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Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Part I)

by Sean Wrona

If you want to go straight to the list and skip my self-indulgence, click here.

It was not a good year. After my job processing calls for the deaf and hard of hearing was automated in August 2022, I have mostly been unemployed for the past year and a half except for periodic gig jobs here and there. I have made less than $1,000 this year, withdrawn from the real world, and fallen into a deep depression even more than usual. In the months of October and November, my mom fell six times and had to go to the emergency room twice. I had my first excruciating tooth pain and had to have a tooth extracted. The Discord server where I spent far too much of my time spontaneously combusted before being reborn from the ashes. My YouTube channel was demonetized. Lots of things need repaired. And my mom and I have decided we want to leave Syracuse. The problem there is that my mom hoards a lot, we live in the suburbs, our car broke down, I don't even know how to drive (oh, the irony!) and I have almost no local friends, so I can't even imagine how to give anything away. And I'm going through I guess what would be considered an autistic burnout. Most others would not be so generous.

Because I had basically nothing else going on in life this year, I did push very hard to complete my touring car model because there is a major part of me that wants to finish this book and then go offline for the rest of my life. I really loved the online world of the '90s: AOL Instant Messenger and Geocities and LiveJournal and static message boards and webrings and guestbooks and counters, a place for kids with more passion than talent to express themselves. (Case in point, here is my NASCAR site from 20 years ago that used to be linked on Jayski; can you tell my visual aesthetic hasn't even improved one iota since?) That is now all dead. The edgier underground Internet that I was blissfully unaware of in those days sort of took over everything. "Under construction" was replaced by "die in a fire" and that has made me miserable. I'm tired of the Internet, so that's why I've been pushing really hard to try and finish this instead of a lot of the things I should be doing it so at that point, I can go off and begin to live what would have been considered a more normal life in the 20th century. I want to get away from tech. I want to move more rural.

Specifically, I have decided I want to move to Watkins Glen: not to go to races, but I would go to races. The draw for me there is that the International Motor Racing Research Center is located there, and so being there would not only help me do research for my eventual book ranking the top 1,000 drivers in motorsports history, but it would also allow me to potentially connect to insiders in the industry, which could potentially help me get a job. It seems like most of the jobs I have gotten have resulted from my various statistical projects, even though few of them including this glamorous one sufficed to pay the bills. Most recently, the fantasy sports site RotoBaller just hired me to write (much shorter) NASCAR columns for them and I have enjoyed it, but there certainly isn't much work. If I go all in on my "autistic special interest", maybe that is more likely to lead me to success than a conventional method at this point. I even applied to work at the IMRRC but I never heard back. But what I really want most of all is a network of local friends who've got my back like you'd see in a mediocre family sitcom. I think I am more likely to find that kind of camaraderie in a small town than in a city or especially a suburb at this point, but at the moment, it's more of a fantasy for me than anything real. I had kind of stopped looking for jobs in Syracuse for a while when I was working on the touring car model because I want to get out of here so, so badly. Our house is supposedly worth over $200,000, but I can't even envision the logistics of moving.

But I press on. I want to finish this list by the end of the year. I probably won't, but I think I'll get pretty close. Afterward, I am likely going to take a long break and I may not do the weekly updates I did in 2023. As usual, I rank drivers from every single discipline of car or truck racing but do not include motorcycle riders. Drivers are ranked just on performance in 2023 without taking into account performance in previous seasons as much as I can (although I will usually make exceptions particularly for minor-league drivers or drivers at the start of their career, because the trajectory of a driver's ascent often predicts greatness.) I do use context from previous seasons when necessary to analyze the current season performance.

As usual, I divide drivers into two broad tiers (E for Elite and C for Competitive) and then subdivide those drivers into five more finite tiers (E, E-, C+, C, and C-.) The top 25 drivers are placed in the E class, reflecting that in my opinion they were the best drivers in the world that year. E- drivers (26th to 50th) are drivers who had straight up great seasons but were somehow lacking in some facet (usually either they weren't dominant enough, weren't consistent enough, or faced too shallow a field of competitors.) C+ drivers (51st to 100th) would equate to the very good tier - drivers who fell just short of greatness in some regard. C drivers (101st to 150th) had run of the mill good seasons, usually with a mix of good and bad elements. Finally, C- drivers (151st to 200th) are drivers I consider to have had some kind of barely noteworthy distinction but still deserve some measure of praise. In short, this would translate as E: elite, E-: great, C+: very good, C: good, C-: barely good. Once you get outside the top one hundred, it becomes incredibly hard to make distinctions. There are over fifty drivers that were close misses for me, because honestly there are definitely more than 200 good drivers a year. But I do think 200 is the best cutoff for rewarding all the drivers who were good while avoiding mediocrity as much as possible.

The ultimate goal of this research is for me to rank the top 1,000 drivers in motorsports history. For each season, I award 100 points to the highest-rated driver, 70 to the 2nd-place driver, 50 for 3rd, 30 for 4th, 20 for 5th, 10 for the remaining E drivers, 5 for the E- drivers, 3 for the C+ drivers, 2 for the C drivers, and 1 for the C- drivers. The 1,000 drivers who have the most cumulative points over their entire careers will qualify for my overall list, and then I will re-rank them using a different series of criteria at that point.

I evaluate drivers based on the level of impact I believe they had while adjusting for the strength of equipment as much as I can, not simply based on the raw statlines. For that, I tend to use either my open wheel, stock car, or touring car models or speed percentiles and especially speed differentials between teammates. I have updated all my models through the end of the season but have not yet published the results.

When evaluating drivers I consider dominance, consistency, passing, clutch performance, speed, and versatility. Some of these attributes I rate more highly than others, but all are considered. However, as a general rule, when deciding between a driver who was consistent while lacking in dominance and a driver who was dominant while lacking in consistency, I prefer the latter. Dominance is something that is more repeatable and based on skill, while consistency is something that is often reliant on luck. F1metrics already proved that drivers do not really have an effect on the reliability of their cars (with the possible exception of Alain Prost), so I also follow that philosophy. I will dock drivers to some degree if they wreck frequently when it is their fault, but I generally don't dock drivers when they crash after having an equipment failure.

126 drivers from last year's top 200 list returned while the other 74 were dropped. Throughout my capsules for each driver, I will frequently refer to analyses from a variety of statistical tables. For the vast majority of the major league racing series (Formula 1, IndyCar, Formula E, NASCAR Cup, Supercars, TCR World Tour, BTCC, DTM, WEC, IMSA, and the European Le Mans Series), I have built statistical tables featuring identical statlines that I used to evaluate drivers. These include natural races led (the number of races each driver made an on-track pass for the lead, or simply the polesitter in races when there are no passes for the lead), lead change record, wins, TNL (the number of times each driver made the final pass for the lead), lead shares (my measure for the cumulative percentage of the value in passing for the lead), races with the most lead shares, CRL (the sum of percent led across all races), races each driver led the most laps, poles, fastest laps, fastest races, and speed percentile. I calculate speed by taking an average of all laps within 110% of each driver's fastest lap time. For single-driver series, I only include races where each driver completed 75% of the laps; for sports car series, I usually include any drivers who had ten or more laps within 110% of their fastest lap time. For some but not all the tables, I also include championship rank. You can consult these tables to see where most of my numbers are coming from.

I realize a more professional analysis would have relatively equal lengths between capsules. While I think I did a good job at weighing the value of each series here, there are some series I am vastly more informed about than others (namely NASCAR and IndyCar because I hail from Burgerland) so I tend to talk about their drivers more. Meanwhile, I'm completely incompetent at talking about rally racing and I know it but I also know it definitely needs to be recognized. This does not mean I overrate drivers because of my familiarity with the series or underrate drivers from series I am less familiar with. I am trying to be as objective as possible in capturing the global motorsports landscape, so don't think I'm giving short shrift to any of your favorites because I didn't talk about them enough.

I did most of this entirely by myself, but I did have help from a few people. Ignacio Rodríguez has taught me a lot about South American touring car racing, which was definitely one of my historical blindspots, and one I have acknowledged accordingly on this list. Al Murb advised me on the evaluation of sprint car drivers, which is another blind spot for me. I frequently use Ryan McCafferty's statistical tables to assist me in NASCAR evaluations since he goes into far more detail than I do there (he's almost certainly a better NASCAR analyst because what I do has a much broader scope.) Finally, I did take a look at Autosport's Top 50 list as well as RaceFans and F1 Analysis's driver ratings, primarily for F1 driver placements, but for the most part, I ignored those rankings when making mine. I will say that I do have every driver in Autosport's Top 50 on my list except for one (someone really needs to explain Laurens Vanthoor to me because I really don't get it), but the idea that all those drivers belong in the top 50 is laughable to me. My biggest problem with them is how much they underrate touring car drivers. I think touring car drivers are great, and I give them a lot of love.

I will not have any introductions this long for the remaining three-quarters of the list. In fact, I don't think I'll have any introductions at all. I'll just get right to it. As I said, once I finish this I'll likely take a long break, although I may post updates to my open wheel, stock car, and touring car models shortly thereafter since they are done. (I just noticed one really galling error on my stock car model in that I apparently entered Michael McDowell's teammate this year as David Gilliland instead of Todd Gilliland. D'oh. I will not be correcting that before I finish this, but it probably did mess up McDowell's rating for this year.) Anyway, on with the list!

C- drivers (200th-151st)

Kai Allen

The eighteen-year-old Australian touring car driver has made a meteoric ascent, becoming the youngest driver ever to win the Super2 championship, the primary feeder series for Supercars, beating the heavily-favored Zak Best by six points. He wasn't the most dominant driver in the series as he won only twice while Ryan Wood won five times, but Wood is a year and a half older so I'm pretty sure Allen will go on to more success eventually. However, despite his championship, he isn't advancing to Supercars immediately and will spend another year in Super2 instead. It remains to see whether that will be a good move for him.

A.J. Allmendinger (C)

It was no secret that I had very low expectations for Allmendinger's return to full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition. It didn't really seem like he wanted to be racing Cup in 2023 and only did it as a favor to Kaulig and additionally, while he did have an exceptional finishing record for the car he had in 2022, it seemed like that was unsustainable because he was unusually lucky. I remember before RFK Racing hired him that David Smith was pushing hard for Allmendinger's Cup return on his podcast because he was convinced that Allmendinger could win his way into the playoffs on a road course and bring a lot of money into the Kaulig organization, and he was especially pushing this because at that time Allmendinger was around 39 years old and Smith was erroneously convinced that NASCAR drivers peak at 39 (in my opinion, the median peak driver age in NASCAR is closer to 34.) I think Allmendinger may have made his Cup return a little too late now that he is in his 40s and slightly above average NASCAR drivers in their 40s usually don't do much. But to some extent I was wrong. He performed only a little worse in the Cup Series in 2023 than he did in 2022 and continued to easily best his teammate Justin Haley. Despite seeming mediocre for a lot of the season, he remained in playoff contention on points for quite some time in what was a very odd season with all the injuries and penalties, and he did have the most impressive win of his Cup Series career at the Charlotte roval event. Unfortunately, since that race was in the playoffs, he wasn't able to lock himself in based on that race. He's a very marginal pick for this list to be sure but I decided to include him because he had the highest rating in my teammate model in his Xfinity starts even though he only ranked 21st with a slightly below average rating of -.003 in his Cup starts. Ryan McCafferty also ranked him 18th based on his Cup starts, where he was pretty much tied with two of the other drivers I placed in this tier. I hope he wanted to go back to the Xfinity Series in 2024 because if he didn't, he really shouldn't have been replaced.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Antonelli was a prolific winner in minor-league open wheel competition this year as he won the Formula Regional European Championship and Formula Regional Middle East Championship simultaneously with five wins in the former series and three wins in the latter. This is the second consecutive season that the 17-year-old wunderkind has won multiple minor league open wheel championships in the same season, and he is immediately advancing to Formula 2 next year, where he will be replacing Frederik Vesti at the perennial powerhouse Prema Racing. Vesti finished second in 2023 with six wins while their mutual teammate Oliver Bearman won four times as a rookie. I don't think Antonelli will win the F2 championship as a rookie, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he does.

Brady Bacon

Although the sprint car veteran and four-time USAC Sprint champion failed to win his fifth title in 2023 after finishing second to Justin Grant, he still had arguably his most impressive season in general as his seven wins matched his previous career best in 2015 (another season when he failed to win the title) and there's nothing wrong with losing a title to Grant, who is clearly one of the best drivers in the sprint car business. In addition to his sprint car triumphs, he also delivered a USAC Silver Crown win and his first-ever World of Outlaws win. I think that's what pushed him over the line for me with regards to making this list because winged and non-winged sprint cars are two entirely different disciplines, and the number of drivers who have won in both types of cars (particularly in the same season) is actually fewer than you'd think.

Thed Björk

The 2017 World Touring Car Champion and four-time Scandinavian Touring Car Champion did not have a particularly good season in the TCR World Tour, the perennially-renamed top tier of international touring car racing. He only finished 7th in the championship in a season that only had nine full-timers. But wait! Eight of those nine are established touring car stars (all of them except for Ma Qing Hua) and he did beat two of his three teammates in the standings (Santiago Urrutia and Qing Hua) and his teammate rating of .160 was fairly solid (although it only ranked 58th across all touring series, he did rank 5th among TCR regulars in the same relative range as Sandown 500 winner Broc Feeney and Porsche Supercup champion Bastian Buus, although obviously both of them had much better seasons.) All three of the other Cyan Racing drivers were substantially worse than Yann Ehrlacher but Björk did still acquit himself fairly nicely as he was also the second-fastest driver on his team with a greater speed percentile than Urrutia as well (66.98 to 61.95) even though Urrutia won three races to his one and he was one of the three drivers who posted a perfect 1-0 lead change record as well, although admittedly he passed the below-average Dušan Borković at the start of an inverted-field race at the Hungaroring. All in all, it was a mediocre season by his standards but not quite mediocre enough to justify leaving him off the list. Ultimately the fact that he was faster than a teammate who won thrice was just barely enough for me.

Gabriel Bortoleto

Bortoleto came sort of out of nowhere to unexpectedly win the Formula 3 championship as a rookie. Unlike Antonelli, he has not rattled off an endless string of championships and had only won five races in his first three seasons in the open wheel minor leagues with a best points finish of 6th prior to this season. However, this list is just about 2023 performance, so in most cases (especially regarding developing drivers) I try to ignore the performance in previous seasons as much as I can in my rankings and clearly a rookie Formula 3 title is worthy of placement on this list. However, it's nowhere near worthy of a top 50 placement on a list that does not include Ricardo Feller, Jake Hill, Norbert Michelisz, or Pato O'Ward (are you listening, Autosport?)

Dan Cammish

I had once thought Cammish had the potential to become one of the best drivers in the world based on his mind-boggling minor league record and in earlier British Touring Car Championship seasons, he seemed likely to eventually win a championship. I no longer think either of these things as his BTCC NAPA Racing UK teammate Ashley Sutton has utterly demolished him in back-to-back years. But Cammish is definitely still a good driver without question even if I guess it was impossible to live up to his minor league hype. Although finishing sixth in the championship and winning three races sounds kind of bad in a year when Sutton had a 12-win championship season, it's worth noting that Cammish looked better than that by a variety of metrics of performance. Not so much my teammate model, where he only ranked 79th among touring car drivers and 8th among BTCC drivers, but he was fourth in most statistical categories, including wins, TNL, lead shares, and cumulative races led, fifth in speed, and he was the only driver other than Sutton this year to win multiple poles. He likely would have beaten Josh Cook for 5th in points had he not had a practice crash due to a mechanical failure at Donington Park that took him out for the weekend (he outscored Cook in points in the other nine events, although obviously Cook was better because he had a much slower car.) Finally, Cammish did start off the season pretty hot with two wins and a third place finish in his first four races, which implies to me that once Sutton went on his hot streak shortly thereafter, Cammish was forced to play a #2 support role rather than really going for wins for most of the rest of the season. I suspect he might have had better performance if his teammate wasn't Sutton. Although he only barely nosed out his other teammate Daniel Rowbottom in the championship, they weren't even close in speed with Cammish's speed percentile of 75.80 sitting pretty much halfway between Sutton at 90.81 and Rowbottom at 62.42. Cammish's main blemish this year was a pretty bad 1-3 lead change record, but the speed was clearly there. Just nowhere near Sutton's speed.

Ricky Collard

The son of 15-time BTCC winner Rob Collard finished 8th in the championship and although Ricky has not yet won a race unlike his dad, he might have been secretly better than Cammish. My model certainly thinks so as his teammate rating of .199 ranked 43rd overall and 6th among BTCC drivers. Collard's season is mainly impressive because he beat his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Rory Butcher in the championship, whose 10th-place championship finish was his worst since his 2018 rookie season and Collard beat Butcher 14-11 in the races both of them finished. Prior to this season, Butcher had never lost to a full-season teammate before, and this included 2019 when his teammates included the now-great Jake Hill, the solid Sam Tordoff, and hilariously, a 52-year-old Mark Blundell. Collard beat Butcher in most statistical categories with 0.33 lead shares to Butcher's 0, 0.92 CRL to Butcher's 0.07, and a speed percentile of 62.91 to Butcher's 59.31. Butcher did win a race while Collard did not, but unlike Butcher, Collard did have a pass for the lead and dominated the third race at Brands Hatch before Ashley Sutton overtook him on the penultimate lap. Collard did actually pass Sutton on the last lap to win the race on track, but it was all for naught as he was assessed a ten-second penalty after the race. Although clearly much like Lando Norris he is extremely unlucky to have not won yet, it also seems clear that his wins will come.

Albert Costa

Costa finished 2nd in the WEC LMP2 championship alongside teammates Fabio Scherer and Jakub Śmiechowski. As one of the top twenty drivers of all time in my touring car model, it should come as little surprise that he was the leader of the team. He ranked second in speed among all full-time WEC LMP2 drivers behind only Louis Delétraz with a speed percentile of 82.09, easily blowing out Scherer's 58.93 and Śmiechowski 12.72. I rated him this lowly primarily due to a lack of performance in other statistical categories. Although his Inter Europol team did win at Le Mans, Costa didn't have a pass for the lead all season, he only ranked 13th in CRL (in a year that teenager Josh Pierson of all people was the most dominant driver), and he had no wins in his GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup or DTM starts either. In the GT World Challenge, he also performed admirably finishing fourth in points, but that again seems pretty borderline as there is only one other full-time GT World Challenge driver who finished behind him in the championship who I included on this list. Costa definitely had a good season, but it wasn't exceptional and other LMP2 drivers were better this year.

Roman De Angelis

De Angelis and teammate Marco Sørensen finished second in the IMSA GTD class with two wins at the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona as well as Lime Rock, and De Angelis himself was the fastest driver in the IMSA GTD class with a speed percentile of 78.11, but I wouldn't say he was the best driver in the class. That was obviously the champion Madison Snow, who was the leader in almost all statistical categories. I also think De Angelis's teammate was better than he was as Sørensen beat De Angelis in most categories other than speed, most notably because Sørensen had a 2-0 lead change record to De Angelis's record of 4-6 and also Sørensen was 2nd in lead shares in the class while De Angelis was only 12th. Still, I do think De Angelis was definitely one of the strongest in the class, but some others were better.

Connor De Phillippi

The American IMSA driver only finished sixth in the IMSA championship among only eight full-time entries, but like Thed Björk, that doesn't really properly measure his performance. Firstly, IMSA had some wild parity this year with the 7th place team of Sébastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande only finishing 60 points behind the championship team of Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims. For another, the Rahal cars were really slow this year. De Phillippi and his teammate Nick Yelloly (another one of the top twenty drivers of all time in my teammate model) finished only 46 points behind Derani and Sims, but they beat the other Rahal car of Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus by a staggering 346 points. De Phillippi was a lot closer to everyone else than he was to his team car, which speaks strongly for him. Additionally, he was by far the fastest of the four Rahal drivers with a speed percentile of 57.97 to Eng's 30.09, Yelloly's 29.95, and Farfus's 17.76. Clearly based on this, he is the main reason why the #25 Rahal car blew out the #24 Rahal car and should be rewarded accordingly while the other three don't deserve it. That's not to say they are bad drivers by any means - Yelloly and Eng did win the 24 Hours of Spa overall this year along with Marco Wittmann, but I suspect Wittmann was doing the heavy lifting there judging by Yelloly and Eng's IMSA performances and the rest of Wittmann's record. De Phillippi and Yelloly did win the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and although he didn't lead much, he was clearly quite good and this might be underrating him.

Luis José Di Palma

Di Palma dethroned double defending champion Diego Azar in Top Race, the third most significant of the Argentinean major league series. Because I historically knew little about South American racing, I have been consulting with Ignacio Rodríguez from Uruguay to determine which drivers to include from the domestic South American series, since so few people report on them in English and these drivers will tend to get ignored otherwise. Azar did make my list last year and I admitted to unfairly snubbing him the year before, so I thought this series still deserved representation this year. I could not decide between Di Palma since he and 2nd place finisher Azar both won five times, and at one point earlier in the season, Azar was rated really high in my model because he was sweeping his teammate José Manuel Sapag and leading the points as well. However, Di Palma came through with a much stronger second half to take the title. He also competed in the more prestigious TC2000 series and finished 10th in points, which isn't great, but he did drive for an independent team that did not have factory backing and he did still beat his teammate Marcelo Ciarrocchi in that series.

Jack Doohan

I decided not to include any Formula 2 drivers on the top 100 of my list this time. Normally I would, but it didn't seem like any of them deserved it. I still rate Théo Pourchaire pretty highly because of how badly he beat Christian Lundgaard in 2021 as an F2 rookie while Lundgaard was in his second year, especially considering Lundgaard just had a breakout season in IndyCar this year. But it seems like the Formula 1 paddock at large didn't take F2 drivers seriously at all in a year when no new drivers were hired in 2024. Apparently F1 teams think that Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant, and Lance Stroll all deserve to keep their seats even though they were all bad this year (normally, I would not leave four F1 drivers off my top 200 list, but I think none of them deserved it this time) and none of these drivers deserve an opportunity to replace any of them because they spent too long in F2. As a result, I have downgraded most of these drivers more than I normally would this year. Although I still rate Pourchaire higher, you can make the case that Doohan was the best driver in Formula 2 as well. Doohan was one of only two Formula 2 drivers along with rookie Oliver Bearman to win three feature races, and those are the ones more indicative of talent as those are the races that do not utilize field inversions. However, unlike Bearman (who was a close miss for me), Doohan was clearly the leader of his team as his teammate Amaury Cordeel finished 20th in the championship and scored only 8 points while Doohan ranked 3rd with a point total of 168, a massive difference. Pourchaire was a lot closer to his teammate Victor Martins and both drivers won a race, as were second-place finisher Frederik Vesti and Bearman, who combined to win ten races with Vesti specializing in sprint races and Bearman specializing in feature races (which probably means Bearman will be better than Vesti in the long run.) Normally, I try to only consider the current year, but I think especially when it comes to inexperienced drivers, you have to consider the trajectory. I'm still going with Pourchaire as the best of the three because he dominated Lundgaard (a driver who has now proven it in IndyCar) while these other drivers have not, but if you believe Doohan was stronger, I'm not going to argue with you.

Marcus Ericsson (95)

Ericsson diabolically earned his third consecutive sixth-place finish in the IndyCar championship, so a lot of you may be shocked to see me rating him this low, but his 2023 was unquestionably worse than his previous two seasons mainly because Ganassi's cars were substantially faster. In 2021 and 2022, Penske definitely seemed to have the speed to match Ganassi on road and street courses but they weren't even close this year, which made most road course races Ganassi parades in 2023. After a couple years when Ericsson wasn't that far off of Scott Dixon's performance, the gap between Dixon and Ericsson was a lot larger this year. For all the speed Ganassi had, Ericsson still only managed to win the season-opener at St. Pete because a plenum fire forced Pato O'Ward to get off the gas and was generally a non-factor everywhere else except the Indy 500. Ericsson may have a point about IndyCar's race manipulation in that event. It is ugly that the third red flag in the 500 allowed Newgarden, who drives for the series's owner, to overtake Ericsson on the final restart. But I would add that it's easy to argue that the second red flag was equally bogus as I've never been an advocate for fake red flags and in most previous years at Indy historically, the race probably would have ended under caution after the O'Ward crash and Newgarden was leading at that point. I would argue those two questionable red flags arguably canceled each other out and Newgarden deserved it, but if you want to argue Ericsson has a point here, I won't argue with you. Aside from those two races, he was seriously mediocre though. He ranked 11th in lead shares and 12th in CRL for what was unambiguously the fastest team. Shockingly, he did beat Dixon in lead shares (who also in my opinion had a very overrated season) and in speed, as Ericsson did rank 4th in speed with a speed percentile of 74.33 while Dixon was 6th at 71.99. In my teammate model, Ericsson was even worse, ranking 51st among open wheel drivers and 15th among IndyCar drivers, barely above average. There were three drivers who were higher than Ericsson in my teammate model who I didn't even list (Rinus VeeKay, Conor Daly, and Alexander Rossi.) You could argue it was generous for me to list Ericsson in the first place, although I figured he deserved the benefit of the doubt especially because of the Indy controversy. Admittedly, much of his season was tied up in contract disputes, which might have been a significant distraction.

It was clear after Ericsson's Indy 500 win that he felt he had earned the right to transition from being a ride-buyer to being a paid IndyCar driver and with his eventual champion teammate Álex Palou poised to switch to McLaren for the 2024 season, it was believed that Ericsson might get his pay hike at Ganassi. However, once Ganassi managed to re-sign Palou (with obviously a substantially higher salary), he did not have enough money to pay Ericsson the salary he felt he deserved. That and his recent Indy 500 success bizarrely made Ericsson the hot prospect in the 2023 IndyCar silly season for a while (even though other free agent drivers were better), which reminds me of the odd time when the similarly barely-above average (in NASCAR) Jamie McMurray was the hot prospect of 2005, leading to a monster contract with Roush Racing that turned out to be a bust. I think the same thing will happen here with Ericsson at the newly-renamed Andretti Global. There is no doubt in my mind that Ericsson is a worse driver than Romain Grosjean, the driver he is replacing, but I do get why this happened. Andretti is a very volatile team while Ericsson is a very consistent driver with a low ceiling but a higher floor than most others. Andretti is clearly hoping that Ericsson's consistency can rub off on Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood, who are more inconsistent but both much more capable of blinding speed, while Ericsson got the money he wanted in exchange. It was obvious that Ericsson would never win an IndyCar title and likely that he'd never win another Indy 500, so why not cash in? Considering how much slower the Andretti cars are relative to the Ganassi cars though, I would not be surprised if Ericsson never wins again. Clearly he values money (and perhaps the respect of not being a ride-buyer) more than winning, and I get it. It really makes sense for a driver who has already peaked.

Alessandro Ghiretti

Ghiretti was my last addition to the list (I dropped NHRA driver Robert Hight to include him.) Ghiretti finished 7th in his rookie season in Porsche Supercup for the Alméras team while his teammates Jukka Honkavuori, Yves Baltas, and Roar Lindland (one of the best current names in racing) finished 18th, 25th, and 27th respectively. That enabled Ghiretti to surprisingly lead all Porsche Supercup drivers in my model for 2023 overtaking the previous leader Morris Schuring, which is why I decided at the last minute that I wanted to add Ghiretti. Even though he finished no better than third in Porsche Supercup, he did have wins elsewhere with two wins in Porsche Carrera Cup France (where he finished second in points to Dorian Boccolacci, who finished 5th in Porsche Supercup) and another win in the Porsche Sprint Challenge Southern Europe Sport Division.

Felipe Giaffone

The former IndyCar driver has unbeknownst to most people outside of South America become a legend of Brazilian truck racing. In 2023, he scored his sixth Brazilian truck title. The first four of these were sanctioned by Fórmula Truck (2007, 2009, 2011, 2016) while the last two were sanctioned by Copa Truck (2017 and 2023.) I wasn't sure how seriously to take this until I decided to add Brazilian truck racing to my touring car model and discovered that Giaffone has a touring car rating in the same range as legends and champions of other touring car series like Tim Harvey, Kurt Thiim, Tom Kristensen, Rickard Rydell, Gordon Spice, Steve Soper, and Jim Richards. That convinced me that I need to start recognizing this series, which I had previously been ignoring until now. Giaffone ranked 56th in my touring car model this year, which was almost exactly tied with Broc Feeney and higher than all drivers in that series. He also scored five race wins, second to Roberval Andrade's six, but Giaffone nosed out Andrade for the championship by seven points.

Ty Gibbs (C-)

I was seriously on the fence about whether Gibbs deserved to be on this list or not. My model was telling me definitively no because he had a teammate rating of -.121 (30th in the NASCAR Cup Series), which was lower than all other open wheel, stock car, or touring car drivers on my list this season with the exception of Oscar Piastri, who was also a rookie (and that's why I'm a lot lower on his rookie season than everybody else is) and Will Brown (I'll talk about that anomaly when I get to him.) Ryan McCafferty's model largely agreed, only ranking him 24th behind five other drivers I did not include. However, most of the people I talked to did feel I should list Gibbs based on the eye test when considering the speed he had. Speed I will grant him: Gibbs ranked 10th in speed percentile as a rookie, even beating eventual champion Ryan Blaney by that metric and only barely losing to Chris Buescher and Ross Chastain, but he did still have a fairly significant deficit in speed to all three of his teammates with Denny Hamlin leading all Joe Gibbs Racing drivers at 78.54 to Christopher Bell's 75.29, Martin Truex, Jr.'s 73.07, and Gibbs's 64.52. Having said that, when comparing his speed percentile differential to drivers in other series, he wasn't as far behind as others I included in this tier and he did manage to have one fastest race at the Charlotte roval along with being second in speed at Watkins Glen, which likely predicts that he will at some point win on a road course in the Cup Series. His oval speed wasn't as good, but he was strong at Bristol, where he led 102 laps despite not making a pass for the lead and definitely seemed to improve throughout the season. Gibbs did have the fastest speed percentile of any Cup Series rookie since Erik Jones in 2017, but he also probably had a faster car than any of the rookies in between as well, so I remained on the fence. I ended up finally deciding to list Gibbs when I took a deeper look at his Xfinity statistics and noticed he had a 6-1 lead change record in that series, a substantially higher percentage than John Hunter Nemechek's 43-28, and obviously Gibbs had to compete against Nemechek in every race while Nemechek did not usually have to compete against Gibbs. That convinced me to list Gibbs, but I almost left him off numerous times.

Néstor Girolami (C)

The Argentinean touring car driver had an erratic year on the TCR World Tour in 2023 finishing 6th in the championship and winning once at the Autódromo José Carlos Bassi despite driving for four different teams. The TCR World Tour was comprised of a weird hodgepodge of events including races from TCR Europe, TCR South America, TCR Australia as well as the prestigious Macau Guia Race. Girolami did run the entire schedule but signed up with a European-exclusive team for the TCR Europe events, a South American-exclusive team for the TCR South America events, an Australian-exclusive team for the Australian events, and a Macau-only team for the Guia Race. The fact that he was one of the only nine full-timers that did not have a full-time team probably hindered him, which is why I decided to list him even though his stats weren't great and his only win came in a reverse-grid event and he had no passes for the lead. His teammate rating of .189 was solid, placing him 47th among all touring car drivers and 4th among TCR World Tour drivers behind only the top three points finishers, Norbert Michelisz, Yann Ehrlacher, and Rob Huff. Despite his volatility in terms of switching from team to team, he did rank 3rd in speed percentile for the season behind only Ehrlacher and Michelisz, and he was pretty close to both, but admittedly the speed percentiles for that series aren't entirely accurate because there the South American and Macau events did not have lap times available so I had to use fastest laps as an approximation, and that probably skewed things. Regardless, Girolami battled adversity in terms of not having a consistent team and still delivered a solid season.

Dan Harper

I might be underrating Harper quite a bit because I wasn't able to compile lap times or most of my other statistics for British GT in time. However, it is clear that the British GT field this year was stronger than it usually is as he had to compete against Jules Gounon (who won four races in the IMSA GTD Pro class), Raffaele Marciello (who won the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup), Jonny Adam (a four-time British GT champion), and Ross Gunn (who won two IMSA GTD Pro races and was a late cut from my list.) While I don't think British GT is one of the most prestigious sports car series in general, Gounon and Marciello were very highly regarded by most so I think Harper is worth mentioning since he beat them. Having said that, Harper also competed in the GT World Challenge Europe and only finished 9th in the championship and Marciello beat him a lot worse there than Harper did in British GT, so I definitely took Gounon and Marciello higher because they had more diversity in terms of being competitive in a bunch of different series than Harper did. Few British GT teams seem to have two pro drivers as it seems that most teams have a pro driver and an obscure amateur driver. Harper was clearly the leader on his team though because he is a former champion of the Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain, where he won ten races in a single-driver series, clearly indicating he was pulling more of the weight than his teammate Darren Leung this time.

Callum Hedge

Hedge won a mind-boggling 21 minor league races and two championships driving for three different teams on two continents in 2023. In the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, he won the championship and five races in a series that featured several former Supercars drivers including Dale Wood, Fabian Coulthard, Alex Davison, and David Wall. The series is probably roughly similar in prestige to Super2 where Kai Allen won the title, and many of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia drivers are historically selected as co-drivers for Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 entries. Hedge was not one of them so he isn't eligible for my model yet, but he did a lot more than just that. He also won the Formula Regional Americas Championship, winning 13 out of 18 races against a field that was admittedly dubious, and he finished 2nd in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship to Alexander Wurz's son Charlie, winning three races there. Hedge has decided for the moment to attempt a career in America instead of his native Australia, where he will be one of the eight drivers in Indy NXT (IndyCar getting down with the youths by adopting Generation X branding now that that generation is finally old enough to be in IndyCar's target demographic!) for HMD Racing, the team owned by David Malukas's dad. It will be interesting to see whether Hedge, Josh Pierson, Myles Rowe, or Nolan Siegel leads the team next year. Along with Louis Foster, those drivers are probably the five pre-season championship favorites. I think it will be Siegel, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it was any of those others. Hedge certainly had the best season of all of them this year.

Andre Heimgartner (C)

An extremely borderline selection that I still felt worth making, Heimgartner finished 7th in the Supercars Championship, marking his best-ever championship finish in the series, but that doesn't mean he necessarily had his best season. To pick an extreme example, Lance Stroll actually had his best championship finish ever, but no one rates it like that. Heimgartner's rating in my touring car model dropped from .145 in 2022 to .093 this year. He dropped from 74th overall to 85th and from 8th in Supercars to 11th this year despite facing the same three teammates this year as he did last year. The main reason for that is he did substantially worse against Bryce Fullwood this year, as he beat him 22-4 in 2022 but only 18-9 this year, and Fullwood had a greater increase in the points standings from 17th to 11th than Heimgartner did. Heimgartner also dropped in speed percentile from 61.91 last year to 58.87 this year, while Fullwood made a massive jump from 23.19 to 46.60. Fullwood is not in his second year (this is his fourth) so there's no reason why he should have improved that much more than Heimgartner did unless Heimgartner declined. Having said that, since I have all the top six points finishers in my top 100, it would have also felt wrong to me if I did not have at least one Supercars driver in either of the bottom two tiers, and he did only barely lose to Cameron Waters in the points stanings, a driver who won three times, and he was definitely closer to Waters in points than he was to anybody else. It's very marginal, but I still thought he was deserving for being on my list albeit barely. I will admit Matthew Payne excites me more, but he didn't have a better season.

Carson Hocevar

Hocevar was both the most electrifying and probably the best NASCAR prospect of the year in 2023 (and yes, I'm including both John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer in that even though many might not consider them to be prospects because they have already had full Cup seasons.) Hocevar initially attracted my attention in 2022 when he was pretty much running as well as Ross Chastain in their shared races in the then-Camping World Truck Series for Niece Motorsports in what was Chastain's breakout season in Cup. This year in the rechristened Craftsman Truck Series, he even outran Chastain and beat him 3-1 in shared finishes, but that's not all he did. Beyond that, he swept his most frequent teammate Bayley Currey 8-0 (Currey isn't good but he isn't terrible either) and he also blew out Shane van Gisbergen on his NASCAR oval debut at IRP, which came after van Gisbergen had already won on his Cup debut at the Chicago street course. Hocevar was by far the highest-rated full-time truck driver in my teammate model with a rating of .365, far above the eventual champion Ben Rhodes's rating of .115. I suppose a lot of people will tell me I picked the wrong CH from the truck series considering I went for Hocevar instead of Corey Heim, but there is no doubt in my mind Hocevar was better than Heim this year regardless of Heim having greater consistency. First of all, Hocevar had a substantially slower truck than Heim did as Niece is not a powerhouse while Heim was driving a factory Toyota truck. Additionally, Hocevar blew Heim out as a passer this year as Hocevar posted an 18-9 lead change record in the Truck Series and a 3-2 record on the final lead change of the race, while Heim posted an 18-22 lead change record and a 3-5 record on the final lead change of the race. In other words, both drivers were passing equally often but Hocevar was a substantially more efficient passer despite having a slower truck, which is easily enough for me to ignore that Heim scored the most overall points this season despite missing a race. I probably would have listed Heim as well if he had won the title, which it looked like he was going to after winning the pole for the finale at Phoenix. Hocevar did make a bad move spinning Heim out at Phoenix, and he did still tend to overdrive too much, which occasionally led to some wild avoidable crashes (especially when he wrecked Nick Sanchez at Texas for his first win after Sanchez had led for longer than the regulation distance), but after Heim made an even more obnoxious move to wreck Hocevar in retaliation, I decided not to include him. Additionally, I would be remiss to discuss Hocevar's season without talking about his first starts in the Cup Series as well. On his Cup debut at Gateway, he filled in for Corey LaJoie in the #7 Spire car when LaJoie drove the #9 Hendrick car after Chase Elliott's suspension. Considering LaJoie had been considered one of the most underrated drivers in the Cup Series for years, a lot of people were surprised when Hocevar outran LaJoie for the entire time before an early mechanical DNF considering that the Spire cars are consistently much slower than the Hendrick cars. And LaJoie (who has made my list the last two years) did not have a bad season as he still ranked 12th among Cup drivers in my teammate model this year, but after that race, I couldn't list LaJoie and I couldn't not list Hocevar, who returned to action in the #42 Legacy car as one of a rotation of drivers as Erik Jones's teammate filling in after Noah Gragson was fired. Hocevar seemed to instantly improve the team as both cars got significantly faster immediately after he was hired, and Hocevar ran in the top ten nearly all day at the Bristol Night Race, drastically outrunning Jones even though that had traditionally been one of Jones's best tracks. Hocevar right now sits at .120 in my model, directly above Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, and Greg Biffle, and he's still only 20. He definitely looks like a future Cup championship contender and I think he'll immediately outrun his fellow Cup rookie teammate Zane Smith and probably outrun LaJoie as well, although all those drivers seem good and better than the usual drivers that teams like Spire hire, and together they'll likely elevate the team. It would not surprise me one bit if Hocevar upsets Josh Berry to be Rookie of the Year in 2024 (there's no doubt that Hocevar is the better driver, but the question is whether the driver difference between Hocevar and Berry is greater than the car difference between the #4 and the #77, and as for that, I'm not sure.)

Jake Hughes

Hughes was clearly the best rookie in Formula E in 2023 even though I imagine people expected more from Sacha Fenestraz entering this season. Hughes impressed almost immediately by winning a pole in his third start at Diriyah, then adding another at the Monaco event. Although he did not have the same speed in the race and only ranked 14th in cumulative races led, he did nose out his veteran teammate René Rast for 12th in the points standings and also barely beat Rast in CRL and in teammate rating. While his teammate rating of .039 wasn't great, ranking 48th overall and 11th in Formula E, most of the drivers around him in my teammate model this year were not rookies: he even nosed out the defending champion Stoffel Vandoorne as well as Rast, Marcus Ericsson, António Félix da Costa, and Sam Bird. Hughes was significantly slower than Rast in the races with a speed percentile of 36.04 to Rast's 51.54, but that means he must have had really strong racecraft as a rookie. Much like Ty Gibbs, this is the sort of year I wouldn't normally list were it not from a rookie driver. Hughes's year was honestly pretty similar to Felix Rosenqvist's in IndyCar and I left him off. But performing on a level comparable to Rosenqvist in one's first year is impressive, especially when the teammate is Rast, who until recently was one of the best drivers in the world (although more because of his dominance in touring cars than his open wheel results, which have been merely okay.) While he was nowhere near that other Jake, he has clearly demonstrated potential to be a solid Formula E driver for years to come.

Callum Ilott

Gee, there are a lott of Callums on this list, huh? (Here I sit dodging tomatoes at this instant.) Ilott is one of the hardest drivers to evaluate right now because he drove for Juncos Hollinger Racing, a team that was historically drastically off the pace even relative to teams like A.J. Foyt. Additionally, he had no teammate in 2022 and in 2023 he had a rookie teammate Agustín Canapino who had never driven a full season in open wheel cars in either a major league or even any significant minor league level. Ilott did sweep Canapino 10-0 in the races both of them finished and he did seem to have very strong racecraft and polish for a driver so young in terms of maximizing results while simultaneously minimizing errors. He has delivered the Juncos team all five of its top ten finishes to date, but to be honest, none of the other Juncos drivers were good open wheel drivers at all except for Spencer Pigot and Santino Ferrucci, who drove one race for the team each (although I think Canapino definitely has the potential to eventually become a good open wheel driver.) Ilott's Indy 500 where he fought for Juncos to produce a new chassis for him when it looked like he might fail to qualify for the race and went on to finish 12th was a bravura performance, but according to Marshall Pruett, the team initially disbelieved him and didn't want to build another chassis, which led to a long, drawn-out fight in private as tensions simmered below the surface. Ilott was also in demand from numerous other teams while Juncos refused to let him out of his contract. But most of all was his relationship with Canapino. At Long Beach, Canapino briefly led after staying out of the pits under caution but Ilott shortly thereafter pitted on the restart and returned to the track directly in front of Canapino. After Canapino shortly thereafter hit the wall, his fans believed Ilott caused it by holding him up, although since he was on worn tires it was inevitable that Josef Newgarden would have ambushed him anyway on that restart. At the season finale at Laguna Seca, the teammates made contact and Canapino's fans again blamed Ilott. On both instances, certain malign subsets of his fans sent Ilott death threats and Ilott called them out, and after the Laguna Seca race, he showed in-car footage of his car to exonerate him. Although Juncos did not blame Ilott for either incident, they didn't like him using social media to defend himself and criticize Canapino's fans. Many of the hardcore Canapino fans argued that they were motivated by passion for their countryman, that they didn't mean it, and that sending unserious death threats as a joke on the Internet was simply a part of Argentinean culture. That doesn't in any way justify it in my opinion. The attempt to bring soccer hooliganry into IndyCar was one of the ugliest aspects of the season.

I actually started out this season rooting for both Juncos drivers as I was irritated by how much the American media was dismissing Canapino as a talent when he had a very similar record in Argentinean touring cars to Scott McLaughlin, who had already proven successful. And I do think Canapino had the most impressive performances of all the 2023 rookies, but that's not saying a lot when the others were Marcus Armstrong, Sting Ray Robb, and Benjamin Pedersen, who were all terrible. By the end of the season, Canapino and his fans had really lost me. On merit, he still deserves to remain in IndyCar and I recognize that but it no longer seemed like it was worth the drama. I can understand to some extent the passion of Canapino's fans especially when a lot of people in the American racing media treated him like garbage at the time of his signing and acted like he was a total hack when I knew from my own research he wasn't. But since almost nobody reports on any of the Argentinean touring car series in English, he was belittled. To be honest though, I expected Canapino to be closer to Ilott than he was even given his lack of open wheel experience so I found his season a little disappointing to that extent as well. Yet, because of Ilott's criticism on social media (which seemed mostly mild and professional to me), it was Juncos that released Ilott instead of Canapino after all the main available rides had been filled, and in one of the ugliest IndyCar silly seasons I can even remember, one of IndyCar's hot up and comers will not be there in 2024 while a number of drivers with more dubious qualifications have been signed (Robb, Armstrong, Kyffin Simpson, Pietro Fittipaldi, and I also personally think Tom Blomqvist is going to disappoint although I can see why others don't.) Having said that, Ilott did quickly bounce back and land a ride with the Jota WEC team, so I no longer feel too bad for him because that is probably higher-profile than Juncos anyway, but it was annoying to me as an IndyCar fan that his team released him after a bunch of grossly inferior drivers were signed when he was one of the two underdogs I was most rooting for to get a better ride all season, but you could make the case Jota is a better ride than Juncos, so I don't feel as bad as I did. At least the other one did get a better ride in IndyCar.

Malthe Jakobsen

Jakobsen is a relatively obscure sports car driver because he spends most of his time competing in the European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series, neither of which comes close to the WEC or IMSA in prestige. He did compete in IMSA's least prestigious LMP3 class in 2022 and earned a class win at Sebring, but he's still one of the lesser-known drivers on my list. Regardless, his speed data in the ELMS LMP2 Pro/Am class jumped off the chart for me enough to justify a place on this list. Jakobsen was the fastest driver in either the regular LMP2 or the LMP2 Pro/Am class in the series with a speed percentile of 91.18. He finished second in his class alongside teammates Alexander Coigny and Nicolas Lapierre, the latter of whom used to be one of the biggest sports car stars. Regardless, Lapierre's speed percentile of 75.02 and Coigny's 18.59 didn't even come close. Jakobsen set the fastest average speed in his class an astonishing 4 times in 6 races and he also had 2 wins, 2 fastest laps, and his team only lost the title because of a DNF at Aragón after Jakobsen got wrecked by José María López, his teammate in another class. Jakobsen also finished 2nd in the Asian Le Mans Series with a win at Abu Dhabi with the same teammates, and delivered another win at Dubai in December with new teammates Colin Braun and George Kurtz, which counts towards the 2023-24 season. Currently, Jakobsen is again second in points. And he's still only 20!

Erik Jones (88)

On the surface, it seemed like Jones had a significant dropoff and I do rate him substantially lower than I do last year, but even though he dropped from 18th to 27th in points and went from winning the Southern 500 and making the most passes in 2022 to being an afterthought for the most part in 2023, he was way better than you think. His decline had very little to do with him really, as became readily apparent when it was announced that Legacy Motor Club would be switching from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2024. Clearly this deal must have been in the works for some time and Chevrolet must have withdrawn funding to a lame-duck team to give the Spire and JTG/Daugherty teams more support, which explains why both those teams seemed to take a step up while Legacy inexplicably declined after Jones's best season ever. However, 2023 was in fact Jones's best ever year in my teammate model. He ranked 6th with a teammate rating of .171, right smack dab between his former teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, which says a lot. Jones also ranked 16th in Ryan McCafferty's model and it seems one of the few things all NASCAR analysts seem to agree on is Jones's underratedness. Sure, my rating for him this year is inflated because he had a string of inexperienced teammates including rookie Noah Gragson, pre-rookies Josh Berry and Carson Hocevar, and one-offs Grant Enfinger and Mike Rockenfeller. However, he still vastly overachieved his expectations. Entering the Daytona 500, Jones had a career teammate rating of -.034 to Gragson's -.051 and was expected to beat Gragson 51.7% of the time. Based on their previous teammate comparisons, it was expected to be a coin flip. Granted, rookies will always underachieve expectations by that metric, but Jones beat Gragson 11-2, which is a massive difference. He was also the only driver to post a winning record against Carson Hocevar this year, beating him 3-2 in Cup races in a year Hocevar outperformed Ross Chastain in the trucks. When considering all that, his performance remains quite solid although it was harder to see because Chevy defunded the team. The team did pick up speed as the year progressed (either Hocevar instantly improved it with their talent or Chevy gave them more funding for the races Hocevar entered because he was one of their hottest prospects) and Jones had a couple killer underdog top five runs at Kansas and also at Texas before he crashed. It seems like Legacy will be receiving a lot more factory backing from Toyota than they ever received from Chevy, so expect a breakout season from Jones in 2024.

Daniel Juncadella (97)

Many of you will find this placement shockingly low for Juncadella considering he and his teammate Jules Gounon led the way with four wins in the IMSA GTD Pro class, but I had my reasons. For starters, they didn't win the championship in a field that had only five full-time cars. Secondly, both drivers had shockingly low speed percentiles with Juncadella only at 50.61 and Gounon at 42.77, indicating they were average or below in speed within the class, and five of the other eight drivers in the class were faster than both of them, including Ross Gunn and Ben Barnicoat, who I didn't even list! Two of their three wins at the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona and season-ending Petit Le Mans also included teammate Maro Engel, who was clearly the linchpin of the team because not only did Engel have a faster speed percentile than every full-time driver in the class, but he also ranked sixth in lead shares despite only entering three races while Juncadella ranked 10th and Gounon 11th in lead shares despite running the entire schedule. I do think both of them were better than co-champion Ben Barnicoat, who really coasted off Jack Hawksworth in my opinion, but I still think they were the biggest paper tigers and most overrated drivers in IMSA this year. I have still rated Gounon higher since he did have several sports car wins in other series, but Juncadella's primary accomplishments were in IMSA this year and they weren't as good as they looked.

Doug Kalitta

The 59-year-old drag racer finally came away with his long-awaited first NHRA Top Fuel championship in his 26th season after previously finishing second in the championship on six occasions. It seemed like it was never going to happen for him given his age, how many times he'd come up short before, and the fact that in his previous two seasons he finished 10th in the standings and collected no wins, but with his championship, he finally completed the arc of an unusual career that started out by winning a USAC Sprint title in 1994 before eventually joining his late cousin Scott as a Top Fuel champion this year. The oddity of Kalitta's season is that he failed to win a race in the regular season before winning three of the six races in NHRA's Countdown, which I guess makes it an analogous clutch performance to Tony Stewart unexpectedly willing himself to the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series title at a time when most people had written him off.

Norbert Kiss

The Hungarian driver won his third consecutive European Truck Racing Championship and fifth all time, placing him one championship behind Jochen Hahn for the most in series history. Although the series is admittedly low on the prestige scale, Kiss utterly destroyed Hahn this year with a ridiculous 22 wins in 32 races, while Hahn only won three times. Although the champions of this series almost routinely win ten or more races in a season because of the long schedules and lack of competition, I believe 22 wins is a record and that's unusual even for Kiss, who "only" won 16 the year before.

Carson Macedo (C)

Although Macedo only won seven races in the World of Outlaws this year after winning eleven the two previous years, he was injured in a fiery crash at Knoxville in June that left him unconscious. Although he did quickly recover and won four races after that, I cut him a break because of the adversity he did face even though he didn't win as many races as the preceding two years. For the third year in a row, the same three drivers finished in the top three in the WoO championship in the same order, with Brad Sweet winning al three titles, David Gravel finishing 2nd all three times, and Macedo finishing 3rd all three times. With Sweet now defecting to Kyle Larson's rival High Limit championship, it remains to be seen whether Gravel or Macedo will finally win their first championship. With Gravel winning 30 races over the last three years to Macedo's 29, that really does seem entirely up in the air, but I'd likely favor Gravel due to his consistency.

Kevin Magnussen (C)

While Magnussen was unexpectedly strong in F1 in 2022 after a year off when he beat Mick Schumacher by a 2-1 margin in the championship and shockingly won a pole, the same cannot be said for him this year as Magnussen's current teammate Nico Hülkenberg returned from what was effectively an even longer three-year absence and still outperformed Magnussen, scoring 9 points to Magnussen's 3 and beating him 25.84 to 16.75 in speed percentile as well. Magnussen did curiously end up higher in my teammate ratings this year than Hülkenberg as Hülkenberg only beat Magnussen 8-7 in terms of shared finishes. Magnussen ranked 36th among all open wheel drivers and 11th among F1 drivers in my model this year, just above Maximilian Günther, Romain Grosjean, and Will Power, but I think all of them were better. Since Hülkenberg has a teammate rating of .137 to Magnussen's .018, Hülkenberg was expected to beat Magnussen 61.9% of the time and he did underachieve that, but that is understandable when this is his first full-time season since 2019. Ultimately, I had to place Hülkenberg on the tier above this one and Magnussen on the bottom tier because Hülkenberg beat him in the championship after a long absence, though both were definitely mediocre by F1 standards.

David Malukas (C-)

I know motorsports pundits are not supposed to have favorite drivers, but Malukas has become my favorite driver in all of motorsports recently. I first took notice of him when he was the highest rookie finisher in the 2022 Indy 500 and felt he deserved Indy 500 Rookie of the Year after Jimmie Johnson's crash (although I knew it was never going to happen as I objectively know Johnson defecting from NASCAR to race IndyCar is a bigger deal than anything Malukas will ever do.) After that, he really won me over at Gateway with his brave but clean slice through the field while simultaneously showing off his goofy personality by singing Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" in the car on his radio, leading his strategist to exasperatedly deadpan, "Stop it." Although I normally don't like memes, I always enjoy his on the Platform Formerly Known as Twitter and he has the same humor and energy and talent that Jordan Taylor had ten years ago but has not yet fallen into complacency like it seems Taylor has recently. Additionally, it feels like Malukas has never really gotten the respect he deserves from the racing media. Maybe it's his goofy personality or maybe it's the fact that his father Henry bought half of Dale Coyne Racing to give him his first IndyCar ride that people find off-putting. But honestly, who cares how he started out if he beat Takuma Sato 9-3 as a rookie a mere two years after Sato's second Indy 500 win? Malukas quickly backed up his 2nd at Gateway with back-to-back top tens including a 4th at Texas to start the season (and he was right in the battle for the lead with the Penske and Ganassi and McLaren cars at Texas despite a huge speed deficit.) Later that season, it was announced he was leaving Coyne as he wanted both a stronger ride and much like Marcus Ericsson to prove he deserves to be a merit hire rather than a ride-buyer, which is admirable. With the drama over where Álex Palou was signing and with Ericsson also looking to cash in after his Indy 500 win, those two kind of took the energy out of the room and monopolized silly season, while Malukas kind of sneaked around in the background on stealth mode quietly going unnoticed. I was really rooting for either him or Callum Ilott to end up at Ganassi after Palou and/or Ericsson left and am kind of annoyed Ganassi just signed three drivers worse than both of them. However, Malukas got a nice consolation prize as after Arrow McLaren was unable to successfully poach Palou from Ganassi after over a year of drama, they quietly signed Malukas to replace Felix Rosenqvist instead, and that's something I don't think people are talking about as much as they should.

At the moment, Malukas has the 7th highest career rating amongst IndyCar drivers in my open wheel teammate model. Incoming rookie Tom Blomqvist is technically leading based entirely on a strong minor league record a decade ago when he most noticeably finished 2nd in European Formula 3 directly behind Esteban Ocon but ahead of Max Verstappen, but admittedly, my expectations for Blomqvist in IndyCar are low. Ignoring that, Malukas only trails Pato O'Ward, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Álex Palou, and Colton Herta in my teammate model right now. That's some pretty elite company when you consider even last year Malukas was still the youngest driver in the IndyCar field. He's ahead of a lot of talented drivers: Power, McLaughlin, Kirkwood, Grosjean, Ericsson, Lundgaard, Rossi, VeeKay, and Lundqvist for starters. Do I think my model is overrating him? Yeah, probably, but I'm glad that we're going to test this premise now that he finally has a car as good as he is. He didn't do as well in my teammate model this year, only ranking 12th, but he was just behind the likes of Liam Lawson and Power and just ahead of the likes of Sergio Pérez and Rossi. In addition to Rossi, he did also beat Rosenqvist in my teammate model this year indicating that Malukas is probably already an improvement over Rosenqvist even though Rosenqvist won two poles in 2023 and battled for the lead frequently at Indy, which is very promising. Despite having what seemed to be a very slow car this year there, he did surprisingly set the fastest lap in the Indy 500 as well. And my model this year may actually understate the level of his achievement as he only beat teammate Sting Ray Robb 5-2 when if you actually watched the races, you know they were nowhere near that close. Malukas's speed percentile was 47.78 while Robb's was 7.68, which was the largest gap in speed percentile between two teammates this season. I admit I was still a little down on Malukas this year because he made a lot more sloppy mistakes than he did as a rookie and I thought he was the best rookie of 2022 while two of his fellow rookies (Lundgaard and Kirkwood) clearly jumped him this year and you can argue Ilott did as well. Having said that, he won me back with another stellar drive at Gateway where he ran in the top five all day and was rapidly closing on his future teammate O'Ward for 2nd place in the final laps, and they clearly had the best two drives when you consider that Dixon stole that race on fuel mileage. I think his 2023 Gateway drive was even stronger than the 2022 Gateway drive honestly, and with his Gateway podium, he became the first Coyne driver ever to score two oval podiums for the team, which is impressive considering the team has been around for over 30 years and has had other strong drivers like Sébastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson, who drove there for multiple years. So what are my expectations for Malukas at McLaren? My predictions are that he won't even come close to O'Ward on the road and street courses (and as a result will probably drop in my model), but he'll generally outperform Rossi immediately and with five races on short ovals including another Gateway race and doubleheaders at Iowa and Milwaukee, I really do think Malukas will win at least one of those, especially considering the McLaren cars are very fast on ovals (O'Ward actually had a faster speed on ovals in 2023 than Newgarden did.) Considering that Malukas seems to be more of an oval specialist right now and McLaren has seemed stronger on ovals lately than Ganassi, maybe Malukas going to McLaren will be better for him than if he'd actually gotten a Ganassi ride. It'll be interesting, and it's almost the only silly season transaction in IndyCar this year that didn't annoy me.

Michael McDowell

I have been more resistant to McDowell's hype than most of the mainstream NASCAR pundits, albeit somewhat less than a lot of the people I associate with who underrate him in response to the media overhyping him. I've never had him on any of my lists before even though I suspect many others would have. I was not impressed by his Daytona 500 win. You can certainly debate whether McDowell, Joey Logano, or Brad Keselowski caused the wreck, but McDowell was certainly involved in it and that propelled him to victory despite only leading one lap. People definitely overrated him for a while in part because he had a rotating cast of rookie teammates: John Hunter Nemechek in 2020, Anthony Alfredo in 2021, and Todd Gilliland in 2022. Even this year, they cycled Gilliland out for a while and put pre-rookie Zane Smith in the car for a few races. That certainly flattered McDowell and made him look better than he was for a while. McDowell had decent teammate ratings of .056 and .068 in 2021 and 2022, but Anthony Alfredo and Todd Gilliland were significantly weaker in those seasons than they eventually became, so that probably inflates McDowell's performance, which would have been borderline for qualifying for this list with those ratings anyway. Furthermore, I was skeptical about whether his reputation as a great road racer was truly earned considering his only major-league road course win prior to entering NASCAR was a single Grand-Am win at Mexico City with Memo Gidley in 2005, a year the competition wasn't exactly stellar with Milka Duno and a 61-year-old Elliott Forbes-Robinson scoring overall wins. It felt to me like McDowell transitioned to NASCAR before he had fully developed as a road racer, and you could see that in his NASCAR road races, where he didn't do much of anything for years and years, and his recent competitiveness on NASCAR road races has honestly surprised me. The mainstream NASCAR media hyped him up considerably in recent years, particularly in the summer of '22 when he had a long string of top tens usually from benefiting by attrition or luck, and there was a lot of stupid discourse with people attempting to argue McDowell was better than William Byron last year at certain points because he had more top tens (even though Byron wasn't much less dominant in 2022 than he was in 2023.) And personally, I was baffled by how the most evangelical driver won such a cult fan base on Reddit, the site where professional quote makers proselytize for euphoric atheism. Regardless, this is the year that McDowell finally impressed me. He collected two full lead shares in back-to-back races at Watkins Glen and Indianapolis as he made the only three passes for the lead in those races, which actually meant he ranked 4th in lead shares for the season at one point, although he eventually dropped to 8th by season's end. His Indianapolis win where he out-fought Chase Elliott to effectively keep him out of the playoffs was particularly impressive, because I kept thinking Elliott would eventually win that race and it didn't happen. Although it was highly improbable McDowell would advance out of the first round of the playoffs because he is a mediocre oval driver, he gave it a good shot and had arguably the best oval drive of his life in the Bristol Night Race, where he ran in the top five all day, which honestly utterly flabbergasted me. He didn't rate too highly in my model, but he did rate 17th in Ryan McCafferty's model, basically equivalent to Erik Jones. Ryan traditionally rates McDowell even lower than I do, so while I was skeptical of McDowell in every previous season, I think he definitely earned it this time.

Bryce Menzies

Menzies dominated the SCORE International desert truck racing circuit in 2023 where he won three of the four events including all three Baja races, the Baja 500, Baja 400, and Baja 1000. No matter what you may have heard, Riley Herbst did not win the Baja 1000 overall. He won a minor class that nobody really cares about outside the desert hardcore. Menzies won the overall event. It was a long time coming for him as he had previously won three Baja 500s in 2011, 2012, and 2014 prior to this year but had not yet won the Baja 1000. With this victory along with his dominant championship, now his desert truck racing resumé is arguably complete.

Charles Milesi

On the surface, the numbers aren't there for Milesi. Unlike in 2021 when he won the WEC LMP2 championship, the Alpine Elf team of Milesi, Julien Canal, and Matthieu Vaxivière only finished 7th in the championship. They didn't win a race and rarely even led. However, what catches my attention is that the other Alpine Elf car of Olli Caldwell, André Negrão, and perennial Grand-Am champion Memo Rojas finished 18th in the championship. Much like Connor De Phillippi, I have chosen Milesi because there was a staggering difference between him and all his other teammates in speed. Milesi's speed percentile was 69.67 while Vaxivière's was 42.91, Negrão's was 36.79, Caldwell's was 25.84, Canal's was 16.54, and Rojas's was 5.11. In other words, Milesi's speed percentile difference to his fastest teammate was almost 27 percentage points, and the other four drivers were slower than even that. Moreover, despite the Alpine seemingly not being one of the top-tier cars in the class, Milesi himself set the fastest lap in four out of seven races and set the fastest race at Fuji. Milesi may not have achieved much in terms of baseline statistics, but as you can tell, he was pretty damn good if you look in any depth at all.

Ignacio Montenegro

When I asked people to recommend obscure drivers who I should include on this list, I received a private message from the aforementioned Ignacio Rodríguez that I should include his fellow namesake. Montenegro, a rising Argentinean touring car driver who just turned 19 in November shortly before the two series he competed in ended, won the TCR South America championship having won four of the first seven races on the schedule and a win in class after that in one of the dual TCR World Tour/TCR South America races. The field wasn't amazing, but it did include four drivers who had won multiple Stock Car Brasil or TC2000 races: Bernardo Llaver, Galid Osman, Rafael Suzuki, and Fabián Yannantuoni. Perhaps more notably, Montenegro also competed in TC2000, one of the two premier Argentinean leagues where he was teammates with the now-perennial champion Leonel Pernía. Pernía successfully defended the championship with seven wins but Montenegro won four in his own right and seemed to improve throughout the season as they included two of the last three races. I was on the fence about this since he was only barely above average in my touring car teammate model, ranking only 109th with a teammate rating of .027 (he's mostly surrounded by drivers I didn't even consider for my list.) Regardless, I think his sheer number of wins along with his youth make a strong case for him despite my doubts. I think like Ty Gibbs (or like Ritomo Miyata last year), this pick will look better in retrospect than it does right now.

John Hunter Nemechek

Even though he continues to come up short in every single championship battle, it's hard to argue that Nemechek had the best season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year. He was far out and away ahead in Ryan McCafferty's Xfinity model and he led almost every traditional statistical category as well. He was also strong in most of my metrics. Although I don't do full statistical tables for minor league NASCAR, Nemechek easily led the way with 21 natural races led and a 43-28 lead change record, both easily better than any other series regular (although as I said, Ty Gibbs had a substantially higher percentage at 6-1.) This was a year so across the board dominant that I could have justified placing him in the C tier instead of the C- tier I suppose, but I didn't because he didn't win the title, Joe Gibbs Racing has overwhelmingly dominant cars, the competition wasn't as good as it was last year after Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson, and A.J. Allmendinger all advanced, and Nemechek's Xfinity teammate rating of -.127 was shockingly bad, primarily because he had a losing 1-3 record to part-timer Ryan Truex, which is not great. A lot of people, famously including David Smith, doubted Nemechek's decision to leave Front Row Motorsports to return to minor-league NASCAR, but it seems to have worked out for him. Once I saw his name initially mentioned for the #42 Legacy car, I instantly knew Gragson was going to be fired, and that was a few days before he was fired. But with the exception of last year, Nemechek was always better than Gragson and he is a much better driver to build your team around. The plodding, methodical Jones and the more wildly aggressive Nemechek make an interesting contrast and if they learn from each other's strengths, I think a real powerhouse team can be built here.

Maximilian Paul

Paul earned a surprise win in the ex-touring car/now GT series DTM as a part-time driver in the rain at Nürburgring in only his second start. That by itself would probably not be enough to justify a placement on this list because there are a few DTM full-time winners I didn't list either. However, on top of that, Paul also had a successful year in the International GT Open. While he and his teammate Pierre-Louis Chovet came up six points short in the championship en route to a fourth-place finish, the duo won four races at four different tracks (Hungaroring, Paul Ricard, Red Bull Ring, and Monza) in a five-race span in a year no other pair of drivers won more than two races in the top division of that series.

Kobe Pauwels

Pauwels, a 19-year-old who does not yet have a Wikipedia page in English, is one of the best breakout touring car drivers of the year. In the TCR Europe championship, he won three times overall and thrice more in class in shared TCR World Tour/TCR Europe races en route to a third-place finish in the championship. Although Pauwels did finish behind two of his veteran teammates in the championship, Tom Coronel (the eventual champion) and John Filippi, he was a lot better than both of them beating Coronel 9-2 in shared finishes and Filippi 8-4. He also beat both of them in speed percentile in the TCR World Tour races with Pauwels posting a speed percentile of 61.14 to Filippi's 56.90 and Coronel's 51.11, although I did not include the TCR Europe races that did not also count towards the TCR World Tour. Although his overall touring car rank of 69th with a rating of .140 isn't stellar, he did beat some touring car heavy hitters in my model including Brodie Kostecki, Kelvin van der Linde, Mikel Azcona, and even his more highly regarded teammate, this year's Guia Race winner Frédéric Vervisch.

Sergio Pérez (45)

There are two ways to look at Pérez's F1 season. On the one hand, he did have a hot start with two wins in the first four races, even if he only won at Baku due to safety car timing. Throughout the entire season, he did rank second in almost all statistical categories, including natural races led, passes for the lead, wins, lead shares, passes for the lead, and fastest races, but he did so in a year when his teammate Max Verstappen broke all-time records in almost every single category. This is a place where results fundamentalism clearly does not work, because Red Bull clearly had arguably the most dominant cars of all time this year yet ensuring his eventual second place points finish was much more of a struggle than it should have been as he didn't beat Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc, and Lando Norris by all that much in the championship even though they had significantly slower cars. I was actually toying with still putting him in the top 100 based on his objective stats, but in the end I couldn't justify it and dropped him considerably. For one thing, Pérez ranked 46th in my open wheel model and 15th among F1 drivers for 2023. He was actually even slightly behind Zhou Guanyu and Lance Stroll, both of whom I left off and surrounded by drivers like Nico Hükenberg returning to F1 after a three-year absence and Formula E rookie Jake Hughes. Clearly, this is the tier where he belongs, especially when I started checking with other sites and saw that RaceFans ranked him 20th and F1 Analysis ranked him 17th, so I decided I needed to correct mine. Having said that, I think the people attempting to argue Pérez was the worst or almost the worst regular this year are a tiny bit over the top. Logan Sargeant got swept by Alex Albon this year, a driver who himself was swept by Max Verstappen previously (which Pérez this year wasn't even in Verstappen's best year ever.) Lance Stroll was almost 23 points behind Fernando Alonso in speed percentile this year, a much larger gap than Verstappen's gap to Pérez, which was only 14 points (97.77 to 83.66), barely more than the gap between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in fact. Valtteri Bottas had the lowest speed percentile of any full-timer at 13.65 (no, shockingly it wasn't Sargeant.) Yet Bottas himself did beat Zhou in their head-to-head, which means neither of them rated very highly in my teammate model either. Clearly in my opinion those four were worse, and I also decided to leave all four of those off my list. I do not think any of them would have even won in the Red Bull and I think they would have been significantly slower than Pérez relative to Verstappen, and they probably wouldn't have secured second-place points finishes either. Yes, this is one of Pérez's most mediocre seasons, but I still think there are several drivers who would have not matched his raw achievement in his car even this year, even if there are a lot of others who would have done better.

Robin Shute (C-)

Shute's dynasty run in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb continued as he won this event for the third consecutive year and the fourth time in five years in 2023. By completing the course in 8 minutes and 40.080 seconds, he set the fastest-ever time on the full course in a car that is not electric, although Romain Dumas continues to hold the overall record of 7:57.148, which was set in an electric car in 2018.

Kody Swanson (C)

Although he failed to win his eighth USAC Silver Crown championship in 2023, the most dominant and consistent driver in Silver Crown history did finish a close 2nd in the championship to Logan Seavey. In so doing, he has now finished in the top two in the championship for the tenth consecutive season, which is utterly ridiculous. Even more impressively, he has both led the Silver Crown division in wins and won at least three races every single year in that timespan with the exception of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, which had only five races, two of which were won by Kyle Larson, who might not have been there if well, you know. For the second year in a row, Swanson and Seavey tied for the most wins with three. They're very evenly matched in Silver Crown with Swanson beating Seavey for the championship by a mere 41 points in 2022 and Seavey beating Swanson by only 7 points this year. Still, I've got to go with Seavey as the superior driver because although Swanson might be the best Silver Crown driver in history, he has rarely done much in the other two USAC divisions while most of the greats win in all of them. Perhaps ten straight top twos is enough that it should make me reconsider though.

Jordan Taylor (C)

As I stated earlier in the David Malukas entry, I do think Taylor has started to settle into complacency in recent years. Although I was glad to see him finally cross over into NASCAR (something I've been hoping to see for years), I honestly expected him to do a little better in his NASCAR starts than he did (particularly since he was assisting with Hendrick Motorsports's Garage 56 NASCAR-esque Le Mans entry this year) and was surprised at how much he struggled with restarts when filling in for Chase Elliott at Circuit of the Americas, particularly considering how fast William Byron was there. I also expected him to show a bit more in his Xfinity Series appearances than he did considering A.J. Allmendinger had dominated many races for Kaulig Racing. He certainly wasn't bad, but he also isn't as electrifying as he was 5-10 years ago when he drove for his father Wayne. I wonder if that may be part of why he is returning to his father's team. In his IMSA starts, he was still very good but his teammate Antonio García was better in most categories. García was the fastest regular in the GTD Pro class, albeit with a curiously low speed percentile of 69.69, but Taylor at 64.75 wasn't far behind and ranked 4th of the ten class regulars in speed. García also beat Taylor with 3 natural races led to 2, a 3-3 lead change record to 2-4, and 1.22 lead shares to 0.51. Taylor did lead more than García and ranked 3rd in CRL with 1.11 only behind the co-champions, but the only category Taylor led this year was most fastest races, where he, Maro Engel, and Ross Gunn all tied with two. However, considering Engel only made three starts and I left Gunn off the list, this was definitely one of Taylor's weaker seasons since his breakout. Nonetheless, between his still-solid IMSA season (he did still extend his active streak for the most consecutive winning IMSA seasons to 13), his NASCAR crossovers, and his role as a Le Mans driver coach for legends elsewhere like Jenson Button and Jimmie Johnson, he still had an eclectic enough season that I felt it was worthy of recognition.

Dan Ticktum

Ticktum was the Formula E underdog equivalent of what Erik Jones was in NASCAR or David Malukas was in IndyCar although he's definitely harder to like than those other two. A mere year after Ticktum's Formula E teammate Sérgio Sette Câmara demolished Antonio Giovinazzi when he made his one-year Formula E stopgap after the end of his F1 career and before his eventual rookie Le Mans win, Ticktum himself blew out Câmara, beating him 28-14 in points and 8-3 in shared finishes, which allowed him to rank 32nd overall and 8th among Formula E drivers in my open wheel model in 2023. The five drivers directly ahead of him in my model were George Russell, Nick Cassidy, Carlos Sainz, Jr., Kyle Kirkwood, Tomoki Nojiri and the driver directly behind him was Christian Lundgaard. They all clearly had legit seasons (although Russell's was disappointing by his standards) so that implies that even though Ticktum drove for NIO 333, one of the weakest teams on the grid, he was clearly performing well. Although he only finished 17th in the championship, Ticktum still gave the team its best points finish since Oliver Turvey finished 10th in the 2017-18 season. Ticktum utterly demolished Câmara in terms of speed percentile by a margin of 34.57 to 18.71, and despite a car that slow, he actually made a pass for the lead after qualifying 4th at Berlin and taking the lead from polesitter Sébastien Buemi on the start. He didn't hold it for long though.

Germán Todino

Another pick that Ignacio (Rodríguez) recommended to me when I was trying to fill out my list, Todino is along with Ignacio (Montenegro) the other leading breakout driver in Argentinean touring cars. The 23-year-old driver finished third in Turismo Carretera, one of the oldest series in the world (this was the championship Juan Manuel Fangio won twice in the '40s before he even started F1.) Todino led all drivers on the circuit with four wins, and he seemed to be exploding into superstardom just as the season came to a close as he won three of the final four races in the season.

Renger van der Zande (81)

One of the oddities in this year's IMSA GTP class is how most of the championship-caliber teams had unusually large speed discrepancies between their regular drivers. While Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun were very evenly matched in other teams, most of the other powerhouse IMSA teams weren't, as the co-champion Pipo Derani had a series-best speed percentile of 69.85 to his teammate Alexander Sims's 50.59. Filipe Albuquerque ranked third in speed at 69.45, while Ricky Taylor was considerably behind at 55.85. I already mentioned the large gap between Connor De Phillippi and all his Rahal teammates. Finally and most shockingly, Sébastien Bourdais ranked second in speed at 69.51 while van der Zande was over 23 points behind at 46.34. That explains why I have rated van der Zande this lowly in case you were wondering. Having said that, even though I think that gap in speed prevents me from placing him any higher, I did still put him on the list while leaving Sims and Taylor off because van der Zande definitely had more substance than those other two. In fact, apart from speed, he wasn't very far off from Bourdais at all. Bourdais had a slightly better lead change record at 3-1 to van der Zande's 2-1, but van der Zande was actually slightly higher in both lead shares and CRL than Bourdais. For van der Zande, I had to do a relative balancing act figuring out how to weigh the fact that he was substantially slower than Bourdais but matched him in all the other statistics. When considering that I left off most sports car drivers who were significantly slower than their co-drivers I think this is the correct compromise, although you could justify placing him in the C tier also.

Dries Vanthoor (9)

The driver who I rated as the best sports car driver of 2022 had a shocking decline in form. After winning three consecutive championships in the GT World Challenge Endurance Sprint Cup, he and teammate Charles Weerts only finished third this time and only won one race. Granted, there's nothing wrong with being beaten by Ricardo Feller and Raffaele Marciello, who are both really great but I also didn't expect this. Vanthoor and Weerts did beat the other car driven by MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin pretty substantially and they beat the other two cars by an even larger margin, so they were clearly still performing well. I did list Albert Costa, who Vanthoor beat so I would be remiss to not list Vanthoor as well. Weerts did also finish third in the International GT Challenge with two wins in the 9 Hours of Kyalami and 8 Hours of Indianapolis, but those are admittedly the two least prestigious races in a series that even most sports car fans don't care about. I really struggle rating drivers like Vanthoor and others in the SRO Motorsports Group series because most of them don't provide lap times or lap leaders, so I may have downgraded him a tier too much, but I don't think he belongs in the top 100. He still had a better season than his brother Laurens though. Why was Laurens in the top 20 of the Autosport list? Beats me.

Frederik Vesti

Vesti led Formula 2 with six race victories, which enabled him to finish only eleven points behind the champion Théo Pourchaire but I think that inflates the actual measure of his performance. Four of Vesti's six wins came in reverse grid races, which were largely luck of the draw, while the two other championship contenders (Pourchaire and Jack Doohan) only won feature races that were based on qualifying. Furthermore, Vesti's teammate Oliver Bearman (who I considered listing) won four times as an 18-year-old rookie, while Vesti himself is three years older. I ultimately decided the win difference and the points difference was enough. Even though Bearman won more feature races than Vesti did, Vesti still arguably outperformed him in them as he had a 5-2 record in shared finishes in feature races against Bearman. That decides it I think. But I definitely think Bearman has the brighter future.

Zeb Wise

A winged sprint driver who just recently turned 21, Wise ended Tyler Courtney's streak of back-to-back championships in the All Star Circuit of Champions with a nine-win season. Since the series is shutting down and likely being folded into Kyle Larson's High Limit Series for 2024, Wise will go down in history as the final champion of the second-most famous winged sprint car tour. Although Courtney matched his win total (which is actually more wins than he had in either of his title seasons), he was unable to match Wise's consistency even though Wise is over eight years younger. Oddly, Wise and Courtney had the exact same number of top fives and top tens as well, which means it seems the main reason Wise won the title is because he started all 41 races to Courtney's 37. Most sprint car series like stock car series offer a lot of points just for starting even if you finish mid-pack, so that was probably enough to make the difference. Regardless, I choose Wise over Courtney primarily because it is more impressive to have a year like this at Wise's age than Courtney's.

Ricardo Zonta

After Zonta never lived up to the potential he originally showed after winning the F3000 championship and FIA GT championships in back-to-back years in 1997 and 1998 and is best known for a very mediocre F1 career, a couple decades later he has emerged as one of the biggest stars in Brazil's Stock Car Pro series, recently renamed from Stock Car Brasil. Zonta has now finished in the top five in the championship in four consecutive seasons, but I didn't place him on my list in either 2021 or 2022. I changed my mind this time because Zonta had his first three-win season in the series in 2023, including a win from pole in the penultimate race at Interlagos. His better-known ex-F1 compatriot Felipe Massa won both the races immediately before and after that one, his first wins anywhere since his ill-fated 2008 season. Although Massa actually ranked second amongst Stock Car Pro drivers in my model, I went for Zonta instead even though he did actually pretty badly in my touring car model this year because he had more wins, a better championship finish, and Zonta won two races from pole and also had a series-best five fastest laps. Zonta only ranked 131st in my model and 25th in Stock Car Pro because he tied Bruno Baptista 8-8, who is not good. However, when you consider that Zonta finished 4th in the championship while Baptista was only 16th, it seems like that's a fluke along the lines of Tyler Reddick losing to Austin Dillon rather than any accurate reflection of reality. Zonta was one of the drivers I almost cut, but I decided a 47-year-old having his most successful season in twenty years was too worthy to exclude.

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.