Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Greatest 33 List...On Second Thought

Yesterday I shared my initial thoughts about the Greatest 33 website. I've spent some more time on the site and really like it for a lot of reasons, the biggest being that it brings back some great memories.

As I mentioned, I took a little exception to a few of the drivers on the list. Then as I did some more research to see who I would include on the list I came to a strange conclusion: it looks like they pretty much got it right.

I had originally assumed (which I corrected in my blog post) that every winner was included on the list. However, that is not the case as 10 winners were not included on the list probably didn't deserve to be, as they all had mediocre careers at the Speedway outside of they year that they won.

Some drivers, like long-time starters George Snider and Dick Simon, were popular and a great part of the Speedway while they were there, but their careers just didn't measure up.

And there were a few whose careers just weren't as good as I thought they had been. I tried really hard to find a way to get Scott Brayton on my list. He was always a favorite of mine and was an exciting qualifier, setting the track record on his way to earning the pole twice. But at the same time, he never had a top-5 finish.

Tomas Scheckter was another one I gave some thought to, and while his hard-charging style has been fun to watch, he's led just five laps in the last eight years and has finished in the top-10 only twice. I was really surprised as at first glance I thought Tomas' career at Indy had been better.

Pancho Carter driving his pole-winning car in 1985
About the only other person I could have seen going on the list -- let's call him the last man out -- is Pancho Carter, whose career numbers are almost identical to those of Roger McCluskey, who is on the list. The Rookie of the Year in 1974, Carter posted six finishes in the top-7 in his first 10 races, with a best finish of third in 1982. In 1985 he set the four-lap qalifying record (212.583) but saw his powerful Buick engine last just six laps and he placed 33rd. In his 17-race career he led seven laps.

That's about it. Giving more thought to it I'm not surprised, because fame at the Speedway is hard to come by. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, about one out of every three drivers to have start the race did so only once. Only 78 drivers have made 10 starts, which is a little hard to believe in an event that has been around for a century.

The list of drivers who have competed in the 500 and had a nice, workman-like career that made them a decent living is long. The list of who became great isn't.


  1. I think that's one of the tricks, not to confuse longevity with excellence. Then again, some of the fellows who did plug away so long without winning perhaps earned a spot due to their overall spirit and legacy. It depends what your criteria is.

  2. I agree. I guess for the sake of this argument I focused on numbers because for various reasons some drivers had very short careers at Indy but accomplished so much as opposed to some guys who kept grinding and made a good living at it but didn't have a lot of high finishes on race day. If I were to make a list from the heart it might look a lot different. A guy like Brayton would be on it for sure.

  3. Wonder what your thoughts were on a guy like Buddy Lazier making the top 33 ? I saw his stats and they were impressive. 17 starts, 1 win and a few top 5's along with being 5th or 6th all-time in laps completed. Someone argued that him racing mostly in the IRL during the split was enough to keep him off the list.

  4. Actually, Gregg, I have been thinking the exact same thing and am planning on covering that topic in a post when I have some free time -- which has been hard to come by lately! I saw Lazier race at Indy 2-3 times when he had great equipment and he held his own.