Racermetrics race-database.com

Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Drivers 80 to 71)

by Sean Wrona

80. (NR) Will Brown

We begin the list today by continuing a trend I started on the previous list. When I was completing my ranking, I grouped a series of drivers together who all had very good seasons that I thought were in some way overrated, starting with Chris Buescher and Tom Blomqvist and continuing with the first two drivers in this group of ten. Although he won a lot of races last year, I think Brown was still the most overrated driver in touring car racing last year. Early in the 2023 season as I was collecting data for my touring car model, I went on a podcast and announced that Brodie Kostecki, who came out of nowhere to dominate the 2023 Supercars season, was the most overrated driver in the world. When the new Gen3 Supercars chassis was introduced last year, Erebus Motorsports were the big benefactors as Kostecki and Brown, who had won a total of one race in the previous two seasons, suddenly erupted with a combined ten-win season for a team that had only won eight races in its first decade from 2013-2022. Although Brown had won one race before and I have ranked him on a prior top 200 list, there was still nothing in either driver's previous record to indicate they would ever be championship contenders. Both drivers' Supercars rookie seasons were in 2021 and both have been with Erebus for the entire time so it's difficult to evaluate either of them since they have no other Supercars comparisons to date. However, their minor league records were very uninspiring considering their current reputations. In Brown's first two seasons in Super2 in 2017 and 2018, Brown was demolished by mediocre Supercars veteran by a margin of 31-2. In 2017, Kostecki got swept in Super2 18-0 by Todd Hazelwood, who is rated as a below average driver overall in my touring car model (albeit barely.) Neither of them have a lot of teammate comparisons other than their comparison against each other and the earlier blowouts they faced in Super2. To be fair to Brown, he did win the TCR Australia champion in 2019 by a fairly large margin and beat a field that included two other drivers I have on last year's top 200: Aaron Cameron and Andre Heimgartner. However, upon noticing that their weak minor league records resulted in Kostecki and Brown debuting with ratings of -.113 and -.193 in my teammate model, I found it really hard to take their success last year seriously and ascribed it entirely to the strength of their absurdly dominant cars. It reminds me a lot of when the previously-unheralded Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi started dominating in 1996 when Chip Ganassi hit upon the dominant chassis-engine-tire package after both drivers showed little potential prior to that, and outside of the years 1996-98 when they had absurdly dominant cars, neither of them really did much of anything. That's what this feels like. I realize Kostecki is only 26 and Brown is only 25, and those are both certainly ages where drivers can and frequently do make significant improvements, much like how both William Byron and Alex Bowman broke out in NASCAR in 2019. I'm not saying they didn't both have career-best seasons (duh), but I do think it was almost entirely car and I think if you put Shane van Gisbergen, Broc Feeney, Cameron Waters, and Chaz Mostert in either of those cars, I suspect any of them would have done better than Kostecki. Admittedly, Kostecki did eventually win me over this season as he sustained his breakout last year to a greater degree than I expected, and he ultimately pummeled Brown by a margin of 20-6, a significant change from 2021 when Brown beat Kostecki 17-11 when they were both rookies, and 2022 when Kostecki beat Brown 17-13. Even as low-rated as Brown is in my model, Kostecki's steamrolling of him was still enough for him to rank seventh among Supercars drivers in my model last year. But because Kostecki is still rated below average in my model, Brown ended up with a putrid rating of -.223 for 2023, ranking 172nd among touring car drivers and 21st among Supercars drivers, by far lower than all other drivers who made my top 200 list across all series and all models. The question is how seriously I take this. Brown was after all a standout in numerous statistical categories last year: he ranked 2nd in natural races led (6), 4th in wins (4), 3rd in TNL (4), 2nd in lead shares (4.33), 3rd in CRL (3.87), and 2nd in poles (4). In every single category, he trailed Kostecki (who led almost all categories), so he obviously shouldn't be even close to him. And even though Brown led the points standings for a while earlier in the season, he ended up tumbling down all the way to 5th with the fastest car after it was announced that he would be replacing van Gisbergen at Triple Eight Engineering for 2024. For a long time, I was utterly convinced I was going to leave him out of the top 100 or maybe even place him in the bottom tier like I did for Sergio Pérez (who had a much better teammate rating last year.) Ultimately, I decided that was a little too contrarian, especially because Brown also had strong performances on the TCR Australia Tour as well. In addition to his Supercars starts, Brown started 14 TCR Australia races and won four of them overall and one more in class, two of which counted as overall wins in the TCR World Tour. If you extrapolate the 19 points per race he scored in the TCR World Tour across the entire season including all the races outside of Australia that he did not enter, he would have finished fourth in that championship behind only the top three points finishers Norbert Michelisz, Yann Ehrlacher, and Rob Huff. He also had the best winning percentage, the most lead shares and CRL per race, and the fourth-best speed percentile on the TCR World Tour and he was one of only three drivers along with Huff and Cameron to make multiple passes for the lead. I don't think Brown would have done as well over the entire TCR World Tour schedule as that implies since he had experience on those tracks in Australia while he didn't have experience on the rest of the tracks of the schedule, but those performances indicating he was more or less championship-caliber in that series as well were what finally sold me that yes, he should still be in the top 200. Until I did research on his TCR World Tour performances, I definitely wasn't feeling it though. He did sweep his teammate Lachlan Mineeff 10-0 in TCR results last year, which did help both Kostecki and Brown to rise considerably in my touring car model. In the months since I introduced it, Kostecki improved from -.113 to -.074 and Brown rose from -.193 to -.161. They are both clearly drivers on the rise even if my model is likely underrating them still. Now that they are no longer teammates for 2024, with Jack Le Brocq replacing Brown at Erebus and Brown replacing van Gisbergen at Triple Eight, that will hopefully provide some more clarity on their strengths. At the moment, I do think Kostecki will blow out Le Brocq, but right now I think Brown will get blown out by Feeney, who definitely impresses me a lot more. If Brown does match or surpass Feeney in 2024, that will definitely help me feel better about this particular Brown season. He still had a very good season, but it definitely wasn't great in my opinion.

79. (52) Colin Turkington

Turkington was the other significantly overrated touring car driver last year, but neither his season nor his career has much in common with Brown's. While Brown was mostly unproven until last year, Turkington is an all-time legend of the British Touring Car Championship where he is one of only three drivers to win four titles along with Andy Rouse and last year's champion Ashley Sutton. Brown is a driver on the rise who was overrated by the strength of his car while Turkington is a driver more like Scott Dixon whose best seasons are behind him who now largely has to rely on luck for most of his wins. Having said that, I did rate Dixon higher as I have more respect for his wins since I know his legendary fuel saving ability is a particular skill he developed on purpose while most of Turkington's wins last year came in races that had inverted starting grids, which is a lot cheesier. While everyone would agree that Turkington's teammate Jake Hill had a better season than him last year, in most of the statistical categories I track Turkington was pretty close to him on the surface. Hill had 5 natural races led to Turkington's 4, a lead change record of 3-1 to Turkington's 3-2, 6 wins to 4, 5 TNLs to 4, 4.67 lead shares to 3.67, 6.19 CRL to 3.44, 7 races with the most laps led to 4, 5 fastest laps to 2, and a speed percentile of 79.87 to 75.99. Hill did beat Turkington in every single category except for fastest races (where they tied with 5), which might indicate they should be close on the list. Additionally, Hill only beat Turkington by one position in the points standings with Hill finishing third and Turkington fourth, although they were separated by 61 points. Hill only barely won their teammate head-to-head 14-13, but all of that is extremely misleading. Hill consistently had more pace by a substantial margin, much like the difference between Brodie Kostecki and Will Brown. At every BTCC event, the first race of the weekend is decided by qualifying, the second race's starting grid is determined by the finishing order of the first race, and the third race's starting grid inverts the top ten finishers of the second race. Five of Hill's six wins were on speed as he only won one race with a field inversion, while only one of Turkington's four wins were on speed and the three others all were inverted-grid races. As a result, if you simply ignore the gimmicky inverted-grid races, the difference looks much more stark. In races without field inversions, Hill had 4 natural races led to Turkington's 1, a lead change record of 2-1 to 1-2, 5 wins to 1, 4 TNL to 1, 4 lead shares to 1, 5.52 CRL to 1.00, 6 races with the most laps led to 1, 2 fastest laps to 0, 3 fastest laps to 2, and a speed percentile of 82.77 to 79.98. In races without field inversions, Hill beat Turkington by a margin of 11-6. Looking at it this way, it was actually a blowout in Hill's favor as he beat Turkington by a larger margin in every single category (except for speed percentile where Turkington was a little closer but still slower than Hill.) It is clear that Turkington only came as close as he did to Hill because he lucked out on the field inversions and he should be docked accordingly because those races have more to do with luck than talent. However, I still think Turkington belonged in the top 100 because besides the fact that he passed Dan Cammish at the start of the first Brands Hatch race and led flag to flag (in a race where Cammish probably had the faster car), he was only gifted the pole once in his three inverted-grid wins and still had to make passes for the lead in the other two, which is certainly not guaranteed since the BTCC races only last about 20 minutes. Turkington is still a very good driver and had a very good season, but Hill still utterly destroyed him.

78. (42) Sébastien Buemi

Buemi is one of the highest-profile drivers of the last decade as he is still to this day tied with Lucas di Grassi for the most Formula E wins all time in addition to winning the premier World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times each, including winning Le Mans in four out of five years from 2018 to 2022. In WEC, he was still very good as he and teammates Brendon Hartley and Ryō Hirakawa won the Hypercar championship for the second straight year, although they only won two races while the other Toyota entry won four times. You could argue Buemi was the team leader as he was the only driver in the WEC Hypercar class to make four on-track passes for the lead while no other driver made more than two passes, and Hartley and Hirakawa only combined for one. Buemi's 1.14 lead shares also match Hartley and Hirakawa's total combined. However, he was also the slowest of the six Toyota drivers last year with a speed percentile of 72.21 while Hartley and Hirakawa were the two fastest drivers for the team at 87.82 and 84.54 respectively, which is a large difference. I did choose to tae Buemi over Hartley for the passing difference as Buemi had a 4-2 record to Hartley's 0-2, but Hirakawa had an undefeated 1-0 record, so my decision as to whether Hirakawa or Buemi should be higher is ambiguous if you look at WEC data alone, especially when you consider Buemi got passed by the driver I have rated just above him for the win at Le Mans in a slower car, which should definitely count against him since most people would say Le Mans probably matters more than the entire season. My decision for the relative placements of Hirakawa and Buemi largely came down to their open wheel performance. Both Hirakawa and Buemi had winless seasons in Super Formula and Formula E respectively with Hirakawa finishing 5th in points and Buemi 6th, but their open wheel performances were in no way similar. Hirakawa utterly dominated his teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi scoring 58 points to Sekiguchi's 0, swept him 6-0, and was ranked 21st overall among open wheel drivers with a rating of .243; Buemi by contrast went winless while his teammate Nick Cassidy finished second in the championship and won four races; their 8-6 teammate difference was actually much less than it probably should have been. Since Cassidy is still negative in my model mainly because of struggling in minor league racing many years ago (although I definitely believe he is a well above average open wheel driver as judged by the fact that he also won a Super Formula title and was the highest-rated driver in that series in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019, even including the year Álex Palou was there), this meant Buemi had a rather awful teammate rating of -.103, which only ranked 66th overall and 18th among Formula E drivers. And it's not like this is merely a recent trend. Despite still being tied for the most wins in series history, he has fallen off hard in recent years with only one win in the last six seasons and none in the last four seasons even when his teammate won four times this season. While he is still a great sports car driver, his open wheel greatness was very short-lived and now many years in the past. I rated Hirakawa as the best driver for that team because he was great in both series while Buemi was great in one and mediocre at best in the other. To be fair, Buemi wasn't terrible in Formula E last year as he did have 3 natural races led, 5 passes for the lead, 1.42 lead shares, and a TNL, but considering his history in the series and Cassidy's relative inexperience, I expected more from Buemi.

77. (89) Alessandro Pier Guidi

One of the world's best-known GT drivers made the transition to prototype racing for the first time in his career in the WEC Hypercar class and in his first attempt at the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall win for Ferrari, he delivered in style with his first overall win, which also marked his third class win in the last five years. Pier Guidi was clearly the linchpin of the team in that race as he passed Buemi shortly before the 19 hour mark to give his team control of the race for the rest of the race, which was really impressive since the Toyotas were generally faster than the Ferraris all season not to mention that Buemi had a 3-0 lead change record earlier in that race, making Pier Guidi the only driver to pass Buemi under full speed connections (Mike Conway did pass Buemi once at the start of the Portugal race.) However, the problem I had with his season is that he didn't really do much of anything else. Not only did his Ferrari finish behind the other Antonio Fuoco-led Ferrari in the championship, Pier Guidi was by far the slowest of the six Ferrari drivers, which makes him very similar to Buemi by that metric. Fuoco was actually the fastest of all Hypercar drivers with a speed percentile of 88.91, while James Calado's was 68.15, Nicklas Nielsen's was 66.41 (and I didn't even list him), Antonio Giovinazzi's was 66.23, and Miguel Molina's was 58.35. Pier Guidi's speed percentile last year? 54.77. I realize most sports car fans would argue Le Mans matters more than the rest of the WEC season combined and he was the reason they won there, which is why I did rate him the highest of the three drivers on the winning Le Mans entry. I couldn't not list Pier Guidi over Buemi since he passed him for the win in a slower car and he was the only reason Toyota didn't sweep the season in the WEC Hypercar class again. However, one great race is seldom enough to make the upper reaches of my elite tiers if the rest of the season is too mediocre. The rest of the season has to matter too. Several other Hypercar drivers impressed me more.

76. (NR) Matt Hagan

Hagan was the only drag racer I included in my top 100 list last year. Sometimes I include more than one, but there was too much parity in all three premier NHRA car classes last year as Hagan was the only driver to win one of the main championships (Funny Car) and win more than four races this season: he won six. While Justin Ashley won the same number of races in the Top Fuel championship, he did not win it and lost the NHRA Countdown to a 59-year-old Doug Kalitta. While Erica Enders did win the championship and also won four races, she's had better years. As a result, I thought Hagan was the only drag racer worthy of inclusion on the top 100. Additionally, Hagan also won three of the first four races of the season including the marquee Winternationals and also won two races in the Countdown playoffs indicating that he pretty much controlled the entire Funny Car season, unlike Ashley, who failed to win a race in the playoffs, or Kalitta, who failed to win a race in the regular season. While Tony Stewart's NASCAR team has steadily devolved into a dumpster fire especially with the retirement of Kevin Harvick, Hagan did deliver Stewart his first pro championship as a drag racing car owner. Considering Stewart now seems to exclusively hire mediocre drivers at random for his Cup team, I'm sort of surprised he hasn't encouraged Hagan to make a NASCAR move yet. Then again, the last NHRA to NASCAR transfer was Tanner Gray, and that now looks to have been a failure as he is certainly even worse at stock car racing than the likes of Josh Berry, Noah Gragson, and Ryan Preece, so it's probably a good thing that Hagan doesn't replicate this mistake. I will say this: Hagan is better at Funny Car drag racing than all four of next year's Stewart-Haas drivers are at stock car racing combined.

75. (NR) Jack Hawksworth

Although Hawksworth seemed to be a little over his head in IndyCar with the exception of the unexpected dominant run he had in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, he has resurfaced in recent years as one of the most consistent drivers in the IMSA GT classes with ten wins in the last five years culminating in his first championship in the GTD Pro class this season with teammate Ben Barnicoat. Although Hawksworth has been a reliable IMSA winner for a while, GTD is a hyper-competitive class and also a class that tends to have a shallower pool of drivers than the GTP and GTD Pro, so I never included him on any of my previous lists especially since he had never finished higher than 6th in the championship before and has still only earned a class victory at one of the marquee races - a single Petit Le Mans victory in 2022. Regardless, Hawksworth finally impressed me enough to make one of my lists last year as he was pretty easily the best driver in the GTD Pro class last year, which still has more prestige than the GTD class from whence he came prior to 2022. Even though the class only had full-time teams, all the drivers in the class are stout and none of them are hacks or ride-buyers so he certainly did have competition. Even though Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella's team won four races while Hawksworth and Barnicoat only won twice, Hawksworth led most statistical categories in the GTD Pro class last year.

74. (12) George Russell

Probably the biggest disappointment in Formula One in 2023, he went from genuinely outperforming Lewis Hamilton in 2022 to being utterly dominated by him last year. The gap between Hamilton finishing 3rd and Russell finishing 8th seems pretty massive until you realize they were only separated by 59 points, which isn't that huge, as there indeed seemed to be great parity between all the teams that weren't Red Bull with all the other drivers on the second to fifth best teams except rookie Oscar Piastri and inexplicably bad Lance Stroll quite close in points. Having said that, Hamilton is still one of the best drivers in the world and should still be expected to beat his teammate every year unless proven otherwise. He has only lost his teammate head-to-heads three time: his rookie season of 2007 when he was 6-9 against Fernando Alonso, 2013 when he lost 7-8 to Nico Rosberg (he actually beat him in Rosberg's title season), and 2022 when he was 9-10 vs. Russell. Hamilton's 2022 still seems more like an outlier season than what should be expected in the future, so I guess it's no surprise Hamilton bounced back and delivered what I think was clearly the 2nd best F1 season last year. Hamilton was 4th in speed last year with a speed percentile with 77.57 while Russell was massively behind in 7th with a speed percentile of 65.21. That is an unusually large gap between two teammates who seemed evenly matched the year before, but again Hamilton is still the most statistically successful driver of all time, so getting blown out by him does not necessarily mean you don't belong in the top 100. It makes sense that Hamilton would elevate his game after his first career winless season. Although the gap between Hamilton and Russell in speed wasn't that much smaller than the gap between Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez, I think the gap in performance was. Hamilton's performance was clearly better, but it certainly wasn't nearly that lopsided. Indeed, Russell was the only Mercedes driver to make a pass for the lead last year when he passed Verstappen for the lead in the ill-fated Australian GP. That marked his first pass for the lead since the 2020 Sakhir GP when he filled in for Hamilton after his positive COVID test in a year when the Mercedes was a lot faster. One pass certainly does not a season make, but in a year when all non-Red Bull drivers combined for six passes for the lead last year and Hamilton didn't have any, it's not meaningless either. Russell's 5-11 loss to Hamilton isn't the worst result in the grand scheme of things. Because Hamilton is still so much higher rated than most open wheel drivers in my model, Russell still ranks 27th among all open wheel drivers and 9th among F1 drivers with a rating of .168, just behind Scott McLaughlin and Lando Norris and just in front of Nick Cassidy, Carlos Sainz, Jr., Kyle Kirkwood, and Tomoki Nojiri. That is still some good company as all those drivers are in my top 100 too. So should Russell be. It was certainly a comedown for him and a big disappointment relative to expectations, but no teammate has ever beaten Hamilton two years in a row in either my teammate head-to-heads or in points, so that was probably too much to expect.

73. (NR) Madison Snow

Just like Hawksworth had a career year in winning the IMSA GTD Pro championship, Snow had a career year in winning an even more dominant championship in the admittedly less-prestigious GTD class, but he dominated the class by an even larger margin than Hawksworth did. Not only did he and teammate Sellers, won the championship, their five wins were the most for any Grand-Am GT/IMSA GTD team since Andy Lally and R.J. Valentine in 2007. In addition to winning the championship, he led almost all statistical categories with 4 natural races led, 3 TNL, 3.33 lead shares, 1.98 CRL, and 3 poles. Snow had more lead shares and CRL than any driver in any other IMSA class, although admittedly the GTD class contested all 11 races while the GTP class only ran 9 and the LMP2 and LMP3 classes only entered 7. Although he did not have as large an advantage over Sellers as Hawksworth had against Ben Barnicoat, he still had a pretty large advantage over Sellers, especially when considering his performance in terms of on track passes for the lead. Snow had 4 natural races led to Sellers's 1 and blew him out 3.33 to 0.67 in terms of lead shares (although Sellers led nearly as much as Snow did, as they were very close in CRL: 1.98-1.88.) The only main categories Snow did not lead in the class were lead change record (where Marco Sørensen led the way), fastest races (where Sørensen and Spinelli had two to Snow's one) and speed percentile (where Roman De Angelis had a slight advantage.) Regardless, in a class that's usually known for having parity, Snow and Sellers were unusually dominant.

72. (C) Alex Albon

I had started to doubt Albon when Liam Lawson beat him badly when they were in DTM together in 2021 and had doubts about whether he deserved another F1 ride again afterward, but at this point he has definitely proved me wrong. Albon was one of seven major league open wheel drivers to sweep all drivers for a full-time team car last year. Albon swept his rookie teammate Logan Sargeant by a margin of 13-0. (The others? Scott Dixon and Álex Palou both swept both Marcus Armstrong and Takuma Sato in the #11 Ganassi car this season along with Ritomo Miyata sweeping Giuliano Alesi and Ukyo Sasahara, Callum Ilott sweeping Agustín Canapino, Ryō Hirakawa sweeping Yuhi Sekiguchi and Nobuharu Matsushita sweeping Raoul Hyman.) As you can see, this typically happens when one driver is a veteran and the other is a rookie. Five of the seven instances were veterans sweeping rookies; Miyata and Hirakawa were the only drivers who swept veterans last year, and they did so across a Super Formula series that both has a shallower field and a shorter schedule than the other major leagues, which probably makes it substantially easier to complete such a sweep. It's clear that Albon had a very good season since he finished 13th in the championship for a Williams team that has not finished that well in the championship since Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll finished 11th in 12th in 2017 while Frank Williams was still alive. It's obvious Albon has done much to elevate the team, especially the year, but I think a few people are overselling the quality of his season because the question is whether it is more about Albon being good or Sargeant being bad. Sargeant actually started the year with a positive rating of .019, believe it or not as his past record (5-9 against Oscar Piastri in F3 in 2020 and 8-10 against Liam Lawson in F2 in 2022) was actually considered pretty solid, which meant Albon was expected to beat him only 57.4% of the time but he vastly outperformed that and Sargeant didn't ever even really outrun him anywhere either. It seems to go without saying that Albon should be rated over Lawson and Piastri, but rookies underachieving is also nothing new and it did seem like the Williams was a lot faster than it has been in years as well (I don't think Sargeant would have scored a point in most recent seasons.) Because Albon swept a teammate that was highly-rated entering the year, he did exceptionally well in my teammate model, ranking 10th among all open wheel drivers and 4th among F1 drivers with a rating of .348 last year. Additionally, he also crushed him in speed with a speed percentile of 37.21 to Sargeant's 18.05. But there has to be some adjustment I'll need to make when it comes to drivers who have rookie teammates and I don't have that down yet since all drivers with rookie teammates will almost always be overrated by this. Since Williams is still close to a backmarker team (although better than they were) I also don't have much other data to go with since most of the data I cover involves passing for lead and the number of times individual drivers lead statistics, which is just impossible for a team like Williams. I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants in how to evaluate this because I'm deeply unsure. You almost have to go with vibes to evaluate a driver like Albon: is it more because he was great or because Sargeant was bad? What makes it difficult is neither of them have many other teammate comparisons and one of Albon's is against Max Verstappen, which certainly does not help me clarify things here. At some point I have to throw my hands up in the air and rank him in a position that feels right, but this ranking feels much more appropriate to me than Autosport ranking him 10th, which I find pretty ridiculous. But for this one more than most others, I acknowledge I could be way off.

71. (C-) Christian Lundgaard

My expectations were initially low for Lundgaard after he got beaten badly by Théo Pourchaire 14-2 in Formula 2 when Pourchaire was an 18-year-old rookie in the series and Lundgaard was a 20-year-old sophomore (this is why seemingly I alone still think Pourchaire is quite good.) It seemed like he was going to be a particularly uninspiring F2 to IndyCar transfer like Marcus Armstrong has been, but I was wrong as he was a solid, consistent performer and he nearly matched teammate/son-of-boss Graham Rahal, who had been one of the most reliably consistent if not fastest drivers in IndyCar for years, suggesting that maybe Lundgaard would eventually overtake Rahal. That immediately came to pass in 2023. In the first half of the year, Rahal had a sudden, inexplicable collapse while Lundgaard continued to improve. Lundgaard has started to become a specialist on the Indy road course in much the same way that David Malukas is at Gateway. After qualifying fourth on his debut there in 2021, he finished second in 2022 and earned his first pole in the May race there. Although eventual champion Álex Palou passed him for the lead at the start, Lundgaard fought back and repassed him before Palou finally won their race-long duel at the end while Lundgaard faded to fourth. While Palou won that duel, Lundgaard got his comeuppance at Toronto where he won his second pole before Palou attempted to steal the race on strategy as he did more than once throughout the year. However, Lundgaard ran him down and didn't merely he win: he utterly dominated. Lundgaard's 11.789 second win was the third-largest margin of victory of the season, behind only Scott Dixon's strategy win at Gateway and Palou's win against him at the Indy road course. In a year Palou dominated, Lundgaard was the only driver to pass him twice last year for the lead on a road or street course, and he did so despite having much slower cars throughout the season than Palou did. In a year when Rahal had his worst points finish since 2014 and failed to qualify for the Indy 500 and Jack Harvey came very close to missing the race as well, it's clear the Rahal cars were really far off the pace especially on ovals, although they were admittedly pretty solid on road and street courses. Late in the season, Rahal eventually won two poles and had TNLs in both races at the second Indy GP and Portland late in the season to actually beat Lundgaard in lead shares, but at that point it seemed like Rahal was riding Lundgaard's momentum back to the top and was already clearly no longer team leader. Although after the second Indy GP and Portland races, most of Rahal's leading statistics were actually pretty similar to Lundgaard's, their big difference seemed to be raw speed last year: Lundgaard's speed percentile differential was massive as his 57.34 was in the same league as drivers like Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood, who likely had faster cars, while Rahal at 36.29 and Harvey at 27.56 weren't even close. You could even see that at the Indy 500. While all three cars were slow, Rahal and Harvey were constantly in danger of the race and Lundgaard quietly locked himself in fairly easily. Lundgaard also had a massive advantage in terms of teammate head-to-heads, beating Rahal 9-3 and Harvey 7-4, which was enough to rank 33rd among all open wheel drivers and 9th among IndyCar drivers with a rating of .145 while Rahal's rating of -.079 was miserable and he ranked a mere 22nd among IndyCar drivers in my teammate model last year. That's why I still didn't list him even though his second Indy GP and Portland races were excellent and almost matched Lundgaard in terms of dominant performances. Lundgaard won and was in fact the only driver to successfully out-duel Palou for a road or street course win last year; Rahal could not maintain the lead in either of the races where he won the pole. Not to mention that it's pretty unexpected for a second-year driver at such a young age to clearly outperform a driver who finished in the top ten in points seven years in a row not that long ago. I honestly wanted to rank Lundgaard 5th among IndyCar drivers last year ahead of Scott Dixon instead of 6th, but I changed my mind and ended up ranking Dixon higher. But I do think they were pretty close, and for a second-year driver to be basically as impressive as the best driver of the last generation is a pretty good place to be.

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.