Whenever anyone attempts to compile a “Greatest of All-Time” list (I refuse to use the GOAT acronym), it is begging to be scrutinized and questioned. I learned that early on in my blogging career. I’ve received nasty e-mails from family members of drivers I left off of some good lists, and an even nastier e-mail from the son of a driver who I included in my Top-Twenty worst Indianapolis 500 drivers of all time. To avoid Google alerts, I’ll not mention the driver’s name – but his car once landed on top of the defending CART champion during a yellow, if that tells you anything.
Anyway, the other day I came across an article from a website I’ve never heard of. It was actually written back in February, but it seems to be just now making the rounds. Either that or I live under a rock and am just now seeing it.
For not being a well-known racing site, they tackled a pretty big topic. Perhaps they knew it would draw scrutiny and therefore lots of hits. It worked for me, because I took the bait and clicked on it.
Their topic and title was “The 10 Greatest Race Car Drivers of All Time”. Their list consisted of drivers from NASCAR, Formula One and American Open-Wheel. Most lists such as this one usually place AJ Foyt and/or Mario Andretti at the top, since both drivers won so much in so many different types of cars. Personally, I think AJ Foyt belongs at the top and Mario second; but if they swap the two it really doesn’t bother me. I consider it more a matter of taste than anything else.
Mario topped this list, so I would have assumed that Foyt would be second. Wrong! Foyt was ranked eighth. So that is my first problem. My second problem was who was ranked just above Foyt on the list – Jimmie Johnson. Please. I’m not sure Johnson would’ve even made my Top-Twenty-Five list; much less ranked seventh, ahead of Foyt. Any credibility this list might have had was lost when I saw that.
Johnson was ranked as the third greatest NASCAR driver of all-time on this list, behind Dale Earnhardt (third) and Richard Petty (sixth) and ahead of Jeff Gordon (tenth). If they want to stay with drivers from the last couple of decades, where was Tony Stewart on the list?
And that is another problem with this list, they didn’t include anyone that retired before the nineties – from any discipline. I would think that David Pearson or Cale Yarborough might warrant a spot in the Top-Ten.
There were many of the same issues with Formula One. Michael Schumacher was ranked second on the list and the highest ranked Formula One driver of all-time. While there is no denying Schumacher’s greatness, I’ve always considered the late Ayrton Senna as the greatest Formula One driver ever. I would even be tempted to rate him as high as Foyt and Andretti, had he ever raced and succeeded on ovals. In my opinion, Senna could race circles around Schumacher. Yet they ranked Senna fourth on the all-time list behind Andretti, Schumacher and Earnhardt.
Their fifth-ranked driver also raised eyebrows for me – Nigel Mansell. Granted, Mansell holds the distinction of winning the 1992 F1 title and the 1993 CART title as a (sort of) rookie. The article also reminds us that Mansell is the only driver to simultaneously hold both titles – but that is only because the 1993 F1 season ended after he already had won the CART title. That’s more a bit of trivia than a major accomplishment.
Mansell only won one Formula One title in fifteen seasons in Formula One. Yet, he was ranked above ninth-ranked Alain Prost who won four F1 championships and a host of other Formula One champions that went completely unmentioned. Drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda to name just a few; were completely ignored by this list. It seems they committed the crime of racing before the nineties, which apparently eliminates anyone from being considered the greatest of all-time.
If you don’t count Mansell (which I don’t), then Indy car racing really has only two representatives on this list – Andretti and Foyt. Indy car racing has been around much longer than NASCAR or Formula One, yet they could only come up with those two great champions that both retired in the nineties. I would think Al Unser, Bill Vukovich or Wilbur Shaw is much more deserving of a spot on this greatest ever list than Jimmie Johnson.
My point is, if you are going to tackle the topic of greatest ever – you’d better do your homework. Yes, these lists are all for fun and are simply someone’s opinion – no matter how flawed. They are also meant to encourage debate – preferably on their site in order to get the hits to show potential advertisers. I get that. I also know that I shouldn’t waste the energy it takes to get riled up over something like this, but I also hate for anyone to read this and consider it to be true.
If you are going to put this stuff out there, you’d better be prepared to take the criticism and defend your stance. Some of the e-mails I got from family members were justified in their criticism for omitting their father or grandfather from some of my greatest ever list. Those that were justified received an e-mail back from me acknowledging my mistake and an apology. The son of the bad driver had no defense for his father’s poor driving and he resorted to nothing but name-calling in his e-mail. He got nothing from me but facts to back up my argument.
But something tells me that the nameless person or persons associated with this article aren’t interested in facts. Had that been the case, their list would look a lot different. If you have nothing better to do with your day, you can read their atrocity here.