Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

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Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by kensethfan on Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:20 pm

Here's a spur of the moment idea I had while I was watching Zero Punctuation's videos on YouTube for the Top 5 best and worst video games of the given year. Your Top 5 best and worst race car drivers of all time?

I'd like to clarify that I'm not limiting this list to drivers who only competed in one series with success. It'd be too easy to choose names like Richard Petty and Michael Schumacher when their racing experiences have been limited to one league of racing and very little else. You can't judge the talent of a driver by his performance in one series.

Best Drivers

5. Mark Donohue - Synonymous for his work with Roger Penske, Mark Donohue has won the 1972 Indianapolis 500, the 1969 24 Hours of Daytona, the inaugural IROC championship in 1973, and championships in Trans-Am and Can-Am competition. Donohue very convincingly won the Can-Am championship in 1973 at the wheel of his Porsche "Can-Am Killer" 917-30, having won every race that season but one. In NASCAR, Penske Racing's first victory came with Mark Donohue at the wheel in the season-opening race at Riverside in 1973. Donohue had also raced in Formula One, though despite having cars that were capable of running decently, Donohue could not string together a win. Mid-way through the 1975 Formula One season, he crashed fatally in practice for the 1975 Austrian GP.

4. Juan Pablo Montoya - Some people may be mad at me for placing Montoya on this list. Regardless, Montoya has achieved levels of success in motor racing almost equivalent to the success of Mario Andretti, having won races in NASCAR, Formula One, CART, IRL, IndyCar, and Grand-Am. He is the 1999 CART champion, holds two convincing Indy 500 victories in 2000 and recently this year; he's won the 2003 Monaco GP, and has three victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He also holds a pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup victories at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. But while Montoya's career is still in progress, it's difficult to place him any higher on this list, which is why he remains fourth.

3. Graham Hill - The Triple Crown of Motorsport is a motorsport achievement that consists of victories in the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco GP, which may be used interchangeably with the Formula One World Championship. Whichever way you slice it, Graham Hill is still the only driver with that achievement: He won the Indy 500 in 1966, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1972, and has the most victories in the Monaco GP than any other driver, with five in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, and 1969. He also has a pair of World Championships in 1962 and 1968. Despite his impressive resumé, his racing experience is limited to sports cars and open wheel cars only, which is what confines him to third on this list.

2. Mario Andretti - Graham Hill, as mentioned, is the only driver to have won racing's Triple Crown. Mario Andretti was one of the few who ever came close: He had competed in all three legs at one point. He had famously won the Indy 500 in 1969 and the Formula One World Championship in 1978, but had never won the Monaco GP and, despite having come close in 1995 (and finishing the highest in his class in that race as well), had never won the 24 Hours of Le Mans either. So why choose Andretti for this spot over Graham Hill? Andretti was more experienced: He had raced stock cars and sprint cars as well with success. In stock cars, he holds a lone Daytona 500 victory in 1967, and had won several races in USAC Sprint Cars, despite never claiming a title there. Among his other achievements are victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1972, Three victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring, a pair of IROC titles in 1978 and 1979, and four Champ Car titles.

1. AJ Foyt - It would be very easy to call AJ Foyt the Mary Sue of auto racing. The achievements speak for themselves: Four Indy 500 titles, one Daytona 500, one 24 Hours of Le Mans, one 24 Hours of Daytona, two IROC titles, and seven USAC Championship Car titles. By this logic, you could have also included Mark Donohue or the aforementioned Mario Andretti. Andretti, after all, has a World Championship. Excluding the Indy 500 races run under Formula One sanctioning, Foyt never made any other F1 starts. My answer to that is that Foyt simply did more in more cars with success: Open wheels, stock cars, sports cars, sprint cars, midget cars; all cars that Foyt achieved more in than any other driver.

Honorable Mention: Jim Clark - Clark would fit in quite well with some of the drivers listed here; he had won the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 and the Formula One World Championships in 1963 and 1965. The sad truth is that with Clark's tragic death in the 1968 Formula 2 event at Hockenheimring, he was simply taken from us all too soon, making his career seem undone as a result, especially given the fact that his career was still fairly young at the time of his death.

And now, the worst drivers. I couldn't possibly limit this to drivers who only performed poorly in one series, because if you're as terrible as some of these drivers were, you're probably just as bad anywhere else.

Worst Drivers

5. Taki Inoue - Formula One's history will have you remember that Taki Inoue was much less terrible as he was just plain dense, courtesy of two incidents, the first originating from an incident during practice for the 1995 Monaco GP: Inoue had spun off and stalled his car on course, but decided to remain in the cockpit as the car was being towed to the pit area. The car was promptly run into by a course car and overturned, leaving Inoue with a mild concussion. The second incident is one everyone knows about, when Inoue was struck by a medical car after his car had stalled on track and he was forced to retire during the 1995 Hungarian GP. Most of Inoue's results were retirements, from an assortment of either mechanical failures or crashes. But to Inoue's credit, after the incident at Hungary, he knew when to GTFO.

4. Milka Duno - Most of us are familiar with Milka Duno's antics in ARCA, IndyCar and sports cars. She's been known to be a terrible backmarker; a trait that can be vouched for by Danica Patrick as well as half the field that started the ARCA race at Talladega in 2013. What holds her back on this list is that she does own an assortment of achievements, such as a Panoz GT Championship, two Petit Le Mans victories, three wins in the Rolex Grand American Series, and the honor of being the first woman in history to win a major international race in the United States.

3. Kevin Conway - Conway's time in NASCAR was short lived, and rightfully so. Though perhaps Kevin Conway's time in NASCAR was much less a "career" as it was an advertisement campaign for his male enhancement product, ExtenZe. Although he was the recipient of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year award in 2010, he was the only driver competing for the award that year. He was infamous for being slow, and only looked good by comparison because he didn't start and park every race. That said, Conway has little credibility to his name.

2. Andrea de Cesaris - Truth be told, Andrea de Cesaris was a very hit or miss driver. He either was very fast or he DNF'd. More often than not, however, it was the latter: In 208 starts, Cesaris holds the record for having the longest career without a race victory, and holds the nickname, "Andrea de Crasheris", due to his inclination to crash frequently. More than half of every race Cesaris had started, he also DNF'd, which was either due to a mechanical failure or an accident. More often than not, however, it was due to a mechanical failure, and for that reason, he is the #2 spot on this list.

1. John Wes Townley - I've heard it said before that John Wes Townley's life aspiration was never to become a racecar driver. I can't find any source to credit that, but whatever the case may be, John Wes Townley was and is still an abysmal driver. It speaks volumes when you've made it as far as the NASCAR Xfinity Series with achievements that are few and far in between, nevermind the fact that Townley's driving ability has barley improved since the dawn of his career and thus he still bears the nickname, "John Wrecks Weekly". It's not saying much when your only career win is at Daytona in ARCA, with a team that is by comparison supreme, and because the man who had otherwise dominated the race ran out of fuel four laps shy of the finish. Not to mention Townley has the shortest NASCAR Sprint Cup debut on record; a debut that started at Pocono in 2012 and ended in the Turn 2 wall on his warm-up lap. In practice. All in all, Townley is just as hopeless as he was when he first stepped into a racecar.

Honorable Mention: Pastor Maldonado - Perhaps Maldonado would have been better off as a rally driver or a demolition derby driver, at the frequency at which he's running into things. Maldonado also holds one of the more embarrassing Formula One records; in his case, the record for the most penalties received in a single season in 2012 -- nine penalties sustained from causing collisions, ignoring flags, and gearbox replacements. To his credit, though, he does have a Formula One win and of course the 2010 GP2 title, which is why he wasn't included on this list.

Feel free to post your own lists. Very Happy


Last edited by kensethfan on Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:12 pm; edited 7 times in total
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by RetrogradeRenegade on Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:23 pm

My top 5 all time best? I can't think of a fifth driver, but I suppose 4 will do. I agree with Foyt and Andretti, so I will not add anything to what you've already put there.

1. Jim Clark - Clark won or threatened to win in pretty much anything he ever got his hands on. He had an insane amount of natural talent, preferred to adapt his style to suit the car rather than the other way around, which I believe is the mark of the truly greatest drivers. He was two engine failures away from four consecutive titles in the 60s, won a Grand Prix (US 1966) with what amounted to a hand grenade for an engine, won the Indy 500, rewrote the F1 record books for sheer dominance - oh, and he also won the British Saloon Car Championship (now BTCC) on the side, was on course to win the RAC Rally of Britain before he crashed, even competing in a NASCAR race. Furthermore, his sportsmanship was second to none.

2. AJ Foyt

3. Michael Schumacher - Yes, he only competed in Formula 1 to any great success. Yes, he had at the time, the most dominant team to grace any form of motorsport (that I'm aware of). Yes, he had difficulty knowing when to concede defeat and handle himself with class in doing so. Yes, his 1994 title has some dubious marks over it. Yes, for his 5 consecutive titles he had a tyre manufacturer basically tailoring the tyres for him and him alone. Yes, his competitors did not make up the most star-studded grid of all time. It still does not take away the sheer skill he displayed in his career, to so comprehensively and unquestionably become the greatest driver of his day, so that even in the situations where it seemed he had to dig impossibly deep to still be a factor, he could still do it. Simply look at his 1996, in a Ferrari which was horribly unreliable (it once broke down on the formation lap), and very down on pace compared to the front-running Williams' - and yet it was still hard to rule out Schumacher as a title threat for most of that year.

4. Mario Andretti
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by Milan655 on Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:56 pm

5. Sebastien Loeb - Dominated the WRC for 9 years racking up and incredible 78 rally wins to his name, just under 50% wins-to-start ratio. Undeniably the most successful rally driver in history. Since then, he has been a front runner in the FIA GT/Blancpain GT championship and now in the WTCC (although in fairness, with a car which makes the rest of the field look pathetic). Also a runner-up at Le Mans and a man with a lot of F1 testing mileage under his belt. One of the more versatile drivers in modern motorsport.

4. Jacky Ickx
A runner up twice in Formula One, albeit comprehensively beaten by Stewart in '69 and Rindt in '70, he became one of the greatest sports car drivers in history. Winning the Le Mans across 3 decades and having taken 6 victories, as well as winning the ETCC, Dakar Rally and Bathurst 1000, Ickx is yet another driver with immense versatility.

3. Michael Schumacher - An incredible debut in F1 for Jordan with a 7th place qualifying following a Macau GP win and a strong pair of seasons in the WSC set a precedence to what would be the most successful career in motorsport history. Claiming 7 championships amidst controversy, Schumacher was a brilliant fighter. And whilst he did win his 5 championships at Ferrari with a car significantly better than his rivals, he still made a very good driver in Rubens Barrichello look a bit mediocre at times. If you need any proof of his quality, of which few would need in any case, look at his "final" race at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix-in my opinion his greatest race. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03MYPbkkiWw

2. Ayrton Senna - My favourite driver and probably the most talented driver in Formula One history, he was not without his faults. When many consider the greatest races in F1 history, typically the list will largely consist of Senna races-Monaco 84, Donington 93, the "Lap of the Gods" at Monaco in 88, and purely this is because Senna was one of those spectacular drivers who refused to finish anything but 1st. Whilst only a 3-time world champion, his records include the most successful driver at the Monaco Grand Prix with 6 wins. Yet his desire to finish 1st cost him significantly during his period at Lotus and potentially cost him a 4th title in 1989 even if only having an outside chance of taking the title at Adelaide in the proceeding Grand Prix. As such, in my opinion the greatest racing driver would be Jim Clark>

1. Milka Duno Jim Clark - Clark was dominant throughout his career yet his records in his 2 title winning years are to be revered. Due to the dropped points rule in the 1960s in which only the 6 best results counted towards the drivers' championship, in '63 and '65 Clark was able to score maximum available points with 54 points each. His 1963 season was incredible, finishing only once off the podium due to a gearbox failure. Aside from Formula 1, he was also a champion at the Indy 500 and in touring cars and also was a runner-up once in Le Mans.
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by bsoyuz on Thu Jun 25, 2015 8:40 pm

5. Emerson Fittipaldi Even though he was primarily a open wheel driver, he has a few more racing disciplines than just open wheel. He is of course, the first brazilian to win a F1 title (was also the youngest ever until freaking Alonso) , the Indy 500, the CART title, one of the few drivers to have ever won a GP in their debut year. He also ran a few endurance races in Brazil, is one of the legends of karting here and also competed in the first year of the National GT3 Championship.

4. Mario Andretti A lot of experience and big victories as a F1 title, a Daytona 500, two IROC titles, multiple USAC sprint car victories, four Champ Car titles, 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring victories..... I would consider myself insane if I hadn't added him.

3. AJ Foyt Isn't higher on my list because Coogan (actually, I'm not Foyt's biggest fan out there), still, countless truimphs in several categories, including USAC, Daytona 500, Indy 500, 24hrs of both Daytona and Le Mans, really, the only reason why he's not #1 is because I don't like him that much.

2. Jim Clark Raced in a lot of different categories ranging from F1 to Rallying, including NASCAR, two F1 titles and two Indy 500 wins. I wonder what he could have accomplished if he hadn't had died at Hockenheim.

1. Graham Hill TRIPLE CROWN, THAT'S IT, of course I have a lot of reasons, but I'm kinda short on time so I won't list them.


omg now the worst

5. John Wes Townley He is improving, he's far from being a good driver, but he is not the worst out there, believe me, I saw much, much, much worse here.

4. Pastor Maldonado Same case as John Wes Townley, but with some noticeable differences, the first is that Maldonado is a Grand Prix winner and a GP2 Champ, but that doesn't erases the fact that he is not a good driver.

3. Taki Inoue He's a cool guy, but his driving skills are far from cool, also, he's the guy that got ran over by A FREAKING AMBULANCE. seriously, how even

2. Kevin Conway He actually is a champion in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, but looking at his NASCAR career, eeeeeeeh.............I'm now extenzing

1. Milka Duno My god she is bad, looking back at her career in Indy, Sports Cars, NASCAR, ARCA, my god........


Last edited by bsoyuz on Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by crl on Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:41 pm

Waiting for Cy to type a worst list that says, "1-5. Michael Waltrip".

Anyway, my best list:
1. Mario
2. AJ
3. Senna
4. Schumacher
5. Clark

If Senna had lived long enough to come to America and conquer IndyCar (you know if he'd lived, he'd have found his way over here, eventually), he'd be at #1.

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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by kensethfan on Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:03 pm

I've edited my original post to include a list of worst drivers, as well as honorable mentions for both lists. Very Happy
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by RetrogradeRenegade on Fri Jun 26, 2015 10:17 am

kensethfan wrote:2. Andrea de Cesaris - Truth be told, Andrea de Cesaris was a very hit or miss driver. He either was very fast or he DNF'd. More often than not, however, it was the latter: In 208 starts, Cesaris holds the record for having the longest career without a race victory, and holds the nickname, "Andrea de Crasheris", due to his inclination to crash frequently. More than half of every race Cesaris had started, he also DNF'd, which was either due to a mechanical failure or an accident. More often than not, however, it was due to a mechanical failure, and for that reason, he is the #2 spot on this list.

In fairness to de Ceseris, he did clean up his act later in his career, especially with Jordan, and was regarded as a fairly safe pair of hands when he retired. As for 208 starts and no wins, well, across his career, the other side of the garage only scored 1 win (John Watson, British GP 1981 if you were curious), so it's not like he was flush with opportunities.
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by Milan655 on Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:14 am

De Cesaris making a list of worst drivers is a bit unfair to be honest, he was a very capable driver on a good day just a bit too happy to have an accident in the earlier stages of his career. Not a world class driver but not really someone I feel should make a list of the worst drivers in my opinion, but then again this is just an opinionated list.
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by Ben Atkins on Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:37 pm

Saying Kevin Conway is on the worst drivers is relatively unfair too. He was slow in NASCAR but the guy can kick ass in a Lamborghini. Nowhere near the best but I wouldn't put him in the list of worst.

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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by BooyakaDragon on Fri Jun 26, 2015 1:02 pm

It's hard to really label the "worst of all time" when most people who reach the high ranks of motorsports have SOME kind of ability.
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by RetrogradeRenegade on Fri Jun 26, 2015 1:27 pm

BooyakaDragon wrote:It's hard to really label the "worst of all time" when most people who reach the high ranks of motorsports have SOME kind of ability.

Yeah, this is true. Maybe "worst of those drivers who made it to a top-tier series"? Though that doesn't have quite the same ring to it...
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by JMac525 on Fri Jun 26, 2015 2:32 pm

This was pretty tough, but here's the top five I can think of at the top of my head.

Greatest:

5. Rick Mears
4. Michael Schumacher
3. Graham Hill
2. Mario Andretti
1. AJ Foyt

For this, I'm only choosing drivers I have seen race at one time. There may be a bit of an IRL bias here because of it. I can only really think of four who fit here right now.

Worst:

4. John Wes Townley
3. Marty Roth
2. Milka Duno
1. Jon Herb
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by bigdc48 on Fri Jun 26, 2015 5:17 pm

1. AJ Foyt - 67 Indycar wins, 4 Indianapolis 500 wins, 7 Indycar championships, 1967 victory in Le Mans with Dan Gurney and a win in the Daytona 500 has me put him in the top of the list.

2. Mario Andretti - The only Andretti to win the Indy 500 in '69, a former F1 champion, has 42 Indycar wins, won a Daytona 500, won Indycar in four different decades and has won a few sports car races along the way.

3. Jim Clark - He's the greatest F1 driver of all-time in my eyes. 25 F1 race wins, 2-time F1 champion, 1965 Indy 500 champion, was a British Touring Car champion in 1964 and was good in sports cars. Possibly the best versatile driver of all-time. And the only driver to ever win the Indy 500 and the F1 World Championship the same calendar year. It was unfortunate to what happened to him at Hockenheim in '68.

4. Aryton Senna - His driving abilities are incredible along with the top 3. 6 times he won Monaco, which is the most all-time, 51 F1 wins, 3-time F1 champion and 80 podiums. If he had not been killed in that faithful day at Imola in '94, he probably have dominated IndyCar racing IMO.

5. Dale Earnhardt Sr. - The best NASCAR driver ever IMO. His knowledge in aerodynamics was impressive back then. His 76 Cup wins, including 10 Talladega wins, 7 Cup championships, 4 IROC championships and 3 All-Star wins are enough to put him in my top 5.

I'll do 5 worst later.
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by Mother of Invention on Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:05 pm

Ben Atkins wrote:Saying Kevin Conway is on the worst drivers is relatively unfair too. He was slow in NASCAR but the guy can kick ass in a Lamborghini. Nowhere near the best but I wouldn't put him in the list of worst.

most the drivers listed had decent careers in other series though.

Duno was decent in Sports cars, Mike Borkowski (Who I am surprised didn't make any 'worst of' lists) was good in Trans-Am, and Townley is 5th in Truck series points.

I think really the only driver who sucked his entire career was probably Jack Miller.
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Re: Top 5 Best/Worst Race Car Drivers of All Time

Post by Milan655 on Fri Jun 26, 2015 6:09 pm

Mother of Invention wrote:I think really the only driver who sucked his entire career was probably Jack Miller.

I reckon you could add drivers like Francesco Dracone and Gaston Mazzacane to a list of drivers that have failed to accomplish anything in their careers really.
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