In honour of Sportsnet Magazine’s The Big Book of Sports Lists, we look back at the 10 greatest IndyCar drivers in the history of the sport.
Examine the drivers below then vote on your favourite.
Watch the Sportsnet special, Sportsnet Magazine’s The Big Book of Sports Lists: The greatest IndyCar drivers of all-time, airing Thursday night on Sportsnet Ontario at 9 p.m. ET.
The first of two Andrettis featured on the list, Mario is the patriarch of this great racing family and is a legendary figure across all racing series as he’s one of just two men to win races in IndyCar, Formula One, NASCAR and the now defunct World Sportscar Championship.
The Italian-born naturalized American won four IndyCar titles in his career (three under United States Auto Club-sanctioning and one under CART), including back-to-back titles in 1965-66 and he’s second on the all-time wins list with 52.
The son of Mario, Michael Andretti has had his own storied history behind the wheel. His 42 career IndyCar victories is good for third all-time to go along with one of the most dominant seasons in IndyCar history.
In 1991 Andretti won his lone series title in remarkable fashion, winning nine races and, with the exception of one race, either finish on the podium or fail to finish a race. Specifically, Andretti had 12 podiums finishes, five retires and one fourth-place finish in 18 races that were run back then.
Helio Castroneves just may be the greatest Brazilian race-car driver of all time – and we’re counting F1 legend Ayrton Senna in this. The reason why we say this is because throughout his career he’s been a force at the race that really matters, the Indianapolis 500. Castroneves is in elite company when it comes to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” being one of just eight men to have won it at least three times, and one of five drivers to win back-to-back in 2001-02.
Currently leading the IndyCar driver standings, if “Spiderman” is able to hold on he will finally add the biggest omission on his sparkling career’s resume, a championship title.
Emerson Fittipaldi is another legendary name not just in IndyCar but in racing in general. He is a two-time F1 champ, a two-time winner of the Indy 500 and in 1989 he won a CART championship.
As impressive as his accomplishments are, his amount of IndyCar wins suffer a little when viewed historically because he split time between Formula One and CART. Fittipaldi is 18th on the all-time wins list with 22.
A Herculean figure in American auto racing, A.J. Foyt owns almost every record in American open-wheel racing. Some of his records include the most career wins (67), the most championship titles (seven) and the most Indy 500 victories (four).
Foyt, along with Mario Andretti, are considered the two pillars of American open-wheel racing and the IZOD IndyCar series has awards named after them. The A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy and the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy.
Dario Franchitti is probably the best driver of his generation. Like Castroneves, the Scotsman is a three-time Indy 500 winner but he has accomplishments that have always eluded the gregarious Brazilian.
His four IndyCar series championship titles put him in a tie with Mario Andretti and Sebastien Bourdais for second on the all-time championships list.
Rick Mears was a master of the Indianapolis 500. He won the race four times and his six poles are the most all-time in the event.
Mears also won three IndyCar series championships in the span of his career and is 11th on the all-time wins list with 29.
One of the most boisterous and outspoken drivers of all time, Paul Tracy was also one hell of a driver. Like Franchitti, the Scarborough, Ont., native is tied for eighth with 31 career wins and managed to win a series title in 2003.
Tracy’s also always been a large fan favourite and his popularity continues even today despite having retired.
Al Unser Jr. / Bobby Unser
Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Unser are the son and brother, respectively, of the legendary Al Unser and just one small peek at their careers will let you know that even though history has looked upon Al Sr. more fondly, these two have had great success as well.
Both men have won two IndyCar championships, Bobby recorded 35 career wins (good for fifth all-time), Al Jr. won 34 times (sixth all-time) and at the Indy 500 Bobby, again, got the better of his nephew, winning three times to Al’s two.
Al Unser Sr.
Another titan of American auto racing, Al Unser Sr.’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He’s won the Indy 500 four times, has won 39 career IndyCar races and is a three-time series champion.
Also of note, Unser’s family is the only one to have three different members win the Indianapolis 500.