some great TV and also commentary, but Sneva, after all of high-speed exploits at Indy in the 7 years prior, finally got a deserved win. He is one of a handful of single-win drivers that could have easily won two or three with just a little bit of better fortune.

The Greatest 33 Redux – As my tens of loyal readers know, I maintain this subjective tally that was originated by the Speedway for the Centennial Anniversary Era. I typically do a preview of the race or at least how the list changes following every 500.

Essentially, you need to be more than just a single-win driver with a few races to make my list. Longevity, Poles, Laps Lead, and Top 5 finishes also play a part in my calculations. Drivers such Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal all have a chance to notch their first win and come very close to bumping their way into my Greatest 33.

Second wins for Dixon, Kanaan, Power, Pagenaud, or Rossi would elevate them well into my Greatest 33.

Numerology of the ‘2’ – I had this theme bouncing in my head for years, but my inaction means I’ve come second to the good chaps at Beyond The Bricks Podcast – Jake Query and Mike Thomsen who covered this very subject recently.

It seems that race years that end in the number ‘2’, are extra-memorable for one reason or another. Last year we could consider the similarities of a year ending in ‘1’ and the crowning of a 4-time winner (1991 Mears, 2021 Castroneves). Will a finish for the ages be in store for us this year? Time will tell. Query and Thomsen of course do such a great job with the subject, that I cannot possibly add to it.

If you haven’t yet caught their show, I highly recommend binge-listening to their 2022 episodes heading into your Indy 500 weekend. That podcast, along with all of their other Month of May Indy 500 themes can be found here.


As always, I’ll be looking forward to another edition of that historic ‘speed classic’ in Indy, by being on the hallowed grounds of IMS again. I hope you will enjoy your Memorial Day racing weekend, wherever you may be. Peace!

Catching Up with the Greatest 33 – 2021 Edition

Now with the glory of the 2021 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race firmly in the rear-view mirror, I’ve carved time to revisit my Greatest 33 and review the largest shake-up in the standings since the inception of this 10-years-old bit of bench-racing started back in 2011.

To briefly review, IMS took great pains to create a special interactive website for the 2011 100th Anniversary race, for which fans could log in and vote for their “Greatest 33” to race at Indy from the 100 or so nominees provided. The site survived for a few years, but has since been taken down. I had participated in the original, but in need of some rudimentary starting point, my desire was to devise a method to the madness, trying to maintain some framework of relative fairness. I devised a set of objective criteria based on a few statistics that I deemed important for a driver to be in the conversation of the Greatest 33. At least I’d have some basis to sift and sort through the many drivers who’ve participated in this great race. With some consternation and trial-and-error, I settled on the weighted scoring method you see here. As you may have correctly guessed, ‘just for fun’ I saved and updated a spreadsheet every year following the results of each subsequent Indy 500. In the words of John Bender from The Breakfast Club, “…so, it’s sorta social, demented and sad, but social.” Prior posts of mine on this subject can be found by searching this blog’s tags for “Greatest 33”.

Without further ado, here is the top portion of that updated spreadsheet in all of its astoundingly dispassionate and boring rows and columns.

Helio Joins Racing Royalty – With his momentous and thrilling 4th victory, Helio Castroneves graduates to the uppermost eschelon of this list, joining the three other 4-time winners atop my Greatest 33. As noted back in the 2018 recap, a significant change at the top occurs if HE-LI-O got his 4th. He vaults above the other 3-time winners, Wilbur Shaw and Bobby Unser to 4th place overall, behind Rick Mears, AJ Foyt, and Al Unser. Dare we even contemplate the possibility of the first 5-time winner? That’s too much to even consider this close to Helio’s 4th win. Even another 4-time winner is difficult to imagine in my lifetime. As unlikely as it would appear that Rutherford or Franchitti would come out of retirement to attempt to join the 4-timers club, it’s seems nearly as unlikely that we’ll see another 4-time winner from the currently active 2-time (Montoya, Sato), or 1-time winners (Dixon, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Power, and Pagenaud).

Errors Corrected – Only the most eagle-eyed/unicorn follower of my blog might notice this, but not only did Helio move up in the first three rows, but so too did Mauri Rose, from Row 4. In working this original batch of statistics, I recall originally being some what thrown off by the fact that Mauri Rose was shown by the official Indianapolismotorspeedway.com statistical drivers pages as being a two-time winner, (plus historically also one time as a co-driver with Floyd Davis in 1941). Until now I ignored/forgotten about it but with the confirmation of established 500 history buff/authority, Mike Thomsen (@thomsen419), I took the time this year to correct that error in my sheet, giving both pairs of winning drivers (Rose/Davis, Boyer/Corum) the full points accorded winners, and transferring Rose up the standings into the outside of the 3rd Row. Overall it did nothing to change the drivers named in the 33, just shuffled the order to be more accurate with the base statistics.

What about 2020? – In looking back to the foggy, labored, and generally abysmal year that was 2020, I realized I hadn’t posted about the results of the previous Indy 500, a second win for Takuma Sato. Sato-san’s second, moved him from below the cut line into the Greatest 33. All drivers with more than one win are included in my Greatest 33 currently. As with the second Montoya win in 2015, Sato moved into the Greatest 33 and in doing so, they each displaced a driver previously on my list. Montoya bumped Bobby Rahal and Sato bumped Jimmy Murphy, both one-time winners.

Intangibles, Part One – Readers of the past will recall that there are a few differences between my staid statistical listing and the graphical listing shown here. These are the subjective movements in rank that I assign based on a few variable details not accounted for in my spreadsheet. Also, for those not familiar with my particular listing, this is basically a Top 30 plus a ‘Last Row Club’ (as a nod to the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation’s ‘Last Row Party’) comprised of the best 3 to never win. I intend to maintain this format unless sufficiently cajoled otherwise. If you want a very limited edition souvenir, follow the IPCF link above and get yourself one of the most fun-spirited Indy 500 shirts available.

Intangibles, Part Two – With the weight of a 4th pole position and statistically now ranked 10th, Scott Dixon is located in 12th place behind Gordy and Mario as I feel their legend status still holds just the slightest bit more weight than Dixon. In terms of points, the three are separated by 1%, effectively now ‘three wide’ across the 4th row, I fully expect Dixon will fully overhaul them before his days are over at Indy. By the narrowest of margins, Tony Kanaan charts just one point ahead of Bill Vukovich. Much as the reasoning above though, I’ll hold the two-time legend of Vuky ahead of Kanaan, until TK ‘clears’ Vuky and ‘makes the pass’ into 16th place. As in years past, Arie Luyendyk holds one place higher than scored due to his current one- and four-lap qualifying records which are always notable and celebrated in the annals of the 500. I also expect these records will fall in the not-too-distant future and I will return him to his place between Al Unser Jr., and Dan Wheldon.

Outside Chances – Who is close to breaking into the Top 30+3? Second wins for Hunter-Reay, Power, Pagenaud, or Rossi would see them jump to the strata populated largely with two-timers in Rows 7, 8 or 9 and bump Jim Clark out. Marco is approximately 2-3 non-winning races of overtaking Rex Mays and bookending the 11th row with his father. A win for the evergreen Ed Carpenter, coupled with his long career, 3 poles, nearly 150 laps lead, and 3 top 5 finishes would bring him into the low 800-point range, surpassing Bill Holland/Billy Arnold/Jim Rathmann/Jim Clark.

Other Bits – Interestingly, perhaps, Mark Donohue ranks 66th on my list and he won with Car #66. Gil deFerran is 67th and won with car #68. Perhaps somewhere down the line a driver that wins in car #67 will settle in that 9-point gap between Donohue and deFerran, making the lore of Indy 500 numerology that much deeper for me.

For me, I enjoy the time and thought required to update and review this every year. It always seems to force me to re-evaluate drivers of the past as well as consider the currently active drivers place in the pantheon of Indy 500’s Greatest. I’d love to hear from anyone else that did this back in 2011 (or beyond) and their experience in selecting their Greatest 33.

The Greatest 33 Update – 2018 Post-race Edition

With just hours left of May on the calendar, and in keeping with all good traditions of May, we humbly submit, in the waning moments of May 2018, the ongoing review of my “Greatest 33” following the completion of another sun-scorched and interesting Indy 500. Making this post every year also seems to serve as a bit of a salve for the sting of realizing one of the greatest weekends on my annual calendar is now over.

To briefly review, IMS took great pains to create a special interactive website for the 2011 100th Anniversary race, for which fans could log in and vote for their “Greatest 33” to race at Indy from the 100 or so nominees provided. The site survived for a few years, but has since been taken down.

I had participated in the original, but in wanting to maintain relative fairness, I devised a set of objective criteria I could use to at least help make and rank my selections. I have, as you may have correctly guessed, saved and updated a spreadsheet every year following the Indy 500. Prior posts of mine on this subject can be found by searching this blog’s tags for “Greatest 33”. On the mobile site which lacks the tags feature, you will need to go to previous posts in May find them. Today’s post reflects the changes to the standings from last Sunday’s race and include the points gained from qualifying.

Will Power’s win obviously gives him the most-improved location on my rankings, but he suffers from what many single-time winners who haven’t cracked my Greatest 33 do – notably fewer races, poles, laps led, and top-5 finishes than other single-time winners. In fact there are not many single-time winners on my 33, so only the best of the best for “one-timers”. Mario is the best with one win currently and the best active one-timer is Scott Dixon.

With yet another Top 5 finish for Dixon, he did manage to begin to move up the scoring pylon from 18th to 16th. Dixon’s raw score in my formula actually has him ranked at 13th, however, I’ve also reserved the right to a few intangible calculations in the ranking so I have a hard time pushing him beyond Vuky, Ward, and Rose, all two-time winners with many laps led and similar Top 5 finish counts to Dixon. Scott’s longevity and steady performance keeps him in a close grouping of scores with the legends mentioned, but a second win for Dixon will certainly see him vault up the rankings. As it stands, the Top 5 rows remain unchanged.   


Speaking of active drivers, and since none of the three who currently reside in my Greatest 33 (Helio, Dixon, and Kanaan) won, their places are relatively cemented as previous. Tony Kanaan leading laps again moves his raw score higher than Arie Luyendyk, but remains just behind Arie in my ranking due to Luyendyk being a two-time winner in addition to currently holding the qualifying records set in 1996.

Helio would’ve become a true Titan of Indy if he had won his fourth last Sunday.  Rough projections would see his score rise somewhere into the low 1900s, moving from 6th the 4th on my Greatest 33. 
Next shown is the graphic representation of Rows 6-11 of my latest “Greatest 33”. 
Row 11, if any long-time readers will recall, is a nod the “Last-Row Party” thrown by the Indianapolis Press Club and is reserved for the three best and most notable drivers who never won it.

Will Power now joins active driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and several others just outside my Top 33. That group includes Buddy Lazier, Bobby Rahal, Sam Hanks, Jimmy Bryan, Eddie Cheever Jr., and Danny Sullivan. Other notable and currently active drivers are: Marco Andretti – 56th – 471pts., Ed Carpenter – 64th – 429, Takuma Sato – 65th – 428, and Alexander Rossi – 70th – 398.

Shown below is the spreadsheet ranking as it stands updated following the 102nd Indy 500. 









Figures Don’t Lie, but Liars Figure

Oft attributed (but never actually substantiated) to Mark Twain, this kitchy axiom reflects a sense that the truth via factual numbers can be perverted into something in the interest of supporting a position that might need help outside a purely factual representation.


This seems all too commonplace in the era of mass consumerism as most products and services need something akin to facts to help bolster their place in the market. Even market leaders like to “massage the stats” to maintain their advantage.

In the game of sales – for media rights, sponsorships, and financial commitments of all sorts – using relevant statistics to assist can be an Olympian exercise in numerical gymnastics. Indycar as a sport has been well aware of this for decades, and quite acutely following the split of sanctions in 1996.

Even to those who follow me regularly here or on Twitter would have a hard time recalling my stance, and that’s because I’ve never made much of a statement regarding the ‘split of ’96’. I feel that it’s all water under the bridge and focusing forward, with the knowledge of the past, is far more useful than attempting with utter futility to settle a decades-old argument.

In the early days of the ’96 split, I knew what my feelings told me, but we didn’t have the benefit of facts to back up anything we may have wanted to believe or hope. I had a very close friend, who always joined me on the annual Indy 500 trip, who was against the split and vowed to not return to Indy.  I understood this position as my reaction was largely negative to the idea as well.  So much so that I failed to maintain my reserved tickets for the race I’d held since 1988, boycotting by not renewing or attending after 1996. As fate would have it, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the final running in 1997 due to it’s rain delay to Tuesday anyway.

After missing the race for two years, something inside me called me back and I re-ordered tickets for the 1999 race. My bride of 3 years at the time suggested that I might enjoy going back, but that she had seen enough in her two races in ’95 and ’96 to not return if I had no objection. It was alright with me as I knew she really had no interest in being a racing fan. Not really having any new friends who were interested in going, I called my formerly stalwart Indycar friend to see if he wanted to join me. He was surprised I had softened my stance, as he hadn’t.

I attempted to persuade him with some statistics in hopes we could get the band back together and rekindle his love of the race. He said he would give it a chance and we attended the 1999 race, viewing it from a section more northerly in Tower Terrace. The approach of fuel-less Robby Gordon, falling out of the lead directly in front of us on lap 199, was among the most notable dramatic events of that day.

What you see below is a spreadsheet I started in 2000, which I shared with my friend in hopes of maybe showing that the Indy 500 at least was maybe turning for the better. What I had attempted to show following 1999 is that the Indy 500 is on the right trajectory and isn’t really all that different from what we saw as our ‘golden era’ of the late 1980s (HA!). With what little data I could access in the early days of the internet, this is what I sent my friend. 




Out of sheer tradition now, I maintain it to this day. It’s one of those May traditions that now happens in my build-up following qualifying and prior to leaving for Indy and now looks like this.



Despite the original ‘sales’ intent of those very rudimentary numbers from early-2000, it’s now nothing more than a fun, 32-column-wide-and-growing tradition for me now and Indy is all about tradition – even if recalling (and embracing) a not-so-golden era.





News Update and The Greatest 33 Revisited – 2017

Firstly, I’ll address the post-Pole Day Monday news which is in various parts disturbing, sad, and hopeful. Following those notable items, I’ll forward the lesser, pithy bits I had already planned for this space today.


From the “Sad is the news from Italy” department, Kentucky native son and racer at IMS during the Moto GP days, succumbed to his injuries received after automobile collided with him in Italy as he was physically training on a bicycle. He was noted by racers of all types as a great racer and equally good person. My only witness to his skills was a demonstration lap at the Indy 500 in 2008 and I will never forget the sensation of seeing and hearing what moved and sounded much like an Indycar, but terrified to see it was only a diminutive man on a motorcycle absolutely flying by us in a colorful flash on the main straight. I’d never seen anything so fast and so exposed in my life. Here’s a video of that demonstration shot by a person nearly directly across from our seats. Thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. 


In a hopeful bit of news, a reported successful surgery to repair multiple fractures of Seb Bourdais’ pelvis and a hip bone sustained in one of the most violent collisions with the Turn 2 wall ever seen at IMS, see the driver already beginning the long healing process which will keep him out of the rest of the Indycar and Sports Car seasons this year. Blessings to Seb, his family, and friends for the prognosis.


And finally from the “I guess we’ll say they’re fortunate but this is really disturbing” department, yesterday’s 101st Indy 500 Pole Winner Scott Dixon, his wife Emma Dixon, and pal Dario Franchitti were the victims of an armed robbery while attempting to secure some delicious trappings from the West 16th Street Taco Bell Sunday evening. Thankfully, they weren’t physically harmed and the suspected culprits are in custody.

And now, the post, that post was meant to be today…

(drum roll, regal trumpet fanfare)


The Greatest 33, Revisited – 2017 Pre-race Edition!

If you recall, back in 2011 IMS produced a Greatest 33 feature on their website , allowing fans to review over 100 drivers of the Indy 500 and create their very own Greatest 33. Eager to create my own, I spend many an hour developing a format and formulae for scoring and ranking drivers. Even made a blogpost or two or three about it for which you can still read today. I enjoy updating this list after qualifying and after the race each year to see how it changes.

One thing that is abundantly clear to me, and as I’ve noted before, is how we’re in a second golden age of Indycar driving talent. Not quite the immense shadow cast of the original Golden Generation of Indycar racing, but still, a very stout and talented bunch whose depth of skills encompass a variety not matched by any other driving series on the planet.  They are also those whose time before us in a car sadly grows shorter all the time.

Listed here is my spreadsheet which processes for me, my vision (a blend of longevity, skill, and consistent performance) of what my Greatest at Indy requires. Of course wins count heavily and their value is of greatest importance, however I reserve the last row (11) of my Greatest 33 for the three best drivers to never have won, at the expense of some 1-time winners but those lacking other major accomplishments in comparison.

Following the results of yesterday’s Pole Day qualifying, Here are the current rankings: 


Currently, 7 Indy 500 winners are actively in play for the 101st Indy 500, and 9 active drivers rank in the Top 80 here. Most notably perhaps are the greats of this era who have steadily risen in this ranking and have certainly made their mark on the Speedway in the last 20 years. Helio, 
Dario, Iceman, TK, and Montoya, Solidly in the Top 25 all-time for me and all of which spent (except the 1999 race of Montoya) their Indy 500 careers racing against each other. Should Hunter-Reay add a second 500 to his legacy, he would join the other 5 in the Top 25 at Indy. That’s a pretty strong representation of this era through the lens of statistics at Indy.

Not only are those greats closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, but there is an excellent crop of young talent ready to make their permanent mark as well.

Largely graduates from the assorted ladder series both domestic and foreign, the young guns enrich the overall talent, making the depth of fields quite impressive.
Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Newgarden, Hildebrand, Kimball, Munoz, Carpenter, Daly, and Marco Andretti, all came up through the modern ladder and their notable longevity is also a testament to the good work being done in developing talent for Indycar. Often drivers who arrive from another major series are looked at as outsiders, but I find they truly add nothing but spice to the simmering recipe of American Open-Wheel Racing and I’m grateful for their added flavor. Bourdais, Sato, Rossi, and now Alonso are excellent drivers and only add to the depth of greatness that we see today.

So while you sit back and take in the 101st Indy 500 this coming Sunday, don’t forget that no matter the outcome, no matter who becomes the latest to add their likeness to the Borg-Warner, be they young or old, you’re witnessing true racing titans of our era, comparable in many ways to the Golden Era of the 1960s and 70s. 

Appreciate it, because it sure doesn’t come around very often.

The Greatest 33 – 2015 Post-500 Edition (aka Rambling Indy 500 nerdery alert)


Without deigning to delve into Detroit’s drenched driving debacle, this week’s post will focus on the update to my Greatest 33, post-2015 Indy 500. If you recall the post prior to the race, I pondered how this might change depending on who won, lead laps, and finished in the top 5. Change it did.

After a few very minor tweaks to the formula prior to the 2015 Indy 500, I had reconciled the slight discrepancy in weight of winning versus the other statistics I use to rate the drivers. It had a very slight effect in that by increasing the value of a win and a pole by approximately 10%, relative to everything else, and decreased a top 5 finish by 20%, winning is as important a criteria as ever. Some drivers who’ve enjoyed more success in winning poles, received a slight upgrade, versus those who may have won but perhaps lead fewer laps, or managed a top 5 for example. 

As you may recall, I also have my own “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 is 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 turn into victory lane.

Found as the cover photo on @groundedeffects Twitter, here is my Greatest 33 following the 2015 Indy 500 results:



Here’s a closer look by groups of Rows…


Rows 1 – 3: Unchanged due to Helio not adding a 4th win to his tally.

Rows 4 – 7: With the slight change in scoring Franchitti gains one spot over Fittipaldi by virtue of an additional win, but still so very close overall (4 points or 00.31%) . Bill Vukovich also gained a spot over DePalma and yet another difference so slight (11 points/01.16%) it’s almost a crime either gets the nod over the other. Scott Dixon won a pole, led many laps and gained another top 5 finish. If Dixon had won, we’d be looking at him moving into Row 4 between Mario and Dario. Aside from Montoya, ‘the Iceman’ made the most gains in places (4) from inside Row 8 to outside Row 6.


Rows 8 – 10: Dixon’s upgrade sent Parnelli back into Row 8 and in another quirk of numbers, he also lost a spot to Kanaan who leads by a nearly infinitesimal 3 points (or 00.32%) difference. Assuming Kanaan races in another 500, he will likely surpass Milton, and move out of this group into Row 7. Landing in this group from outside the Greatest 33 is the biggest mover overall and this year’s winner, Juan Pablo Montoya. From a non-descript spot among single-winners, JPM vaults up 21 spots into inside Row 9. Jim Clark also loses 3 very closely contested spots with Bill Holland, Billy Arnold, and Jim Rathmann gaining a spot by virtue of the formula modification. 


Montoya’s promotion also relegates another driver from the list. Did you notice who it was? Unfortunately for his cadre of fans, the bespectacled and thickly-mustachioed Bobby Rahal drops from the list into the great beyond. Perhaps Rahal the Younger will avenge his family’s name and appear once or twice himself. 


Row 11: Unchanged although it is worthy to note that Marco Andretti is the highest rated active, non-winning driver currently. Barring a win, Marco could very likely unseat Rex Mays with just two or three more top 5 finishes or leading another 140 laps. Would two Andrettis cruelly book-ending the futility of the final row be something the racing gods intended?



And my current criteria for selecting these drivers:


Several active drivers were added to my list as they all stand a chance of being part of the conversation should they win a 500. Among the remaining active drivers, Hunter-Reay and Marco are the two leading active candidates who could possibly bump their way into the Greatest 33 grid, the rest will need more than a win to get close to making the top 30.

It’s also noteworthy that at this point, two wins basically solidifies you into the Greatest 33, putting Hunter-Reay in the “first alternate” position. One-timers Mario, DePalma, Dixon, Kanaan, Parnelli, and Sneva all seem to be quite solidly in for the time being. There are more single-win drivers (48) that of all other multiples combined (19),a nd only 10 have made the list, so to be a single-winner and make the Greatest 33, requires an outstanding career. 

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



The Legacy of ‘The Greatest 33’

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..




The Greatest 33

Being a product of my heritage (analytical Germanic-type), my time (1967-current), my geographical upbringing (Indiana), and my primary hobby (sports appreciation), my Greatest 33 drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is better than yours.


OK, I don’t really believe the previous statement and a subjective list such as IMS has created will certainly stimulate arguments and debates on not only the list itself but how the participant’s list was assembled. By no means is there a perfect system but I would contend that to not primarily rely on statistics allows for a fairly significant bias against drivers in the first half of IMS’s century of racing who most of us never saw (i.e. pre-1960). 

As is typical with me, I employed some simple statistics to assist in selecting and ranking from hundreds of drivers. Cool, unemotional, unsympathetic numbers will tell a vast majority of what I needed to know and after a bit of deliberation, I settled on a formula which weighed wins, laps lead, number of poles, number of races, and top-5 finishes, to varying degrees. 

For me this eliminated a great deal of debate about drivers who were in the top 25-28.  The remaining 5-8 spots would require some subjectivity as there were many drivers with 1 win and some drivers with no wins who fell in very close proximity via the statistics. In an homage to the Indy Press Corps’ Last Row Club, the final row of 3 was reserved for the 3 greatest drivers to never have won. All other inclusions had at least one win to their credit.

Without further ado, I submit my Greatest 33 to have raced at the Indianapolis 500:
1-Al Unser   2-AJ Foyt Jr.   3-Rick Mears
4-Wilbur Shaw   5-Bobby Unser   6-Johnny Rutherford
7-Mauri Rose   8-Louis Meyer   9-Mario Andretti
10-Gordon Johncock   11-Helio Castroneves   12-Emerson Fittipaldi
13-Bill Vukovich   14-Rodger Ward   15-Arie Luyendyk
16-Al Unser Jr.   17-Ralph DePalma   18-Parnelli Jones
19-Tommy Milton   20-Tom Sneva   21-Dario Franchitti
22-Jim Clark   23-Dan Wheldon   24-Jim Rathmann
25-Bill Holland   26-Billy Arnold   27-Bobby Rahal
28-Scott Dixon   29-Jimmy Bryan   30-Jimmy Murphy
31-Michael Andretti   32-Rex Mays   33-Ted Horn

The group of tightly-scored drivers who just missed making the list were: Danny Sullivan, Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever Jr., Sam Hanks, Peter DePaulo, Mark Donohue, Bill Cummings, Pat Flaherty, Troy Ruttman, and Howdy Wilcox.

Of course I don’t really think my list is better than anyone else’s, however I will say that a fair bit of thought and bias-reducing consideration went into the making of the formula which produced a majority of my list. 

I would love to hear what you see as major misses or unsavory inclusions that populate my list…