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Top 5 Greatest American Drivers of All Time


Auto racing has been a major part of American history for nearly a century, and over the years, it has spawned world famous household names and brands that are synonymous with legends. Every sport has iconic names that are recognized all over the world. Ice hockey has Wayne Gretzky, basketball has Michael Jordan, and baseball has Babe Ruth. American motorsport is no different.

This list was created through researching each driver’s successes through every major series such as F1, IndyCar (and it’s predecessors), NASCAR, and the major sports car series. Just picking 5 drivers is very difficult as in worldwide autosports, as American drivers have had massive success in each major series.

5.  Al Unser Sr.

Al Unser Sr. is an absolute legend in American open wheel racing. Throughout his career, Unser would rack up a staggering 39 Indycar wins along with 3 championships. However, his most prestigious accolade is being one of four men to win the Indianapolis 500 four times (1970, 1971, 1978 1987). In addition, he is also one of five men to win the event to win it in consecutive years.

His fourth and final win came in 1987 when he replaced an injured Danny Ongais as a late entry for Penske Racing. Driving a year-old car with no sponsorship, he started from last place but worked his way up to take the lead with just over two laps remaining. He became the oldest winner of the race at age 47.

In 1978, he became a three-time winner of the Indy 500 after beating Tom Sneva by eight seconds. He also won the Triple Crown of Ovals that year by winning at Pocono and Ontario as well. He currently sits 6th of all time in Indycar wins.


4. Phil Hill

Phill Hill is the first American to win the Formula 1 World Championship in 1961. The 1960s were an exceptionally dangerous time for Formula 1 as the series lost 7 drivers in world championship events in the span of a decade. Simply surviving in that era is an achievement in itself which makes his World Championship victory even more impressive.

In addition to his successful F1 career, Hill would also be the first American-born driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1956. In addition to his win in 1956, he would also rack up two more Le Mans wins in 1961 and 1962.

His sports car success didn’t just end there, he would also win the 12 hours of Sebring 4 times in 1955, 1958, 1961 and 1962. Furthermore, he would win the 1964 24 hours of Daytona.

3. Dan Gurney

Dan Gurney was one of the most influential along with one of one of the greatest drivers of all time. His versatility, ingenuity and overall success have allowed him to achieve in Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, Can-Am, Trans-Am and sports car series.

Gurney’s successful F1 career began in 1959 with Ferrari at the French Grand Prix. He would go on to win 4 Grand Prix, and racked up 19 podiums. His final, and most arguably F1 win was the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix where he would win driving his Eagle Weslake car that he designed himself. He became the first American to win a world championship grand prix with an American car.

Additionally, Gurney would win five NASCAR races throughout his career between 1962 and 1972.


2. AJ Foyt

AJ Foyt. A name that is just as iconic as Andretti in American motorsport. A single article is not enough to even touch the tip of the iceberg that is Foyt’s accolades and accomplishments.

The most famous accolades is that Foyt is the only man who has won 4 Indianapolis 500s ( 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977) and that he has USAC wins record of 169. He is also the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring.  Additionally, he has 7 USAC/CART (predecessor to IndyCar) championships, and he is first in the all-time win list with 67 career wins.

1. Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti is a legend. Not of just American motorsport, but a legend worldwide. If it had four wheels and an engine, he would win. It is that simple. He was the master of versatility.

He has won almost every major race/championship held. One of his most world famous, accolades is that he is the most recent American Formula 1 World Champion and the most recent American to win the American Grand Prix. Andretti also dominated the American open-wheel racing scene, winning four IndyCar titles and three USAC National Championships. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969. Additionally, he would win the 1967 Daytona 500 in a Ford Fairlane.

He is the only driver to win the Formula One World Championship, the Indianapolis 500 (1969), the Daytona 500 (1967), and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1995, won in his class, finishing 2nd overall). Mario Andretti is not just a name, it’s a synonym for speed. He is truly one of the greatest drivers of all time.

Honorable Mentions:

Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Peter Revson, Michael Andretti, Mark Donohue, Danny Sullivan, Ritchie Ginther, Rick Mears, Eddie Cheever, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Newman

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