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Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Drivers 70 to 61)

by Sean Wrona

70. (NR) Kevin Hansen

The younger brother and teammate of Timmy Hansen (who has made my lists before) and son of fourteen-time European Rallycross Champion Kenneth Hansen who owns both of their cars in the World Rallycross Championship, Kevin fully overtook Timmy for the first time in 2023 as he finished second in the World Rallycross Championship and won the first event in Hong Kong while Timmy finished sixth in the championship and went winless. It was the first time Kevin beat his brother both in wins and in the points standings. Most of the top rallycross drivers in the world simultaneously compete in the Extreme E electric off-road touring series where each driver competes on a two-driver team with a female driver and Johan Kristoffersson won both championship again just as he did in 2021. While Kevin didn't come close to challenging Kristoffersson in WRX, he and co-driver Molly Taylor finished third in the Extreme E champion and won three of the ten rounds, tying Kristoffersson and Mikaela Ã…hlin-Kottulinsky for the most wins in that series. The Hansens compete for different teams in that series as their father does not have a team with Kevin driving for Veloce Racing and Timmy driving for Andretti. Just as in WRX, Kevin beat Timmy for the first time both in the points standings and in wins as Timmy and his co-driver Catie Munnings finished 7th in the championship and scored only half as many points as Kevin's team. Although you could argue both of these series are extremely niche, Kevin Hansen was clearly one of the breakout drivers of the year and I think this is a season that should be recognized.

69. (NR) Maro Engel

The eclectic and versatile German sports car driver had what was probably the best season of his career in 2023. In his main role as a DTM driver, his 10th place points finish his best champion result in six DTM seasons and he also collected his second career win at the first Zandvoort race while his teammate Jusuf Owega finished 22nd in the championship and only scored 28 points to Engel's 107. Engel ran a little better as this implied as he ranked 5th in speed with a speed percentile of 66.97 while Owega only had a speed percentile of 36.40; this was the most lopsided gap between full-time teammates in speed differential in the series excluding Alessio Deledda. Engel also finished third in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup despite driving for two different Mercedes teams, competing for Team AlManar with Fabian Schiller and Luca Stolz in most races and driving for Team GruppeM Racing with Daniel Juncadella and Mikaël Grenier at the 24 Hours of Spa only. Despite the team switch, his team outscored the Stolz/Schiller team at Spa giving him the best points finish amongst all his teammates despite not winning any races there. Engel, Stolz, and Grenier also combined to win the Gulf 12 Hours at Abu Dhabi, the season finale for the Intercontinental GT Challenge and he finished fifth in the championship in that series. But it was his IMSA performances which impressed me most. As impressive as Jack Hawksworth was in the GTD Pro class in 2023, I think Engel was better than any of the full-timers. Despite starting only the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans, he won the Rolex and Petit with Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, where he passed Hawksworth for the win with one hour remaining. At Road Atlanta, they didn't win naturally as Jordan Pepper was the TNL, but Engel did pass Jordan Taylor for the lead at both Sebring and at Road Atlanta, meaning he made a pass for the lead in all three of his starts while Gounon and Juncadella despite winning four times only had one pass for the lead each. Engel's 5-3 lead change record was the best in the class, his 3 natural races led were tied for 2nd best despite only entering 3 races, his 0.83 lead shares were enough to rank 5th ahead of six of the ten full-time drivers including both of his teammates, and his speed percentile of 78.26 was better than any of the full-timers in the class. Engel was the fastest driver in his class at both Daytona and Sebring, and the fact that his speed percentile was so much higher than any of the full-timers is even more impressive when you consider he only entered the marquee races, which mean he is being compared against a larger and deeper field of drivers than the regulars who were for the most part only compared to nine other drivers. Granted, for most of Engel's sports car career he's been mostly a 1 win per year kind of driver and he is now almost 40, so this is likely the best year he will ever have. When considering that and his career touring car rating of -.040, he probably will not be making my 1,000 greatest drivers list if/when I finish that, but he absolutely had one of the top 100 seasons last year.

68. (30) Tyler Reddick

At the start of 2023, my expectations for Reddick were sky-high as I expected him to be one of the three main championship contenders of the season with Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson particularly because his biggest strength outside road courses seems to be flat intermediates, where the Toyotas have seemed to have the most speed. That was probably too much to expect as there are usually growing pains whenever a new driver joins a team. Furthermore, drivers who wildly succeed in their first season with a team (like Kevin Harvick in 2014, Martin Truex, Jr. in 2019 or Kyle Larson in 2021) generally have elite-tier crew chiefs as Rodney Childers, Cole Pearn, and Cliff Daniels all were, while Reddick has a crew chief in Billy Scott who really hadn't had many major accomplishments before, so this shouldn't have been as much of a surprise as it was for me. Regardless, Reddick was certainly still very impressive last year even though I was a lot more impressed in 2022. Reddick's first win at the Circuit of the Americas was the best drive for any Cup driver this season, as he became to the best of my knowledge the first driver to ever make five passes for the lead in a NASCAR Cup road course race (I can't confirm nobody did that in the races that were never televised flag-to-flag, but it seems very unlikely.) Even though Reddick was arguably the best NASCAR Cup road racer of 2022, Toyota's road course program had been terrible since the introduction of the NextGen car so it was unclear whether Reddick's talent and setup knowledge or Toyota's road course issues would carry more weight; apparently it was the former as not only did he dominate all weekend from the start of practice, he dragged his teammate Bubba Wallace, who had historically been very mediocre on road courses, to the top of the charts in practice as well with him even though he failed to finish that race. Not only that, but Scott placed Reddick on a clearly inferior pit strategy in that race as he had to pit one more time than William Byron did but he made up the time and overtook him on track before Byron had to make his second pit stop. It was an epic drive and it was Ryan McCafferty's highest individual single-race score of the year. His season had various other strengths, most notably a perfect 4-0 lead change record on the final lead change of the race, which was tied with Ryan Blaney for the best this season. In addition to his clutch win at Kansas that advanced him to the Round of 12 in the playoffs, he also was the TNL at the Bristol Dirt Race before he had to pit having lost out on Christopher Bell and Adam Stevens's superior pit strategy and at the Southern 500, where he passed his boss Denny Hamlin before Kyle Larson beat him out of the pits. For the second year in a row, Reddick led the series in most races with the most lead shares, although in 2022 he led this category outright with 5 while in 2023, he and four other drivers tied with 4. In his great races, he's definitely as good as anyone as in the last two seasons, he's been arguably the most clutch driver in the series with an 8-1 TNL lead change record, easily the best of that time span, and he's certainly been unlucky to only win five times. However, certain aspects of the rest of his season disappointed me. For one thing even though Reddick had his best season ever in terms of lead change record (14-11), TNL lead change record (4-0), and speed percentile (73.09), he did worse in almost all my other categories despite having cars that seemed to be unquestionably faster. His natural races led dropped from 13 to 9, wins from 3 to 2, lead shares from 3.67 (best in the series in 2022) to 2.38 (7th last year), 2.63 CRL to 2.20, 4 races having led the most laps to 1, 4 fastest races to 3, and so on. His overall performance seemed to decline to me despite faster cars. Wallace even tied him in natural races led last year with 9 and Reddick only beat him 16-15 in shared race finishes, which means once again Reddick posted a negative rating in my stock car model and remains probably its most underrated active driver. I realize he's been really unlucky both years (even in spite of the Kansas race where he hardly led and won). Chris Buescher's hot streak could have easily been his as he was in position to win at both Richmond and Michigan before back-to-back tire failures handed Buescher both wins, and with 8 TNL, 6.49 lead shares, 9 races with the most lead shares, and 8 fastest races, he really should have closer to 8 wins than the 5 he actually does have. However, it isn't all bad luck. Reddick also seemed a lot sloppier to me in 2023 than he was in 2022 (when his performance was better and more of his issues were bad luck with fewer of them self-inflicted.) Reddick had 19 incidents in 2022, which was towards the middle of the pack that year, but last year, he had 22, which was 4th worst; the fact that Wallace had only 16 has to be part of the reason Wallace was as close to him as he was (even though Reddick still beat him pretty handily in all speed and passing categories; it's really only natural races led and head-to-head results where they were close.) After his dominant COTA drive, I really expected him to be the dominant NASCAR road racer of the year, but his other performances seemed a lot sloppier than his more consistent 2022 drives. Maybe it's unfair to judge him for having a high incident rate, since I won't be doing the same for Blaney or Kyle Larson, but they did both seem to overcome their incidents last year in a way Reddick didn't quite. Still, the luck was probably the most significant factor as McCafferty's formula for calculating driver luck had Reddick as easily the unluckiest driver of the season with a score of -7.625, a huge margin over the second-unluckiest driver Noah Gragson, whose score was -4.978. If you combine his likely greater chemistry with 23XI Racing in later seasons with his clutch passing ability and even average luck, it's easily possible to envision him reeling off 6-8 wins in a season at some point, and I could still see that happening any year. He is going to have several other elite seasons beyond 2022 for sure. I just don't think this was one of them.

67. (29) Thierry Neuville

The leader of the World Rally Championship's Toyota operation, Neuville finished 3rd in the championship and won two rallies for the third consecutive year. Because I don't have much more to go by yet since I haven't really figured out how to analyze rally racing, I usually just use teammate head-to-heads for this. In 2022, Neuville really finished about the same as his teammate Ott Tanak, a recent WRC champion, ending up less than one rally's worth of points behind him in the championship for 2022, winning two rallies to his three, and losing the head-to-head 4-5. Last year, Neuville had a much weaker teammate Esapekka Lappi and only tied him 4-4 in shared rally finishes. If you discount all the rallies where either driver retired or was disqualified, Lappi would have actually beaten Neuville by three points since Neuville had a win and three second-place finishes in the four rallies Lappi didn't finish. I might readjust these rankings for rally drivers once I figure out what I should be looking at besides the finishing results, since I'm rarely pleased with my evaluations them. Like I said, I am planning on doing a model to rank rally drivers although I'm debating whether or not I should include rallycross drivers in that model or if those forms of motorsports are too dissimilar to each other and should be evaluated separately. I know they do have a lot of crossover.

66. (40) Josh Cook

Cook had his first winless season in the British Touring Car Championship since 2018, but it was very much a Chaz Mostert/Pato O'Ward kind of winless season that does not accurately reflect his skill. Josh was still cooking given the context of his team. Cook has spent most of his career driving for independent teams that do not have factory backing: the exceptions were 2016, 2018, and half of 2017. Since his second season in 2016, he has beaten every full-time BTCC teammate in both the championship and teammate head-to-heads, including future four-time (and current) champion Ashley Sutton, although admittedly Cook was a sophomore and Sutton was a rookie. In 2023, the constructor/factory-backed teams swept all 30 races, but Cook was by far the best of the independents. He finished 5th in the championship and thereby beat 11 of the full-time 15 factory-backed drivers, including a number of the drivers for constructor entries who won (Dan Cammish, Tom Chilton, Daniel Rowbottom, and Rory Butcher.) The next-highest points finisher among independents was Áron Taylor-Smith in 11th, and Cook beat him by massive margins (268-165 points in the overall championship and 485-370 in the Independents' Cup.) He beat his teammates Aiden Moffat 22-4, Will Powell 10-1, and Jade Edwards 11-0, giving him a rating of .226 (37th among all touring drivers and 5th among BTCC drivers) but I think that may understate his performance a little since I think all the BTCC drivers were underrated because that series has the inverted-grid races while many touring car series don't, and one of the drivers ahead of him was Colin Turkington who was obviously worse. Cook's performance against Moffat was pretty much comparable with Sutton's performance against Moffat when they were teammates, so I definitely think Cook is still one of the best drivers in the series. However, I still can't rate this as one of his better seasons since he's won 18 races before, all but two of those for independent teams. He clearly can win a lot despite an equipment disadvantage most years and he didn't last year. Despite not winning, Cook was still impressive in many metrics. His speed percentile of 72.31 ranked 6th, and the second-highest independent in speed Bobby Thompson was way behind at 55.28 (12th overall.) His lead change record of 2-1 was third best in the series behind Jake Hill and Tom Ingram's 3-1 and he did have a TNL and somehow managed three fastest laps despite his speed disadvantage. I was looking to see if anybody else had good rankings of BTCC drivers to help me clarify where to rate Cook, but I couldn't find anything. Almost all the rankings I saw rated both Turkington and Dan Cammish higher than Cook, which makes no sense to me, so I'm just going to rely on my own research for this one.

65. (70) Mattias Ekström

Ekström started the year off with a bang by winning the Race of Champions for the fourth time, tying Didier Auriol and Sébastien Loeb for the most wins in that event's history with four. It marked his first win since 2009 and his first ever in his Swedish homeland. The field for that event has admittedly significantly declined since its and Ekström's heyday in the 2000s as most of the drivers entered were either retired and/or washed-up, but while Ekström beating Travis Pastrana in the first round and Mick Schumacher in the finals may have been no sweat, he still had to beat last year's World Rallycross/Extreme E double champion Johan Kristoffersson and last year's Italian Rally winner Thierry Neuville en route to winning this event, which I suppose is why I ranked Ekström directly above Neuville. He also competed in Extreme E where he and co-driver Laia Sainz finished second with two wins; they were bookended in a very close championship battle by Kristoffersson's team and Kevin Hansen's, which each won three times. Unlike those two, Ekström did not compete in World Rallycross last year, instead competing in the World Rally-Raid Championship, where he didn't do much, finishing only seventh although he did win the Prologue at the Pseudo-Dakar Rally, but that technically fell on New Year's Eve in 2022, so that doesn't really count towards my evaluation of him here. Deciding whether to rank Ekström or Hansen higher was tough since they basically ran about the same in Extreme E while Hansen had one World Rallycross win elsewhere while Ekströ had his Race of Champions win, which basically cancel each other out. I think I chose Ekström because he at least beat Kristoffersson head-to-head in his Race of Champions victory while Hansen could not beat him in either series.

64. (68) Justin Grant

One of USAC racing's most consistent and dominant stars of the last decade, Grant might have had his most dominant season ever in 2023. In the USAC Sprint division, he won his second-consecutive championship including 11 wins in 36 starts, the most since Tyler Courtney in 2018. Although many of the top USAC drivers compete simultaneously in all three divisions, there's usually only one or two drivers who win in all three series. Grant achieved that for the fourth time in his career last year as he also finished 2nd in the USAC Midget championship with two wins and 3rd in the Silver Crown championship with one. Only one other driver besides Grant won in all three top USAC divisions last year, and well, he's coming up. Grant at this point in his career is now winning 10+ races across all three divisions pretty routinely now. His 14 in 2023 is his career best, but it's only barely better than his 12 in 2022, when he also won the Sprint championship but that year won more races in the Midget championship, so as a result I have only placed him barely higher, but few sprint car drivers nowadays are either more consistent or more dominant. The only thing Grant is now missing is a Midget title, but especially after Buddy Kofoid recently left, it seems likely that will happen. My guess is Grant will complete the trifecta before Logan Seavey does, since he's been a lot more competitive in the Midgets than Seavey has in the USAC Sprint series so far.

63. (C) Bastian Buus

The twenty-year-old Dane won the Porsche Supercup title in only his second season, becoming the youngest driver ever to win the championship in a series that is now 30 years old. For all I hyped Morris Schuring earlier, who became the youngest-ever winner and is a year and a half younger than Buus, I still felt I needed to rank him higher even though Schuring beat him in my model. Buus actually won more races as a rookie than he did in 2023, as his win count dropped from 2-1 and his points total barely improved from 120-122. However, he was generally more consistent with five podiums in 2023, two more than his 2022 total of three. Buus also improved from fourth to third in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany and increased his win total from one to three. I don't think he was the best driver in the series and in my teammate model, his rating of .148 only ranked 66th and 8th among Porsche Supercup drivers, which was still better than his teammate Harry King. I think both Buus and King were likely inflated by driving for the perennial powerhouse Lechner Racing, which has won eleven championships since the team's entry in 2003 and ten from 2010 to the present day. But still, he did beat King in both series and King is both 2.5 years older and higher-rated in my teammate model, which clearly indicates Buus is a driver making a rapidly-rising trajectory, but I also think we probably have not seen the best from him yet. He probably will be a truly elite sports car driver at some point, but I am not yet convinced that now is that point.

62. (C-) Colin Braun

What can Braun do for you? Well, for starters, he can outperform his much more highly-regarded IMSA GTP teammate Tom Blomqvist in his first year competing for overall wins since 2019. He and Blomqvist combined for three wins in 2023, the most overall wins for Braun in a series in his long two-decade career. These included his first overall 24 Hours of Daytona win, although that was tainted by the Meyer Shank Racing team's cheating. The season was book-ended by a win in the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, where Braun was the linchpin of the team, passing Renger van der Zande for the win with a half hour remaining in the ten-hour race. In mid-season, Blomqvist and Braun also controlled the entire race at Mosport. Although Blomqvist was slightly faster than Braun this season with a speed percentile of 63.59 to Braun's 61.59, I rated Braun higher in part because he did make two passes for the lead while Blomqvist had none even though Blomqvist had experience with the team and Braun was new to the team. Additionally, Braun won the GT World Challenge America Pro/Am champion alongside his teammate George Kurtz (who will be Braun's IMSA teammate next year after the Shank team shut down its IMSA operation). Braun and Kurtz won three overall races (more than any other drivers in the series, even the drivers in the Pro class) and three more races in class. That class was relatively shallow last year but there were certainly other drivers like Jan Heylen, Bryan Sellers, and Ryan Dalziel who could have won it yet none of them came close to Braun. Meanwhile, in Blomqvist's other races he failed to win in the WEC and was uncompetitive in his IndyCar starts. Although the reason for the Shank team shutting down remains unclear, most people assume they were unable to get manufacturer support for 2024 because of their cheating scandal and Braun ended up being the main victim of that while Blomqvist remains with Shank's IndyCar team. Because European drivers tend to focus on road racing more than Americans, a lot of times people assume European-trained road racers are always better and I think that's one reason Blomqvist is getting so much hype while Braun seems to consistently not get the attention he deserves. He now has three championships and 25 wins in IMSA, but it seems like most people didn't notice because most of his wins weren't in the top-tier prototype classes so he wasn't competing for overall wins. It seems like after Braun's NASCAR failure that few major league teams have wanted to give him opportunities even though he's been a very strong sports car driver for many years now. Considering NASCAR's sudden embrace of road courses and his past experience, somebody should bring him back as a NASCAR road course ringer at the very least.

61. (72) Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon may have finished second in the IndyCar points in 2023 but by no means did he have the second-best season. By a lot of metrics, he was extremely disappointing. He only had two passes for the lead all season in a year the Ganassi cars dominated the season, giving him 0.02 lead shares, ranking him 14th in that category even behind the likes of Santino Ferrucci and Rinus VeeKay (neither of whom I listed; even though VeeKay had the fastest average speed in the Indy 500 and Ferrucci gave A.J. Foyt his best Indy 500 finish as an owner since 2000, they both did literally nothing else and I decided one good race was not enough.) Still, Dixon is a driver who even won a title without making a pass for the lead in 2018, so I know I can't entirely judge his season by that. In addition to his weak passing, Dixon also did not seem to have killer speed last year either. Despite the general Ganassi dominance, Dixon's speed percentile of 71.99 was his worst since 2014 and he only ranked 6th in speed, even behind the likes of teammate Marcus Ericsson (74.33) and Will Power (72.75), both of whom I left out of the top 100. So if his speed and passing were this weak, why do I still have him this high? Because Dixon's racecraft clearly remains the best in IndyCar, that's why. Even though in general, I am most impressed by raw speed, dominance, and passing ability, Dixon's ability to manage a race remains so exceptional that he can still put together very good seasons without those things. It totally makes sense that he'd cater to his strengths towards fuel-saving and strategy in a year when he can no longer match Álex Palou's speed but the team's speed was still strong enough that it was able to mask his decline to a great degree. This is still to me definitely one of Dixon's weakest seasons since the start of his power run in 2006 but even Dixon's weak seasons are better than most drivers' best. Dixon's biggest disappointment last year was almost certainly failing to lead a lap in a race where Ericsson and Palou both fought for the win. At that point, I was even tempted to say Ericsson was having the better season. However, Ericsson suddenly collapsed after that as Dixon beat him 9-1 in their remaining shared finishes for the rest of the season. I ended up giving Dixon a higher ranking than I did in 2022 not because he improved from 3rd to 2nd in the championship or improved from 2 race wins to 3, but mainly because he had a much bigger advantage over Ericsson last year than he did in either 2021 and 2022, even though Palou blew him out substantially worse. After spinning out on the opening lap of the second race of the Indianapolis road course, he pitted shortly before the race restarted, which allowed him to stretch his fuel mileage by staying out longer than anybody else and beating drivers on outlaps, which few drivers in motorsports history have been better at doing. By the end of the second green-flag pit cycle, he had jumped Graham Rahal for a lead he would not relinquish. The following race at Gateway, he and his strategist Mike Hull planned to split the 260-lap race into three stints of 65 laps and perfectly executed while other drivers pitted four times. Several other drivers tried to save fuel in that race to keep up but they could not, which resulted in Dixon nearly lapping the field and posting the biggest margin of victory of the year. He then added a third win in the finale at Laguna Seca after being penalized for avoidable contact earlier in the race. The combination of Dixon's perennially-great strategy and the dominant Ganassi cars was enough to extend his run of consecutive winning seasons to 19 in a year that Will Power's 16-year streak ended, but if Dixon's speed continues to decline (he has had two poles in the last six seasons), at some point in the not too distant future, I think even the strategy wins may dry up, since I can't imagine Ganassi will be this much faster than all the other teams every year. Regardless, I still think this was a better year for him than his 2022. Aside from his mechanical DNF at Long Beach, he finished 7th or better in every race and his teammate rating of .255 ranked 19th overall and 5th in IndyCar, just barely worse than Josef Newgarden's. I really wanted to put Christian Lundgaard over him as the 5th-best rated IndyCar driver because I was knocked out by his ability to outduel Palou in inferior equipment, but Dixon had to pass him to win at Laguna Seca too, even though it wasn't technically for the lead and he clearly had the better season. Especially after Graham Rahal suddenly started winning poles and pretty much matched Lundgaard in most leading categories for 2023, I decided to rate Dixon higher but I had to think about it. With 55 wins and 6 titles, Dixon now ranks second alone in both categories and the question is whether he will catch A.J. Foyt's 67 wins or 7 titles. I believe the answer to both of those is no.

Sean Wrona is the Managing Editor of racermetrics.com, the Webmaster of race-database.com, the winner of the 2010 Ultimate Typing Championship at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, and the ratings compiler and statistician for the Mensa Scrabble-by-Mail SIG. He earned a master's in applied statistics from Cornell University in 2008 and previously digitized several seasons of NBA box scores on basketball-reference.com. He is the author of Nerds Per Minute: A History of Competitive Typing. You may contact him at sean@racermetrics.com.