Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

March 18, 2011

The Greatest 33 at Indy…Gentlemen, Start Your Lists

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:01 am

The folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have put together a great little fan inclusive adventure called ‘The Greatest 33.’ Basically, ‘an esteemed panel of international motorsports media veterans’ evaluated all 732 participants who ever raced in the 500 and narrowed the list to the 100 they felt belonged on the final list of 33. Some of their choices seem a tad whacko, which we will discuss in a bit.

IMS cobbled together a web site called thegreatest33.com, and if you can figure out the links and the navigation tracks you can participate in what will essentially become the contents of a big mailing list database for IMS.

I would be interested in knowing who the ‘esteemed panel’ was. With people like Donald Davidson there is obvious credibility. If it contained writers who participated in the scorched earth of the late 1990s and early 2000s much of the credibility vanishes. This observation is based on selections in the list of 100 that contain names such as Danica Patrick, Paul Tracy, Roberto Guerrero and Marco Andretti. Missing from the 100 are actual winners such as Buddy Rice and Kenny Brack. But Robby Gordon? Bill Vukovich II? Roger McCluskey and Jim McElreath were great drivers many of us remember well, but do they belong on the list?

For what it’s worth, here is my selection of the final 33, and all of them are winners, which was my primary criteria, in roughly the order they should be ranked:

  1. A.J. Foyt
  2. Al Unser, Sr.
  3. Rick Mears
  4. Mauri Rose
  5. Wilbur Shaw
  6. Helio Castroneves
  7. Bobby Unser
  8. Johnny Rutherford
  9. Louis Meyer
  10. Bill Vukovich
  11. Rodger Ward
  12. Emerson Fittipaldi
  13. Tommy Milton
  14. Al Unser, Jr.
  15. Arie Luyendyk
  16. Gordon Johncock
  17. Dario Franchitti
  18. Mario Andretti
  19. Jim Clark
  20. Parnelli Jones
  21. Jimmy Bryan
  22. Ralph DePalma
  23. Scott Dixon
  24. Howdy Wilcox
  25. Jim Rathmann
  26. Jimmy Murphy
  27. Tom Sneva
  28. Bill Holland
  29. Sam Hanks
  30. Buddy Lazier
  31. Eddie Cheever
  32. Dan Wheldon
  33. Mark Donahue

The interesting parts of the argument will and probably should be based on statistics over the long term. Many who did not win certainly deserve consideration. The top 5 on that particular list would have to include Ted Horn, Harry Hartz, Rex Mays, Michael Andretti and Jack McGrath.

If Janet Guthrie is on the list for breaking barriers why isn’t Willy T. Ribbs? Should Juan Montoya be included? He only raced once and spent more time denigrating the accomplishment than celebrating it. His results were as good as it gets, so, again, why wouldn’t multiple participants Buddy Rice or Kenny Brack, who also won and actually respected the accomplishment, be included? I also understand the inclusion of Jacques Villeneuve, but when it comes to respect he would have to be left off.

Drivers like Jim Hurtubise may be legit because before he became a charming novelty he actually gave it hell for many years. Dan Gurney also deserves consideration.

This is a fun evaluation, and hopefully the diverse responses certain to be gathered will yield an interesting final 33. The only thing better than a list would be bending time to see them race together.



  1. Your list is very similar to mine, Disciple, and I found some more worthy candidates–Billy Arnold, who still holds the record for the most laps led in a race (winner 1930), and Jimmy Murphy, who won the 1922 ‘500 and the French GP in the same car. I also think Lloyd Ruby ranks up there (the best driver who never won the ‘500)and DEFINITElY Michael Andretti, Ted Horn, and Rex Mays. Great minds think alike!

    Comment by DOUG — March 18, 2011 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  2. I would remove # 30 and # 32 selections, I would move # 20 up to # 7, Now below is list of my picks that you left out of you selections.

    Ted Horn
    Pat Flaherty
    Jack McGrath
    Pay O’Connor
    Gary Bettenhausen
    Bob Sweikert
    Lee Wallard
    Troy Ruttman
    Barney Oldfield
    Rex Mays
    Fred Agabashian
    Fred Frame
    Johnnie Parsons

    Comment by rosco — March 18, 2011 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

  3. As much as I like Willy T, he never finished in the top 10 at Indy, Janet did and Danica’s first 3 Indy 500 starts crushed Janet’s, so she HAD to make the top 100 list once Janet made it.

    Overall, all the matters is the top 33. Once that list comes out, then the true discussions begin.

    Comment by Damon — March 19, 2011 @ 1:00 am | Reply

    • Believe me they will.

      Comment by rosco — March 19, 2011 @ 3:55 am | Reply

  4. Any list with Eddie Cheever and Buddy Lazier is laughable. One-time winners like Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan had more impressive careers at Indy than those 2 hacks. I have a feeling with the long process of filling out the top 33, only hard core bootlickers like yourself will fill it out. So, it wouldn’t surprise me to see those hacks included in the 33 fastest. That list of 100 is a joke, btw. It should include very few non-winners, and most winners. Having Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, and Tony Stewart on the list instead of Buddy Rice and Kenny Brack is just wrong.

    Comment by TroyM — March 19, 2011 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  5. I have a new nickname for TroyM. Cancer.

    Comment by The Truth — March 20, 2011 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  6. Nobody should be on the list for “breaking barriers” unless they are for speed, number of wins, etc.

    Comment by Bob F. — March 21, 2011 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  7. You honestly believe Dario is better than Mario, Ralph and Tom. What planet are you from ?

    Comment by raynodz — April 2, 2011 @ 5:43 pm | Reply

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