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Top 200 Drivers of 2023 (Part II)

by Sean Wrona

C drivers (150th-101st)

Yazeed Al-Rajhi

The Saudi Arabian finished second to Nasser Al-Attiyah in two FIA World Championships, the World Rally-Raid Championship, the series centered around the Pseudo-Dakar Rally (which this year took place entirely in Al-Rajhi's homeland - call it something else if you're not going to even race on the same continent, guys!) and the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. Neither series had particularly stellar competition, which is why I could not justify ranking Al-Rajhi in the top 100. However, he did finish a close second to Al-Attiyah in the Rally-Raid championship with two rally wins in Abu Dhabi and Morocco, and that was more prestigious as he did at least have to beat former World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb and former World Rallycross Champion Mattias Ekström, definitely two of the most successful drivers of the last twenty years, and both of them competed full-time with neither of them winning and Ekström didn't even finish better than 6th. While he rose to the competition to pose a significant challenge to Al-Attiyah in this championship, he only finished a distant second in the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, where he won only one baja in Italy while Al-Attiyah won four. This is certainly a rather niche motorsports category, and even more so now that the Dakar Rally has not even gone to Dakar since 2007, but I still thought Al-Rajhi was worthy of recognition. But just imagine if during the CART/IRL split, CART had decided to rename the Michigan 500 the Indianapolis 500 to cash in on the more prestigious race's name brand. Yeah.

Julien Andlauer

Andlauer had one of the most prolific years in sports car racing in 2023 as he competed full-time in the World Endurance Championship's LMGTE Am class for Dempsey-Proton Racing, the team co-owned by yes, Hollywood heartthrob Patrick Dempsey, full-time in the European Le Mans Series for the same team, and he also made six starts in the IMSA GTD class for Kelly-Moss with Riley. He won two races in the ELMS LMGTE class en route to a second-place points finish and one race in the WEC en route to a fourth-place points finish. However, my evaluation here was mostly based on his performance vs. his teammates. Although he lost the ELMS championship to the other Proton car, he was the fastest driver in the ELMS LMGTE class with a speed percentile of 93.79 to Alessio Picariello's 84.51, Zacharie Robichon's 60.63, Giammarco Levorato's 47.70, Ryan Hardwick's 35.03, and Christian Ried's 30.42. Because his two teamates Levorato and Ried were all among the three slowest of the six Proton ELMS drivers, I suspect this was a case of his teammates letting him down. In the WEC, he was teamed up with Mikkel Pedersen and Ried again, and he was once again the fastest driver on his team with a speed percentile of 75.28 to Pedersen's 59.58 and Ried's 12.50. Finally in IMSA he had a rotating cast of teammates, but he was again fastest with a speed percentile of 68.82, while his IMSA teammates had speed percentiles of 57.49 (Kay van Berlo), 43.51 (Alec Udell), 15.02 (Alan Metni), and 0.77 (David Brule.) The fact that Andlauer didn't win any championships doesn't really matter to me if he was faster than all nine of his teammates across three different series, and Picariello is also very good (I also placed him in this tier for a different reason.) Andlauer had one fastest race in the WEC and one in the ELMS, while he tied Brazilian stock car star Daniel Serra for the most fastest laps in ELMS with two and tied Fredrik Schandorff for the most fastest laps in IMSA also with two, even though Schandorff ran the full IMSA schedule and Andlauer did not. Admittedly, Andlauer ran the full ELMS schedule and Serra did not, which is one of the reasons I rated Serra slightly higher (but it was mostly because I consider what he did in Stock Car Pro slightly better than what Andlauer did in sports car racing, although Andlauer admittedly was very good throughout all sports car racing classes.

Justin Ashley

I don't really know how to evaluate drivers who compete in series that do not run on closed circuits at the moment, so I admit I always struggle to talk about both rally racers and drag racers, even though I am firmly convinced both of these belong on my lists (although I understand why a lot of people think that drag racers shouldn't.) I pretty much evaluated this by race wins and championships. I placed Matt Hagan in the top 100 because he tied for the most wins across all three of the premier NHRA car classes with six wins and also won the Funny Car championship, while I left Ashley out of the top 100 because while he also won six races in Top Fuel he failed to win the championship and ended up losing the title to the 59-year-old Doug Kalitta. In fact, Ashley only finished 4th in the championship for the third consecutive year and has not done better than that yet, although it does seem inevitable that he will eventually win a title. I also placed Erica Enders in this tier because she had fewer wins (four) but did win the Pro Stock championship, while I put Kalitta in my last tier because he only won three times but narrowly left Robert Hight out because he won four times but narrowly lost the Funny Car title to Hagan. I know I need to evaluate based on more than wins and championships, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet for this series. Granted, since all NHRA races now last for 1,000 feet, maybe the wins are literally the only thing that matters. What I will say is that a lot of peopple historically have had a lot more wins in a season than this year. John Force has won more races than six 7 times, Warren Johnson and Greg Anderson have done so 5 times, Enders herself has done so twice, and so on. It feels like most of this year's NHRA champions were average at best so even though Ashley tied for the most wins this year, I don't think it was enough to justify a top 100 placement.

Mikel Azcona (21)

This was a year when a lot of major league racing champions had shockingly mediocre followups. Stoffel Vandoorne won the Formula E championship in 2022 and this year failed to make my top 200 list, while I placed three other major league champions (Azcona, Joey Logano, and Will Power) in this tier. Some of these are not so shocking - Vandoorne and Power won their titles more through consistency than raw pace and those seasons were overrated at the time - but both Azcona and Logano require a little more explanation. Azcona dominated the final season of the World Touring Car Cup (whose abbreviation confusingly was WTCR to reflect its usage of the TCR touring car regulations) in 2022 with four wins and he won the championship by a fairly massive margin of 337-254 while his teammate Norbert Michelisz finished 115 points behind and only won once in a race whose starting grid was determined by a field inversion. Now that I have finally completed my touring car model, I can tell you that last year Azcona ranked 3rd globally among all touring car drivers and 1st among WTCR drivers. This year, the WTCR was replaced by the very different TCR World Tour. Only two tracks: Hungaroring and Vallelunga were used in both the 2022 and 2023 season, while instead of having a tour strictly for international drivers, the TCR World Tour consisted of essentially nine full-time drivers (the stars from the previous World Touring Car Championship and WTCR) competing against domestic and regional drivers in their own minor-league TCR Series: TCR Europe, TCR South America, and TCR Australia. This time, the performance was almost inverted as Michelisz won the championship with four wins while Azcona won only one race and finished 5th in the championship, although this time at least it wasn't an inverted field race. Last year I placed Michelisz in this tier, so I guess it makes sense to place Azcona in this tier as well although I do think Michelisz's 2022 was probably better than Azcona's 2023. Michelisz was a little closer to Azcona in performance in 2022 than Azcona was to Michelisz in 2023. In 2022, Azcona had 3 TNL to Michelisz's 2, 2.67 lead shares to Michelisz's 1.67 and 3.67 CRL to Michelisz's 0.69. This year, Michelisz had 4 TNL to Azcona's 1, 3.67 lead shares to Azcona's 0.67, and 3.73 CRL to Azcona's 0.14. Azcona led only two laps in the entire season, but admittedly he did have one major season highlight as he passed championship-contender Rob Huff for the win on the last lap of the race at La Pedrera, which was the only last lap pass this season. Since Huff had a 3-1 lead change record, Azcona was the only driver to pass him for the lead all season. That alone may imply that I should have placed Azcona in a lower tier this year than I placed Michelisz last year. However, the gap between Azcona's teammate rating of .574 in 2022 and Michelisz's of .152 was significantly larger than the difference between Michelisz's rating of .414 and Azcona's rating of .125 this year. Additionally, the competition in 2023 was a little stronger than in 2022 because the powerhouse Cyan Racing shut down briefly in the middle of the 2022 WTCR season, so Azcona finishing 5th in points may be better than Michelisz finishing 4th in points last year (he lost the title by a smaller margin too.) Finally, Azcona was a lot closer to Michelisz in speed than Michelisz was to him last year, which I think was the deciding factor. Azcona had a series-high 7 fastest laps and his speed percentile of 74.30 was barely worse than Michelisz's 78.24, while Azcona's advantage was 75.77 to Michelisz's 66.89. Considering all this, I was certainly wrong to rank Azcona as low as 21st (which I think I did because of the collapse of the series) since I will be ranking Michelisz much higher than that this year. Having said that, I think I actually am more impressed with Michelisz because Azcona has never lost to a teammate before in a career that started in 2016 until this year and this year Michelisz dethroned the defending champion, which Azcona certainly did not do the year before. Regardless, the idea of two teammates having a massive discrepancy one year and then having a massive discrepancy in the exact opposite direction the following year is rare, and I felt it was worth going into greater depth here because it doesn't happen a lot.

Rubens Barrichello (67)

I was planning on doing a statistical table for Stock Car Pro, the series formerly known as Stock Car Brasil, because I do think it has one of the best touring car fields in the world, but I didn't get around to it. One of the issues is that the series doesn't even provide full results on its website, much less lap times. They do upload all their races to YouTube so I could have used that to at least calculate my leader statistics, but I didn't have time to watch all those races before I finished, so I may be a little off on some of these drivers. Regardless, the most famous and arguably most successful overall Stock Car Pro driver is continuing to deliver even past the age of 50. Now that I have calculated my touring car model, I can say that ranking him only 67th last year was insultingly low when he won the Stock Car Pro title, had an undefeated 15-0 record against his teammates, and was the 4th highest rated driver in my model for 2022, coincidentally one spot behind Azcona. I'll correct that when I lock in my overall top 200 lists for my book. This year, Barrichello did not have one of his better seasons as he only finished 7th in the championship, which is actually his worst championship result since his 2013 rookie season, but he still ranked 25th amongst all touring car drivers and 4th among Stock Car Pro drivers, so he was still very strong within the series. (Admittedly his Ferrari replacement Felipe Massa actually ranked 2nd in my model in that series and I didn't even list him.) Barrichello was still the highest-finishing driver on his five-car Full Time Sports team and he did score one win at Tarumã. However, it's worth nothing that result only came in a reverse-grid race, and I do have less respect for winning those races than the ones based on qualifying. Barrichello did still post winning records against all four of his teammates, including 7-6 against Matías Rossi (who is one of the best touring car drivers of the last 20 years, and another driver I placed in this tier), 9-6 against his rookie son Eduardo, 15-1 against a now-washed-up Tony Kanaan (who is younger than Barrichello and has not matched his longevity, but admittedly Kanaan was never as good as Barrichello on road courses to begin with), and 10-8 against Gianluca Petecof. Admittedly, Rossi won three times in a part-time schedule while Eduardo also scored his first win even though he was only 21 at the time, and the even younger Petecof was not too far behind Barrichello in points, so I would not be surprised if another driver takes over leadership of the team very soon.

Matt Bell

Although Bell competed in LMP3, the least prestigious of all sports car racing classes this year and he only won one combined race in his IMSA and European Le Mans Series starts, he was by far the most prolific passer for the lead in all sports car classes in 2023. LMP3 teams generally have one professional and one amateur driver. In IMSA, Bell drove for the two-car AWA operation, where he was the fastest of the four drivers, with a speed percentile of 79.49 to Wayne Boyd's 77.72, while the two amateur drivers: Bell's teammate Orey Fidani and Boyd's teammate Anthony Mantella only managed speed percentiles of 26.96 and 14.54 respectively. Even though the Boyd/Mantella car won twice and the Bell/Fidani car did not, the Bell/Fidani car did finish higher in the championship and Bell was clearly the best of the four drivers as he posted a 3-0 lead change record while the other three drivers combined for an 0-5 record. Fidani in particular had an 0-4 record himself, so he is pretty much solely responsible for Bell failing to win even though he blew out the rest of his teammates on performance. In the ELMS, Bell and his EuroInternational teammate Adam Ali both scored undefeated records, but Bell's was greater as he had a 4-0 record to Ali's 2-0. Ali was actually faster than Bell in ELMS competition with a speed percentile of 77.46 to Bell's 62.00, but Bell had more substance as he led the class with 2.67 lead shares while Ali's passes were much less significant and he only had 0.17 lead shares. Bell and Ali combined to finish second in the LMP3 class in ELMS with a win in the season finale at Algarve. They were only beaten by the champions Adrien Chíla, Alex García and Marcos Siebert, the latter of whom was almost single-handedly responsible for that result. I don't really care that the competition in the LMP3 class in general was so lousy and he won neither championship and only combined for one race win. A 7-0 lead change record across two different series on two different continents, each with a different set of teammates is quite solid by itself. Bell also finished third in the Asian Le Mans Series for Nielsen Racing alongside a different teammate Tony Wells and earned a win at Abu Dhabi. He had definitely one of the most eclectic and underrated sports car seasons in 2023.

Dorian Boccolacci

Boccolacci finished fifth in the sports car series Porsche Supercup, which I do awkwardly count towards my touring car model, where he ranked 49th among touring car drivers and 5th among Porsche Supercup drivers, directly behind Shane van Gisbergen in my model. In addition to posting his best Porsche Supercup points finish after finishing 6th and 7th in the championship the previous two years, he also claimed his first championship in the Porsche Carrera Cup France minor league series. While it was the third consecutive season he won five races, he finished second to Marvin Klein in both 2021 and 2022 and this year manged to beat him for the first time. Although I do enter the results from many of the Porsche Carrera Cup series into my touring car model, complete results have been harder to obtain for the French series because I'm not sure I can accurately determine which drivers are teammates since the series does not have coverage on either English or French Wikipedia, unlike the German, British, and Australian Porsche Carrera Cup series, which usually have much better coverage. If he did have a teammate and I included his French results, I imagine he would have come out even better in my model though.

Kyle Busch (C)

Busch's 2023 was very similar to his 2022 and in many ways it's hard to tell he even switched teams. Considering Richard Childress Racing does not have as fast cars as Joe Gibbs Racing, I'd say this season was a little better, but clearly it's close enough that Busch should remain in the same tier. For starters, he really does seem to have fallen off from his glory years in the 2010s. His speed percentile of 66.36 was the second-lowest of his entire Cup Series career, only barely nosing out his 65.48 mark by that metric. His eight natural races led ties for the worst of his career in 2007. His 1.39 lead shares was his third-worst performance in this metric, beating only his 1.13 in 2014 and 1.36 in 2020, and his 1.11 CRL is the worst of his career. I realize RCR lacks the speed that JGR conventionally has, but when you consider that he was taking over the car from Tyler Reddick, that comparison must be made. Although both Reddick and Busch had three wins, Reddick's season was better by a large margin. Reddick led the Cup Series with 3.67 lead shares in 2022, had 4 TNL to Busch's 2, had the most lead shares in 5 races to Busch's 1, led the most laps in 4 races to Busch's 1, had 4 fastest races to Busch's 1, and was slightly faster with a speed percentile of 68.48. The only metric by which Busch actually outperformed Reddick was fastest laps, which is not particularly relevant. One of the biggest fallacies among fans is judging drivers' current performance by their historical career results. Busch clearly isn't the driver he was if he is not coming even close to matching Reddick's previous year. I realize it takes a while to get accustomed to a new team after switching teams for the first time in 15 years and that may explain a lot of that, but the weird aspect of Busch's season is that he seemed very fast in the first half and then had a miserable and very mistake-prone second half, just like last year. I thought Busch's second-half decline in 2022 was solely due to the fact that he was a lame duck driver at JGR and they had a rather ugly divorce, but since Busch seemed to have the same trend of a fast start while stumbling to the finish this year, it seems like it might be something more intrinsic to Busch personally, like the fact that he struggles a bit more with the Next Gen car than he did especially with the Gen 6. The cars might have been a little slower too as Austin Dillon had his worst speed percentile of his career this year at 43.77, worse than his previous-worst mark of 45.12 in 2022. Busch is obviously still quite impressive to beat Dillon in speed by a full 21 percentage points and he does admittedly have stronger racecraft than Reddick does as Busch did blow out Dillon in their teammate head-to-head while Reddick lost to him last year (and Reddick again underachieved my expectation for him against Bubba Wallace this year.) Like Scott Dixon, Busch at his best seems to know how to manage a race better than anyone else, such as when he made the command decision to not pit at Talladega leading to his victory there. He employed a similar strategy at the Daytona 500 to lead the race in regulation before crashing on the final restart. Unlike Dixon, Busch can't stop making mistakes with so many spins and speeding penalties. He's still great with strategy but is struggling to maintain the consistency of his best years. Really, what Busch's move to Childress reminds me most of is Darrell Waltrip's move to Hendrick in 1987: the moment when a legendary driver begins to descend the ladder to become merely very good, with a significant loss in speed but an increasing focus on a tactical game that few others can match. I do think the Childress and Busch relationship should eventually become more fruitful since Childress knows how to train hotheads to develop a more consistent style, as he earlier trained Dale Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick to do. However, at this point in his career, I don't think Busch capable of putting together seasons as good as most of Earnhardt and Harvick's when they were there, so this might end up coming closer to resembling Jeff Burton's RCR stint.

James Calado (43)

There were a lot of people on social media who were outraged when Autosport named Lando Norris the best British driver of 2023. Since this was the first year when no British driver won a race in F1 since 2005, a lot of people felt Autosport should have looked outside of F1 to select the best British driver this year, and I do agree. However, it seemed that Calado was the driver a lot of those fans tended to fixate on because of his overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in that case I do not agree. Not all sports car wins are created equal and not all drivers play an equal role in obtaining them. While they did win at Le Mans, that was the only race where Ferrari won or even seriously contended in a year the Toyotas otherwise dominated as usual, so I have to put significant weight on that race, especially because the other Ferrari team actually beat them in the championship. I think both Calado's teammates Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi were much more responsible for the Le Mans win than Calado this year. Giovinazzi passed his teammate Miguel Molina shortly before the six hour mark and then Alessandro Pier Guidi made the pass for the win against Sébastien Buemi with five hours remaining after Buemi had previously dominated the race and made three of the first five passes for the lead, including passing Calado shortly after the halfway mark to give his Toyota team control before Pier Guidi took it back. In other words, Pier Guidi passed the driver who had earlier passed Calado. Calado did not make a pass for the lead all season while both his teammates did in that very race. Although there have certainly been times when Calado has been team leader, he wasn't this year. Admittedly, he did have a speed percentile faster than both teammates as his speed percentile of 68.15 nosed out Giovinazzi's 66.23 and blew out Pier Guidi's 54.77. However, when you consider the drivers for the other car, Antonio Fuoco in the other Ferrari was actually the fastest driver in the Hypercar class this year, and his car beat the Calado car in points as well, so it's clear there was more speed to be had. While I'll take Calado's season over either of Fuoco's teammates, I think his own season comes down entirely to the Le Mans win, where his two teammates delivered the stronger performances, which is why I don't even have him in the top 100. Even though I thought Lando Norris was overrated this year, he was certainly better than Calado, as were a lot of other British drivers, but we'll get to that.

Aaron Cameron

The best Australian driver you've likely never heard of, Cameron's primary credential was winning the Australian Drivers' Championship, the most prestigious open wheel series in Australia (a title whose previous champions include the likes of Lex Davison, John Bowe, David Brabham, Mark Skaife, Jason Bright, Scott Dixon, Rick Kelly, and Will Power.) However, that does deserve a few asterisks. Although Cameron won seven of the last nine races of the season to take that title, it must be noted that Joey Mawson, the two-time defending champion of that series, won seven of the first nine races before being suspended for the use of a fitness supplement. Presumably Mawson would have won that title otherwise and Cameron did not win any races until after this happened. To Cameron's credit, he did beat his teammate Jordan Boys, who finished second in the championship, by a staggering margin of 14-3, but Boys certainly hasn't been good in his Supercars appearances yet (Cameron has yet to make a Supercars start, but it seems inevitable.) However, none of that is why I listed him. I was much more impressed with Cameron's touring car performances than his open wheel performances even though he technically won an open wheel championship and failed to win the TCR Australia championship, the other series where he competed full-time. In TCR Australia, he won the second race at Symmons Plains and scored a class win in the second TCR World Tour event at Bathurst, where he finished second overall behind only the TCR World Tour champion Norbert Michelisz. Cameron only finished 4th in the championship, but he did beat both of his Garry Rogers Motorsports teammates Jordan Cox in 6th (who is also sneakily quite good) and Jason Bargwanna's son Ben in 7th. But the main reason I am rating him this highly is his performances in the shared TCR World Tour/TCR Australia events. In the entire TCR World Tour this year, there were only three drivers who made two or more on-track passes for the lead. Only one of them was a World Tour full-timer, Rob Huff. The other two were domestic Australian drivers who managed to outduel the international regulars on their hometown tracks, which definitely didn't happen for any of the other minor-league drivers in TCR Europe, TCR South America, or the Guia Race of Macau. One of the two drivers to make multiple full-time passes for the lead was Supercars star Will Brown and the other was Cameron. At the second Sydney race, Néstor Girolami started on the pole before Thed Björk and Cameron passed him on the start before Björk went off the track while leading. I did count that as a pass for Cameron because he passed the initial polesitter. He went on to lead 12 laps before Brown ran him down for the win. At the Bathurst race, he passed Michelisz at the start before Michelisz re-passed him. He and Brown were the only domestic drivers who really seemed to be legitimately competitive with the international touring car stars, but you'd expect that from Brown since he was for a while a Supercars title contender this year. I wasn't expecting that from Cameron at all. Cameron also ranked 21st among all touring car drivers in my model with a very high rating of .284. Considering there were 221 drivers who made sufficient touring car starts to be ranked this year, that is very high. Cameron ranked 3rd amongst all TCR drivers behind only the top two points finishers Michelisz and Yann Ehrlacher. Additionally, he ranked 2nd among full-time Australian touring car drivers behind only Chaz Mostert, who was the only driver to beat him for the 2021 TCR Australia championship. (He also ranked behind Zak Best but I'm just going to ignore that because he was a part-time #2 driver in the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000.) I can't rank him higher because he was a minor league driver and he didn't win the championship, and it's likely if Mawson hadn't been suspended he'd have had only the one TCR Australia overall win for the season, but he was the most underrated touring car driver of the year (unless you count Porsche Supercup as a touring car series, which is debatable.) I ranked him over drivers like Björk and Girolami for a reason.

Thiago Camilo

Camilo lost a tiebreaker to Ricardo Zonta for third in Brazil's Stock Car Pro Series after winning two early season wins at Goiânia and Tarumã. This marks the 16th time Camilo has finished in the top ten in the points standings in twenty seasons including four 2nd place finishes, five 3rd place finishes, and three 4th place finishes in the championship without ever winning a title. Now approaching 40, it seems unlikely he will ever win a title but he still had an impressive season. His teammate César Ramos finished only 11th in the championship and Camilo beat Ramos 12-8 in shared races this year, his largest margin of victory against Ramos since 2020 (they tied in both 2021 and 2022). That enabled Camilo to rank 24th this year among all touring car drivers this year, and 3rd in Stock Car Pro behind only Felipes Fraga and Massa. Despite losing the tiebreaker to Zonta, I ranked Camilo higher mainly because he had a rating of .277 in my model this year to Zonta's -.060, a huge difference. However, I did rank three Stock Car Pro drivers in the top 100 and he was not one of them, mainly because I think Camilo has had several better seasons than this in the past (this is only his eighth-highest rated season in my model.)

Matt Campbell (61)

Campbell sort of had the IMSA equivalent of James Calado's season this year. Campbell was the fastest of the four drivers for the new Penske Porsche operation in the GTP class this year with a speed percentile of 64.62 to Nick Tandy's 56.34, Mathieu Jaminet's 48.56, and Felipe Nasr's 44.58, but like Calado, he didn't seem to do much beyond that. Although Campbell did tie for the most poles with 2, had a fastest lap, and also had a fastest race, Jaminet by himself despite his speed seemed to have stronger performance than the rest of the team combined as he posted a 3-0 lead change record while the rest of the team combined for 1-3, 2 TNL vs. 1 for the rest of the team, 1.83 lead shares vs. 0.67 for the rest of the team, 1.75 CRL vs. 1.39 for the rest of the team, and so on. It is weird that Jaminet was the overall leader in most of the major categories in the GTP class this year with a below average speed percentile, but it didn't seem like the rest of the team did much. Even though Tandy was faster than Jaminet, I left him off because he did nothing else. However, the gap between Campbell and Nasr despite the large speed percentile gap seems narrower. Nasr actually earned a TNL at the Indy road course race by passing eventual champion Pipo Derani before Tandy beat him out of the pits to claim the win for himself and Jaminet. Campbell meanwhile made no passes for the lead all season and had an 0-2 lead change record despite being the fastest driver for the team, very much like Calado. This is not a new trend either, as in 2022, Jaminet led almost all categories when they were in GTD Pro together including beating Campbell in lead shares by a margin of 3.46 to 1.30 despite Campbell having a greater speed percentile of 71.75 to Jaminet's 58.63. It weirdly seems like Campbell is consistently better at bringing the speed while Jaminet is better at actually racing. I prefer the latter. With the two Penske cars finishing 4th and 5th, I couldn't justify including either Jaminet or Campbell's teammates, but I did decide that the vast difference between Campbell and Nasr in speed seriously outweighed Nasr making one pass for the lead that didn't even end up being the pass for the win. Regardless, Jaminet was clearly the leader of the team without question.

Paul-Loup Chatin

Chatin won the IMSA LMP2 champion co-driving with his amateur teammate Ben Keating. A lot of people were more impressed with Keating than Chatin this year mainly because he had one of the best years for an amateur driver ever. Keating actually led the class in natural races led, lead shares, CRL, and poles in addition to winning the WEC LMGTE Am championship the same season. Don't get me wrong. I get it, but I still couldn't justify Keating. Both his IMSA and WEC classes were relatively shallow classes with each team having a pro driver team up with one or two amateurs, and the amateurs typically start the race and battle each other before the pros take over the cars later in the event. Because the amateur drivers are not as good and more mistake-prone, that induces more passing when the amateurs are in the car than when the pros are, and that inflated Keating's leader statistics and made him look better than Chatin when he wasn't even close. Chatin was not the best driver in the LMP2 class, but he did post a speed percentile of 75.36, significantly better than Keating's 31.74, and just to put their performances in perspective, Keating was significantly slower than a lot of Indy NXT drivers in the class including Nolan Siegel (68.46), Kyffin Simpson (64.86), Christian Rasmussen (88.80), and Josh Pierson (59.40.) If Keating was significantly slower than a lot of Indy NXT drivers, did he really belong on this list? I do not believe so. An overachieving amateur is still an amateur. Chatin deserves most of the credit for the championship and that isn't all he did. Chatin also competed in the LMP2 class of the European Le Mans Series alongside teammate Paul La Fargue, and even though they only finished 5th in what was a very shallow championship battle (incoming IndyCar driver Simpson actually won the championship), Chatin was by far the fastest driver in the class with a speed percentile 82.26, while the next closest driver was Job van Uitert at 68.86. I realize Keating won two championships to Chatin's one and put up some big numbers, but pro-am classes have to be evaluated differently and a list like this is going to award the pros.

Louis Delétraz (53)

Delétraz was probably the closest miss in regards to making my top 100 list. You can make a strong case as he and teammates Robert Kubica and Rui Andrade won the WEC LMP2 championship with three wins out of seven races alongside teammates Robert Kubica and Rui Andrade. He was the fastest of the three drivers with a speed percentile of 86.07 to Kubica's 78.57 and Andrade's 20.56. Additionally, he also finished 3rd in the LMP2 Pro/Am class in the European Le Mans Series, where his speed percentile of 80.81 was faster than teammates Charlie Eastwood (68.00) and Salih Yoluç (47.07) but as with Ben Keating, Yoluç ended up leading almost all the passing and leading statistics as well as winning the most poles because that LMP2 division is also biased statistically in favor of the amateurs. His IMSA performances weren't so hot as he ranked right in between Filipe Albuquerque (69.45) and Ricky Taylor (55.85) in GTP speed with a speed percentile of 61.97, but he was closer to Taylor (who I left off the list) than Albuquerque (who I put in the top 100.) Additionally, in all his IMSA starts he failed to win, only collected two podiums, and had four DNFs in seven starts across both GTP and LMP2 with a combined 2-2 lead change record. He was however the second fastest driver in LMP2 behind only Mikkel Jensen. I know Delétraz has one of the biggest reputations among sports car drivers at the moment and he was really, really close for me to making the big list. Ultimately, I decided that like Campbell (albeit to a lesser extent) his speed was better than his passing and his passing was too lacking to make the list. Despite leading his team in the ELMS, Yoluç and Eastwood both ranked higher in CRL and Delétraz failed to make any passes for the lead, and that is a really shallow class. In IMSA, he was 2-2 with only a combined 0.25 lead shares. His performance was obviously highest in WEC where he won the title, so ultimately I kind of had to decide whether I wanted to list Kubica or Delétraz on my top 100 list and I went with Kubica instead. Despite not being nearly as prolific as Delétraz this year, Kubica led the way in the class with 2 natural races led, 2 TNL, and 1.50 lead shares, while Delétraz's one pass for the lead was nowhere near as pivotal in deciding the race as he was not the TNL at the Spa race he won, while Kubica's TNL at Fuji directly led to his win and he was also the TNL at Le Mans, even though they didn't win that race. They were both way better than all three drivers for the other Team WRT car, Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael, and Ferdinand Habsburg, who only finished 4th in points and Andrade/Delétraz/Kubica nearly doubled them with 173 points to their 94. Clearly, Kubica and Delétraz were the only drivers from that team worth listing this year but I do think Kubica was marginally better. Ultimately, I think I went with Kubica over Delétraz because of the adversity he faced upon recovering from his rallying crash. It was clear he was never as good after it as he was before it, and this is probably the best year he's had since the crash. Delétraz has had and likely will have better years in the future.

Lucas di Grassi (100)

The perennial Formula E star had won at least one race in seven of the first eight seasons, usually winning more than once. He had also never finished worse than 7th in the championship for the series's entire history. This year however, he dropped to 15th in points and failed to win. Did he have a drop in form or was it the car? (It was the car.) Mahindra Racing has won races before there, but in the last four seasons, they've only won once. Considering their recent streak of futility, di Grassi had a very good start winning the pole for the season opener in Mexico City and finishing 3rd, but he didn't finish 6th for the rest of the season. However, in my teammate model, you wouldn't notice he had a drop in form at all as he ranked very highly at .348, which placed him 11th among open wheel drivers and 4th among Formula E drivers, only losing out on a near-tie to Alex Albon, whose rating also rounded to .348 to the thousandths place. Could I really justify a top 100 placement for this considering he had his worst points finish ever? No, I can't, but he's still clearly good. di Grassi mainly ranked so high in my model because he beat Oliver Rowland 4-2 (Rowland was faster in qualifying though, and then in the middle of the season, Rowland was replaced by ex-F1 driver Roberto Merhi, who hadn't made any major league open wheel starts since his F1 season in 2015. di Grassi did sweep Merhi 4-0, but that was admittedly kind of to be expected since even though Merhi was quite solid and above average in my touring car model, that is almost entirely because he beat Carlos Muñoz 20-3 as a minor league driver. In the major leagues, Merhi has been a complete bust, so I don't know what I can really say for di Grassi in regards to sweeping a journeyman driver. Because of the tumult within the Mahindra team, the mid-season driver replacement, and the fact Merhi just hops from one series to another without seeming to get any stability anywhere (even though he was an F1 vet, last year he raced in Formula 2 and Super Formula Lights, the feeder series for Super Formula, and was part-time in both), di Grassi's year is kind of a hard season to evaluate. But this placement is what feels right to me.

Mattia Drudi

Alongside teammate Ricardo Feller, Drudi won the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup, one of the two most prestigious sports car championships in Europe outside of the World Endurance Championship. The Stéphane Ratel Organisation that sanctions the series does not provide lap times or lap leader data for its races unlike IMSA, WEC, or the European or Asian Le Mans Series, so I could not go into much detail to distinguish between Feller and Drudi in that series. Avery Hage did send me some derivative lap time data that was collected by The B Pillar (who I actually applied to work for earlier this year), but I couldn't get around to compiling those data by the time I had to finish this list, so I'm kind of rating Drudi on the seat of my pants here. Of course, there is one other way I can distinguish between Feller and Drudi. Both of them also competed in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, the premier German ex-touring car, now GT3 championship. Feller finished third in the championship and beat his eighth-place-finishing star teammate Kelvin van der Linde by a significant margin, while Drudi finished 26th in the championship behind his teammate Patric Niederhauser who was 23rd (but obviously Drudi had a much slower car than Feller.) Regardless, Feller was clearly better. To be fair, Drudi is really good as he did beat Niederhauser 4-2 in shared finishes, indicating he seemed to be much unluckier with 8 DNFs and a disqualification to Niederhauser's 6 DNFs, and he still has a remarkable 56-5 record and .206 rating in my touring car model, but again Feller's overall rating is .343. They're not close and clearly Feller was the linchpin of the team, and at age 23, he's even younger than Drudi is. However, I do think Feller was one of the most elite drivers in the world this year, so not being as good as him does not necessarily disqualify you from this list.

Chase Elliott (7)

Despite having what was almost unambiguously the worst season of his career, Elliott somehow managed to be the highest-rated NASCAR Cup Series driver in my teammate model for the fifth time (prior to this, he was the highest-rated driver every year from 2017 and 2020, although in most of those years he only barely beat Kevin Harvick.) My models do produce a lot of hilarious individual season results, particularly the stock car model, which does frequently seem to be much less accurate than the open wheel model, but usually I understand where they come from. Kurt Busch and Chris Buescher were the highest rated Cup drivers in 2020 and 2021 even though they clearly weren't the best, but I understand those because Busch spent most of 2020 blowing out a washed-up legend in Matt Kenseth, while Buescher spent most of 2021 blowing out a washed-up very good driver in Ryan Newman. This time I really can't understand it though. All three of his teammates are veterans who have at this point pretty much fully developed into whatever they're eventually going to be but none of them are anywhere near washed up. I suppose part of it is that Alex Bowman was injured and he did underachieve as a result of that, but why would that lead to Elliott being ranked higher than Kyle Larson or William Byron? After I looked at his teammate head-to-heads, it started to make sense. He beat Larson 12-10 in shared finishes, lost to Byron 12-14, and beat Bowman 18-2. Neither Larson nor Byron beat Bowman that badly, so if Larson, Byron, and Elliott all had similar records to each other (which they did) that ended up putting Elliott on top. I'm not sure why Elliott beat Bowman so badly, but it's worth noting that most of his best races including the brief stint he led the points came early in the season when Elliott was injured, and then almost immediately after Elliott returned from his injury, Bowman himself was injured and he seemed to struggle to recover more than Elliott did. The Bowman Elliott was competing against was much weaker than the Elliott that Byron and Larson competed against, in other words. That may explain all that. Having said that, this is one year I'm going to ignore my model's result. This was without a doubt Elliott's worst season as a Cup driver in my mind. While Byron and Larson were the two fastest drivers this year, Elliott's speed percentile of 63.45 was not only the worst of his career, it wasn't even close (his previous slowest speed percentile was 73.99 in 2019.) Elliott also had his fewest natural races led (7), his fewest lead shares (0.93), his fewest CRL (0.75), and this is the first season ever where he wasn't the fastest driver in a single race (most seasons he was the fastest driver multiple times.) And you can't say he was in any way lacking equipment this time because he was significantly better in all categories (including my teammate model) in years like 2017 and 2018 despite having cars that weren't championship-caliber, unlike 2023 when Hendrick clearly was championship caliber. I toyed with putting Elliott in the bottom tier of my list for a while, but I'll admit that him leading my model was the main thing that talked me out of it, and I also feel I should cut him a break because of his injury just as I did for Alex Bowman when I rated him C- last year when the numbers might not have been quite there (Bowman was not really worthy of consideration this year though.) While Elliott also went winless his first two seasons, he also had races that he should have won in both of those years and it's hard to think of any race he should have won in 2023. I think the #9 team may have been a little more conservative than the others as Elliott probably presumed (just as I did) that if he could put together a long string of consistent finishes, that would easily be enough to make the playoffs so I suspect they probably focused on that instead of winning and it didn't work. I still thought for almost the entire regular season that Elliott would make it on points and I was kind of shocked when he didn't, yet Elliott was one of the leaders in average finish this season for almost the entire season and he did have a better average finish than Larson despite being way slower than him the entire year. I think that proves that consistency really doesn't matter anymore as much as people think it does. Kyle Busch clearly proved the optimal strategy for making the playoffs in this championship format in 2015. Win and win and win, while Elliott's team seemed a little complacent that they were sure they would point in and then it didn't happen. I do wonder if Elliott's team was trying to play it safe because they were so far behind when they would have almost certainly won otherwise if they were going for wins. Regardless, it didn't work and Elliott missed the playoffs for the first time in his career, but I wouldn't say it was entirely his fault. Some things clearly were (like his suspension after the Coca-Cola 600) but it also seemed like the #9 team was weaker than the other teams even when Elliott wasn't in the car. When Corey LaJoie filled in for him at Gateway, he was slower than his regular Spire car, which was shocking. Josh Berry ran better in the races he filled in for Bowman than he did in the races he filled in for Elliott, implying the #48 team was faster than the #9. I thought Jordan Taylor's COTA run was a lot more mediocre than I was anticipating too. In addition to Elliott's issues, I think Alan Gustafson is getting pretty long in the tooth as a crew chief. This is now the fourth generation of car that he has had to engineer and it doesn't seem like he's been as good as setting up Next Gen cars as he was for either the Car of Tomorrow or the Gen 6, and he still is the second-most mistake-prone crew chief on the elite teams in terms of pit calls ahead of only James Small. Elliott was effectively eliminated from playoff contention after Gustafson ran him out of fuel at Watkins Glen and that seemed pretty inexcusable, but admittedly even ignoring the injury, he only barely deserved to be in the playoffs anyway. While my model hilariously ranked Elliott first, Ryan McCafferty's only ranked him 15th and Elliott is his favorite driver and even he made few attempts to defend his season. I know Gustafson won a championship with Elliott, but it seems like it is time for a change as the #9 car seemed to underachieve expectations no matter who was in the car, and it wasn't just Elliott. It doesn't look like that change will happen though.

Philip Ellis (83)

Ellis competed in 24 sports car races all over the world in 2023 and only won one of them. I still initially thought he belonged in this tier based on his IMSA accomplishments but as I wrote this, I realized I was probably wrong. Despite finishing only 12th in the IMSA GTD championship, he was the second-fastest driver in the class with a speed percentile of 76.88, which was faster than both Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers on the championship team. Furthermore, he made six passes for the lead in the GTD class this year, more than any other driver, and his 6-3 record had the same lead change percentage as Snow's 2-1, and Snow was clearly the best driver in the class. Like Matt Bell, I put him here primarily for the passing numbers but I will admit Bell's were more impressive and he had more wins across more different series. Considering Ellis did everything he did in one series and did not do much in any of the many other series he competed in, I think I now realize I should have put him in the C- tier instead of the C tier, but I decided to lock in my list before I started writing unlike in 2021 and 2022, when I kept updating my list as I was writing, so occasionally I'll make an error like this. That reminds me of this YouTube series I've been watching where there's this guy ranking all the #1 alternative hits of the '90s and he ended up wildly overrating Marcy Playground because he finished his list years before he started writing that portion. Yeah, this is my version of that.

Erica Enders (50)

I pretty much covered all of this already in the Justin Ashley entry. Enders did win the Pro Stock title as she usually does (this is her sixth championship in the last decade), but most of those years were better than this one as she only won four times while she won ten times last year, which is why I dropped her from the E- tier last year to the C tier this year. However, this is still better than 2021, when I placed her in the C- tier in 2021. While she won the same number of races that year as she did this year, that was the only time in the last five years she failed to win the title, so I think this is an appropriate placement (worse than the years when she significantly had more wins, but better than the year when she had the same number of wins but didn't win the title.) Again, I'm completely incompetent at talking about drag racing but I do think it's important and connected enough with the rest of the motorsports landscape (especially historically) that I need to recognize it on my annual top 200 lists as well as my overall top 1,000 list (see my 2021 write-up on Steve Torrence.)

Kévin Estre (17)

One of the world's best-known GT drivers made his prototype debut in the WEC Hypercar class for Penske's new Porsche team alongside teammates André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor. Estre was not surprisingly fastest of the three drivers who shared his car, posting a speed percentile of 66.88 to Vanthoor's 58.59 and Lotterer's 51.97. Although Estre was narrowly slower than the lead driver of the other car, Frédéric Makowiecki, who had a speed percentile of 67.20 to Michael Christensen's 46.07 and Dane Cameron's shockingly mediocre 36.14. I criticized Autosport several times in my first column for listing Vanthoor instead, but I suppose they did that because he had a pass for the lead and the other five drivers did not. I do agree that Vanthoor was the second best of the six drivers as the Estre/Vanthoor/Lotterer did finish higher than the other Penske car in points, but they also only finished 6th and 7th in the championship and hardly contended at all, so they've clearly both had better seasons and I didn't really think I could justify listing both. I think part of why I listed Estre instead was his reputation (he's pretty consistently been the team leader for every sports car team he has driven for), partly his greater speed, and partly also because Estre also set the fastest average speed in the IMSA GTD Pro class in the Petit Le Mans, where he carried Klaus Bachler and Patrick Pilet to second place. Admittedly, Vanthoor did win at Sebring with the same teammates but he had a far worse speed percentile there at 50.56. Even though Vanthoor did get a win and Estre didn't, I think Estre was clearly better.

Antônio Félix da Costa (47)

da Costa has been one of Formula E's consistent perennial stars and most years he usually throws in a sports car or touring car win or two as well. Normally, he is a lock for my top 100 lists, but I don't think he got it done this time. First of all, his ninth place finish in the Formula E championship is his worst since the 2017-18 season, and he got beaten pretty badly by Pascal Wehrlein, who finished 4th in the championship (and led it for a while), won three races to da Costa's one, beat him 149-93 in points, and 9-4 in finishes. As a result, Wehrlein ranked 7th overall and 2nd in Formula E in my teammate model while da Costa ranked 53th overall and 15th in Formula E. There are a bunch of drivers who beat him in my model who I didn't list. Granted, there is more to life than finishing positions and da Costa was a lot closer to Wehrlein in a lot of other metrics. Surprisingly, da Costa actually beat him in speed (59.09 to 58.56), but admittedly Wehrlein beat him in almost every other category with a 5-2 lead change record to da Costa's 4-4, 2.10 lead shares to da Costa's 1.40, and 1.81 CRL to da Costa's 0.40. I think da Costa was close enough to Wehrlein in both speed and passing that he shouldn't be off the list entirely, but he also shouldn't be anywhere near Wehrlein (who even himself wasn't the best Formula E driver this year.) While there's nothing wrong getting beaten by Wehrlein, who is clearly one of the most underrated drivers of the last decade, his WEC performances are rather more baffling. da Costa was a late entry in the WEC Hypercar class driving for Hertz Team Jota with teammates Will Stevens and Yifei Ye, and shockingly he was the slowest of the three, with Ye leading the team with a speed percentile of 60.32 to Stevens's 50.53 and da Costa's 45.22. Considering Stevens is generally regarded as one of the worst F1 drivers of the last decade, it's weird he was faster than da Costa, who is often regarded as one of the best drivers to not compete in F1 in the last decade. Having said that, I didn't decide to dock him for that since a part-time Hypercar team just didn't seem relevant enough to weigh that heavily against his full-time Formula E season, which was still pretty good if a little more underwhelming. But probably not any more or less underwhelming than what Will Power or Joey Logano or Kevin Harvick were doing.

Antonio García

García was probably the second-best full-time driver in the IMSA GTD Pro class in 2023 when considering performances only in that series (although it's easy to argue Jules Gounon was better overall when considering performances in other series as well.) García was the fastest driver in the class, but he only had a speed percentile of 69.69 in a class that was admittedly very even. He did outperform his teammate Jordan Taylor in most passing categories as he had three natural races led to Taylor's two, a 3-3 lead change record to Taylor's 2-4, and 1.22 lead shares, which ranked third in the class while Taylor only ranked eighth with 0.51 lead shares. Admittedly, Taylor did lead more than García according to CRL, he had two fastest races to García's one, and both drivers had one TNL and one race where they led the most laps. While Taylor and García were certainly more even than the Jack Hawksworth/Ben Barnicoat or Ross Gunn/Alex Riberas teams, García clearly had the slight edge.

Jules Gounon (74)

Gounon had one of the most prolific sports car seasons in the world in 2023, but I couldn't help thinking that he was carried by his teammates in most of the races he won. Gounon won eight races and two championships in 2023, including winning the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with Timur Boguslavskiy and Raffaele Marciello with two wins in that series, finishing second in the IMSA GTD Pro class and leading the class with four wins alongside teammate Daniel Juncadella, winning the Intercontinental GT championship single-handedly with a rotating cast of teammates including winning the season-opening Bathurst 12 Hour, and winning a race in British GT as well. I realize he did make the Autosport Top 50 only one spot behind Marciello, who also collected eight wins in a wide variety of series, but I don't think they were even close. For one thing, Gounon had a speed percentile of 42.77 to Juncadella's 50.61; he was the third-slowest of the ten full time drivers in the GTD Pro class, faster than only Klaus Bachler and Patrick Pilet. He also only ranked 11th in lead shares behind two drivers that ran part-time (Jordan Pepper and his teammate Maro Engel.) Half his wins came in IMSA this year, but he does not appear to have been one of the main standouts in his class and it seems like he and Juncadella were lucky to win as often as they did. However, even though Juncadella outperformed Gounon in IMSA, I still rated Gounon higher for the rest of his accomplishments. Although Gounon did dshare in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance championship with Marciello, I think Marciello was the main reason the team won that championship because not only did he win the GT Endurance championship, he also won four races in the series's sister championship, the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint championship without Gounon, indicating he was clearly the linchpin on that team. His Intercontinental GT championship was probably his most impressive as he did have a rotating cast of many teammates yet came on top and won that championship single-handedly, although it's worth noting he only won one race in that series while the second to fifth place drivers in points (Luca Stolz, Dries Vanthoor, Philipp Eng, and Sheldon van der Linde) all won twice. Finally, in British GT, Gounon did finish 6th in the championship and beat Marciello who finished 7th. Both of them won one race each, but they were hardly dominant in a class that is not exactly the pinnacle of international GT racing. For all these reasons, despite his many wins I kind of think Gounon was the most overrated sports car driver of the year. He wasn't bad by any means, but I think for the most part his teammates were better than he was.

Romain Grosjean

Whenever anyone discusses the most overrated drivers in IndyCar these days, the two drivers most frequently cited are Grosjean and his former teammate Colton Herta. I understand why people criticize them, but I do not agree. Because of his F1 experience, Grosjean is by far the most famous driver in IndyCar right now. With 1.4 million followers on the Platform Formerly Known as Twitter, he has six times as many as the next-most followed full-time driver Marcus Ericsson. Because F1 has such a larger profile than IndyCar any driver who passed through there - even drivers who didn't do much of anything like Ericsson - will have a larger profile than even IndyCar legends (Grosjean has about ten times as many followers as Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden.) As a result, I think a lot of people (both drivers and fans) wanted to see Grosjean taken down a peg. It seemed the other drivers really hated him - Newgarden and Graham Rahal especially and he didn't seem popular among team personnel either. Whenever a driver is the most popular or most famous or most overexposed but isn't the best, haters will come, like the many NASCAR fans who argue Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was one of the most overrated drivers in NASCAR history when he was actually underrated or the people saying the same things about Chase Elliott today (this year, I would agree, but usually no.) But Junior and Elliott were good and so is Grosjean (no, he's obviously not on either of their levels.) If anything, the criticism Grosjean received was so sharp and so swift that I'm tempted to say he was the most underrated driver in IndyCar this year, not the most overrated. I saw people literally comparing him to the likes of Nikita Mazepin this year. Come on. Grosjean's season started out with a bang when he won the pole at St. Pete. Although Scott McLaughlin beat him out of the pits on the first green-flag pit cycle, Grosjean beat McLaughlin on the next pit cycle and seemed to be poised to win before McLaughlin wrecked him. In two of the next three races he made passes for the lead, being the only Andretti driver to take the lead on track at Texas and trading the lead back and forth with eventual winner McLaughlin at Barber, and he had back-to-back 2nd place finishes at Long Beach and Barber as well. At that point, it seemed inevitable he was going to win, but immediately after that, his season started to go off the rails. Because Grosjean was running so well at the start of the season, Andretti offered him a contract renewal and he signed it but Andretti team officials did not. As a result, when he had a string of crashes later in the season and only posted a single top ten finish in the last thirteen races, Andretti now decided he was dispensable and refused to renew his signed contract. It was a real dick move - almost as bad as what Juncos Racing did to Callum Ilott, but it seemed very few garage insiders really liked him at all and that he was one of the few drivers it was considered acceptable to dunk on for any reason and that may have done him in more than his lack of performance, because his performance was good. There are too many results fundamentalists who argue that only finishes - particularly top tens - matter and any metrics of performance besides the finish do not. Grosjean was the best driver at Andretti by a lot of these metrics. He ranked third in natural races led, second in lead change percentage, fourth in lead shares, tied for fourth in TNL with two (including the season finale where he randomly blasted past Pato O'Ward after a season of futility), and was one of eight drivers to tie for the most poles with two. He was also the fastest Andretti driver this season with a speed percentile of 60.30 to Herta's 58.26 and Kyle Kirkwood's 57.10, although admittedly they were all close. Since he only ranked 10th in speed and outperformed that significantly in almost every other category, I would say he drastically outperformed the quality of his cars in the races, but that's a double-edged sword as that probably also explains why he crashed so much. Almost the only categories where Herta and Kirkwood actually beat Grosjean were my teammate model (where Grosjean was 10th at .098 while Herta was 6th and Kirkwood was 8th) and the actual points standings, but that is admittedly mostly Grosjean's fault as he had five crash DNFs while the other two drivers had only two. Having said that, even though I think all three drivers should have been retained, if they had to drop one of them, I will admit they made the right choice. Herta and Kirkwood clearly have a future while Grosjean's best seasons are probably behind him. It's easier to teach an erratic but fast driver how not to crash at a younger age while Grosjean hasn't seemed to get any better even in his late 30s. Additionally, I suspect there was probably a larger gap between his performance and his salary expectations than there was for the other two. Having said that, replacing him with Marcus Ericsson? Grosjean outperformed Ericsson in every single category I tracked except points, wins (and Ericsson lucked into his win), fastest races, and speed percentile. All those can solely be explained due to the fact that Ericsson had a faster car. Grosjean seemed to be better in all the categories that had more to do with driver performance than car performance. There is no doubt in my mind Grosjean is better than Ericsson. He's always been ahead of him in my model. I remember when they were both in F1 that the usual consensus was that Grosjean was good and Ericsson was bad. I do kind of see what Andretti is doing though. They're hoping that Ericsson can teach Herta and Kirkwood consistency, which Grosjean certainly can't. If Ericsson's steady hand can turn Herta or Kirkwood into championship contenders, that's probably more of a gain than swapping Grosjean for Ericsson is a loss. I still didn't think Grosjean should be out of the series, and I would have been happy to see him take over any of the available rides except the one he got. Ilott was the only driver who I thought Grosjean shouldn't replace in this one ugly, ugly silly season but that's what happened. I wouldn't wish driving for Juncos on anyone, but I could see him performing better as unambiguous team leader (although his results will almost certainly be worse even if he does perform better.) I could also see him wildly overdriving to compensate for the team's frequent lack of speed and crashing too much. I will say this: Ilott swept Agustín Canapino in all their shared finishes in 2023 and I don't think Grosjean will repeat that feat.

Maximilian Günther

For a while, I was absolutely certain I was going to have Günther in my top 100. After all, I had ranked his teammate Edoardo Mortara highest among all Formula E drivers last year and eighth overall and this year Günther finished 7th in the championship with 101 points while Mortara only finished 14th with a mere 39 points, but I think that vastly inflates the gap in their performance. What really caught me off guard this year was that despite all that, Mortara still ended up with a higher teammate rating than Günther. He ranked 34th overall and 9th in Formula E with a rating of .142 while Günther only ranked 37th overall and 10th in Formula E, and he was only barely ahead of Romain Grosjean and Will Power who I also rated here. I certainly wasn't going to list Mortara after such a drop in performance, but my model gave me pause on my placement of Günther, especially because he only finished 7th in the championship and didn't also double up with some sports car accomplishments the way many Formula E drivers historically have done. Günther did crush Mortara in most statistics, including ranking 8th in lead shares with 1.09 and 5th in CRL with 1.10, while Mortara only ranked 11th and 17th in those categories with 0.05 in each, and he had the edge in speed with a speed percentile of 59.09 to Mortara's 49.05, and he did win a race while Mortara did not. However, Mortara did beat him in lead change record as well as he did have an undefeated 1-0 record while Günther had a losing record at 1-2. But the main difference between them was really that Mortara had seven DNFs to Günther's two. Had they had the same number of DNFs, it's plausible that Mortara still could have beaten Günther like everyone would have expected since he did win their head-to-head 5-3 and he did seem to have more bad luck. Although Mortara did crash more with four crash DNFs out of seven total DNFs, Günther crashed in both of his and didn't seem to have nearly the amount of mechanical failures. As a result, I think you can count this one as a close miss. Mortara certainly doesn't deserve to be listed as Günther generally outperformed him, but I don't think he outperformed him by as much as he looked and his overall season didn't seem quite worthy of a top 100 placement compared to a lot of open wheel drivers in other series.

Kevin Harvick (C)

Harvick's final season in the NASCAR Cup Series was pretty good and certainly better than most other drivers' final seasons as he did improve on his 2022 performance slightly even though he and the entire Stewart-Haas team failed to win in 2023. Harvick's 1.09 lead shares and 0.57 CRL, 8 natural races led, and 9-11 lead change record were very similar to his 2021 numbers but his speed and his performance against his teammates had a precipitious decline in his later years. Every year from 2018 onward, he declined in speed and that trend continued into his final season. Harvick's speed percentile of 63.40 was slightly lower than his 65.14 from the previous year, and both of those were his two slowest seasons since his dismal 2009. His rating in my model this year was .146, which ranked 9th among full-time Cup drivers, slightly worse than his 2022 number of .155, but both seasons were substantially worse than his ratings from 2010 to 2021, when he had a teammate rating >= .259 every single season. I do think when you consider that both his speed percentile and teammate model performance were substantially worse in 2022 and 2023 than in 2021 that Harvick fits a little better in this tier than the C+ tier, even though I do think he improved a little in performance while his teammates and especially Ford in general got worse. It's hard to remember now but early in the season Harvick definitely looked like the top Ford driver at a time when the Penske drivers and Chase Briscoe especially were having an unexpectedly slow start. Harvick rated quite highly in lead shares early on and had the fastest speed among all Ford drivers for most of the regular season until Chris Buescher overtook him at the regular season finale in Daytona, where he also passed him for the win. Harvick then overtook Buescher in speed again briefly before Buescher overtook him for good and would lead all Ford drivers for the rest of the season upon Harvick's astonishing collapse in the Bristol Night Race. Harvick did considerably outperform his three teammates Aric Almirola, Briscoe, and Ryan Preece still as he had roughly twice as many lead shares as the other three drivers combined, but he only ranked 13th in lead shares, which remains unusual for him. His CRL rank of 18th was even worse and Almirola and Briscoe both shockingly beat him in that category due to dominance on drafting tracks. Still, with Harvick both 9th in my model and in Ryan McCafferty's, there's still a solid case to be made he belonged in the top 100, especially since I did place nine Cup drivers there. What convinced me otherwise was Harvick's unusually unclutch performance in races. Harvick had an 0-4 record on the final lead change of the race, getting passed by William Byron at Darlington, Martin Truex, Jr. at Loudon, Buescher at Daytona, and Ryan Blaney at Talladega. For a driver nicknamed "The Closer" to be the biggest choker of the year is not that worthy of praise. At Talladega, he even lost to Blaney despite having an illegal car. It seemed like Harvick still had the ability to get good runs out of mediocre cars out of the time, but it seemed like he was slowly losing the ability to have great runs (with the notable exception of the first Phoenix race.) At some point, it seemed like he had lost the drive to race and he missed out on advancing to the second round of the playoffs after legitimately finishing five laps down at Bristol in what might have been the worst run of his career (when it would have been very easy to advance if he'd had a typical run.) It seemed like he had given up on caring at that point, which indicates that he definitely picked the right time to retire. It was still a good season but certainly not a great one, but admittedly, it's very impressive that Harvick is the only driver who has driven for multi-car teams his whole career who has outperformed every single teammate he's ever competed against for over 20 years. And it's definitely frustrating that Josh Berry and Noah Gragson have been picked to replace Harvick and Almirola when there were so many better options. Without Harvick, Stewart-Haas's lineup will contain one currently average driver and three currently below average drivers. SHR looks like it's going to enter a death spiral. Berry is the worst full-time replacement for a retiring legend since at least when Travis Kvapil replaced Ricky Rudd in 2008.

Colton Herta (54)

One recent trend at the team formerly known as Andretti Autosport and now known as Andretti Global has been the seeming inability for any of the team's drivers to achieve a level of sustained stardom. Every few years, a new Andretti driver seems to emerge as IndyCar's hottest breakout star. In the early 2010s, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay. In the late 2010s, it was Alexander Rossi. In the early 2020s, it was Herta. But what all these drivers seemed to have in common is that they were all strong championship contenders for two or three years who looked for a while like they would all be amongst the most dominant drivers of their time before fading into anonymity sooner than it seems like they should have. Although Herta was still the highest Andretti points finisher in IndyCar, he matched his career-worst championship finish from 2022 with another 10th place points finish and only beat his new teammate Kyle Kirkwood by four points. Worse yet, this is Herta's first full season ever when he failed to win. For a driver touted as America's Great White Hope for future F1 stardom only a year or two ago, it feels like he's never been more irrelevant and it's difficult to figure out why. A part of it no doubt is that the Andretti cars didn't seem like they were the best cars on any track type since the Ganassi cars overwhelmingly dominated on the road and street courses while the Penske cars and to a lesser degree the McLaren cars dominated on ovals. However, the team certainly had qualifying speed as Herta won two poles, Romain Grosjean won two poles, and Kyle Kirkwood won one. For a team to win five poles and only two races seems to indicate that all the drivers were lacking in racecraft (with the possible exception of Kirkwood.) Considering the amount of hype he got, he really should be the unambiguous leader of his team like Pato O'Ward is, but that didn't happen this year. Grosjean narrowly beat Herta in most categories beating him with 4 natural races led to Herta's 3, a 3-2 lead change record to Herta's 2-2, 2.06 lead shares to Herta's 1.38, and a speed percentile of 60.30 to Herta's 58.26. Herta was actually last of the three good Andretti drivers in CRL, although they were almost tied with Kirkwood at 1.06 to Grosjean's 1.02 and Herta's 1.01. Considering Kirkwood was a second-year driver and Grosjean was just fired, that does not look good. Besides only barely beating Kirkwood in the points standings, the only category Andretti led was my teammate model where he was actually pretty good. He did rank 22nd among all open wheel drivers and 6th among IndyCar drivers this year with a rating of .223. This implies to me that he is actually trying to learn how to be consistent, although it might not be worth it as it seems he gained less in consistency than he lost in speed, which is probably part of the reason he only finished 10th in points despite only having two DNFs. He fell rapidly through the pack at both Road America and Mid-Ohio after winning poles, resulting in 5th and 11th place finishes and he only got one podium all year. One of Herta's main issues is that it still doesn't really seem like he's figured out how to conserve his tires. At times he seems like a fifth-year rookie, but he no longer has the speed to justify that, and this is by far the slowest season of Herta's career to date. Even though there's no doubt in my mind he's still better than a lot of F1 drivers (Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, and Daniel Ricciardo are the only drivers rated higher than him in my model) he'll never make it because he'll never get the Superlicense points. But is he the most overrated? No, I would say he is not (Marcus Ericsson and Rossi are in my opinion the most overrated drivers, not Herta and Grosjean.) He has a blinding speed that he is still often unable to control, but a lot of drivers don't have that. Even though he didn't win this year, I still would expect him to win every season until he proves otherwise, although the fact that both Rossi and Hunter-Reay had sudden inexplicable falloffs after they had brief power runs for the same length of time does give me pause. I think Herta is clearly more talented than both of them and will still go on to the better career, even if he will certainly underachieve his massive $7 million a year contract, which makes him the highest-paid driver in the series. It's a big comedown for all the people who saw him as a future F1 star that Herta now exactly looks like the modern American version of Paul Tracy, but there are worse things to be. Tracy did eventually win a title and it still wouldn't surprise me if Herta does so someday.

Nico Hülkenberg

Hülkenberg made an unexpected return to Formula One this year after being mostly rideless for three years but still unexpectedly outperformed his teammate Kevin Magnussen despite Magnussen having more recent full-time experience. Despite starting the year swept by Magnussen 4-0 in shared finishes, Hülkenberg came from behind and won their teammate head-to-head 8-7 in addition to finishing 16th in points with 9 to Magnussen's 19th in points with 3 and posting a speed percentile of 25.84 to Magnussen's 16.75. All that is pretty embarrassing for Magnussen considering he had been racing continuously in F1 with an IMSA gap year in between while Hülkenberg had only made five F1 starts in between and had mostly served as a reserve driver for Aston Martin. Hülkenberg did underachieve his expectation a little because his overall rating in my model was .137 to Magnussen's .018; as a result, Magnussen did actually beat Hülkenberg in my teammate model this year .104 to .051, which placed Magnussen 36th overall and 11th among F1 drivers, while Hülkenberg was 45th overall and 14th among F1 drivers. Neither really knocked me out by any means and I wouldn't be against either driver being replaced. The fact that there are no new F1 drivers in 2024 is kind of a disappointment when there were so many drivers who were mediocre to awful this year, but while I would say Hülkenberg and Magnussen were both pretty mediocre by F1 standards, I think they did still both have good enough seasons to be worthy of placement on this list, although Hülkenberg is certainly a marginal choice for the C tier and Magnussen is certainly also a marginal choice for the C- tier.

Brad Keselowski

Although I did place Chris Buescher in my top 100 this year and left his owner-teammate Keselowski out, please do not come away with the impression that the gap between them has been massive. While it's kind of funny that the previously-unheralded Buescher has reeled off four wins at the same time Keselowski had his first two winless seasons since 2010, he's only barely been better than Keselowski by some metrics. In 2022, Ryan McCafferty actually had Keselowski ahead in his model, ranking him 21st to Buescher's 23rd, mainly because he was better at making passes throughout the field than Buescher was. I did not agree and put Buescher in my top 200 last year and left Keselowski out mainly because Buescher exceeded expectations while Keselowski failed to live up to his (the same reason why this year, I have Kyle Kirkwood in my top 100 and left Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean out even though they all had about the same performance.) Even this year when Buescher was for a brief period one of the hottest drivers on the circuit, Ryan had him only barely better, ranking him 11th to Keselowski's 12th, and the gap between them in Brad's favor was greater in 2022 than the gap between them in Chris's favor was this year. Ryan also has a metric called XDW that measures each driver's expected wins based on the level of their performance. By this metric, Keselowski beat Buescher .5884 XDW to .2863, while this year Buescher beat Keselowski 1.3012 to .9619. Combining the two years, Buescher would be expected to have 1.5875 wins to Keselowski's 1.5503, a near dead heat yet Buescher ended up with 4 wins to Keselowski's 0, making him almost certainly the luckiest driver on the circuit of late, and you can tell that if you actually look at his wins. Buescher took the lead in the 2022 Bristol night race in the pits after Keselowski had had a much more dominant run before popping a tire. In this year's summer Daytona race, Keselowski pushed Buescher to the win on the final restart. It's easy to see how with a few small tweaks both of those could be inverted giving Brad and Chris 2 wins each, which would be pretty commensurate with Ryan's data. I do think the gap between them was larger in Buescher's favor than Ryan does however because of a lot of the other statistics I cover. For one thing, Buescher was unexpectedly the fastest Ford driver this year, beating all the Penske and Stewart-Haas drivers, which is not something I think a lot of people would have predicted going into the season. Keselowski was close in speed but Buescher beat him 64.66 to 63.14 and Keselowski ranked behind Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick in speed too. Furthermore, Buescher had the best lead change percentage of the season at 11-7 while Keselowski had a losing record at 16-17. In addition to being the better passer for the lead, Buescher was also significantly more clutch in addition to being significantly more lucky. Buescher had a 3-0 record on the final lead change of the race while Keselowski was 0-2. And Buescher once again beat Keselowski in their teammate head-to-head 19-13. Since Keselowski is still the higher-rated driver in my model, that ranked Buescher second in my model for the season while Keselowski only ranked 19th (and he was behind some surprising drivers including Corey LaJoie, J.J. Yeley (?!), Ryan Preece, and Austin Dillon.) To me, those differences are far too large to not put them into separate tiers and I agree with the conventional wisdom that Buescher was clearly better than Keselowski this year. However, I agree with Ryan that it was pretty close and they were close in a lot of my other metrics. Buescher narrowly beat Keselowski in lead shares (1.36-1.29) but Keselowski was stronger in CRL (1.25-1.00.) I suspect the main reason Buescher's performance is better is that he is good on road courses while Keselowski isn't and they now make up a larger percentage of the schedule. Admittedly, Buescher hasn't really battled for the lead much on road courses at all, so almost all his data on passing for the lead as well as his wins have come on ovals, so I'm tempted to say he's been slightly better than those as well. But still, they are close and Buescher will be towards the bottom of my top 100 list while Keselowski is towards the top of this one. Don't let the win totals fool you.

Harry King

King won the most races in Porsche Supercup this year with three but lost the championship to his teammate Bastian Buus who won only once mainly because King also had two DNFs in eight starts while Buus had none. King did outscore Buus in points in the races both of them finished and tied him 3-3 in the head-to-head, but Buus was definitely more impressive as he is exactly 2.5 years younger than King and he also seemed to have more speed as he set the fastest lap in four out of eight races, which King did not do once. As with most Porsche Supercup stars, King also competed simultaneously in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, which is technically a minor league but effectively sort of a major league since the vast majority of Porsche Supercup championship contenders compete there simultaneously. Buus and King were teammates there as well albeit for a different team, and once again nosed out King in the championship with Buus finishing 3rd, twenty points ahead of King in fourth. Buus also narrowly beat King in the teammate head-to-head in Porsche Carrera Cup Germany as well by a margin of 8-6. They were certainly close, but I'm a lot more impressed with Buus because he is only 20 and there's a big gap in expected performance between a 20-year-old and a 22-year-old, even though King himself is also very young. They were too evenly matched for either of them to do all that well in my touring car model. Buus ranked only 66th among all touring car drivers and 8th among Porsche Supercup drivers, while King ranked 88th and 11th. I certainly think both of them clearly deserve on my list since I think Porsche Supercup is a more important series than it seems most others do (given the success of their alumni in the sports car world) but there were other drivers who impressed me more than King did, and one of them was I think the most underrated driver this season.

Esapekka Lappi

Lappi was the second-full time driver for Hyundai's World Rally Championship team this year. Although he was no match for his teammate Thierry Neuville, who won two rallies and finished third in the championship, Lappi was still competitive, tying Neuville 4-4 in shared race finishes and finishing sixth in points, although his performances against his other teammates were wildly mixed. While he swept Teemu Suninen 4-0, he also got swept by Dani Sordo 4-0 and he lost to his other teammate Craig Breen in his final rally in Sweden before he died in a testing accident prior to the Croatian Rally. As I write this, I'm wondering whether Sordo might have been the better choice. I know far less about rally racing than any of the other forms and hopefully I'll eventually build a model for rally drivers that will give me some clarity here and help me to spot some worthy underdog performances. I haven't really figured out how to evaluate rally drivers outside of finishes yet, but that is something to work on for next year. The competition in WRC did not seem to be very good this year as only five drivers ran the complete schedule and Lappi finished next to last of those drivers in the championship. I feel he does belong in this list in around this tier, although maybe Andreas Mikkelsen was the better choice. Whenever I revisit this and make slight adjustments to create my overall top 200 drivers for each year for my book, I'm going to have to do a lot more research on rally racing in preparation for that, but I do think I pretty much deliver solid analyses for everything else now.

Joey Logano (13)

Logano had the most limp championship defense for a NASCAR Cup driver in a long time, although to be fair, it was arguably better than Chase Elliott's and I argued he was the best driver of 2022, not Logano. The main thing that stands out to me about Logano's season is how inexplicably slow he was. His speed percentile of 59.42 was his lowest by far as a Penske driver, substantially worse than his 68.87 in 2017, although he was still faster than all four of his Joe Gibbs Racing seasons. Moreover, in the loop data era since speed data has been available, there has only been one Cup champion ever who failed to post a speed percentile of greater than 70 the next season. That was Tony Stewart in 2012, who was not much faster at 60.74, but he was still significantly better as he won three times, had four TNL, significantly outperformed Ryan Newman, and had the best lead change record. No, the last championship defense I would argue is comparable to this one is Terry Labonte's 1997, from a year when I was twelve and many of my readers probably weren't even born yet. You could argue this season is worse simply because Logano had a much steeper decline than Labonte because his championship season was significantly better than Labonte's, but I wouldn't. To be fair, it wasn't so much that Logano himself was slow as it was that Penske in general was slow, which is the other reason why I think this year was better. The decline in speed significantly affected all three Penske cars. While Logano dropped from 70.01 to 59.42, Ryan Blaney had a similar decline from 74.79 to 63.74 (which was his slowest season since his 2016 rookie season) and Austin Cindric dropped from 50.39 to 38.00. All three drivers declined in speed at about the same rate, which indicates that it was more of a team systemic issue than an issue with any particular driver. However, there's no getting around the fact that Blaney managed to really do something with the limited speed he had while Logano didn't. I was actually still really impressed with Logano for about the first third of the season considering what he was doing with the lack of speed he had. His rankings in the lead shares and cumulative races led categories were significantly better than his speed ranking at that time, indicating he was punching above his weight. He still arguably outperformed his car a little, ranking 14th in lead shares and 9th in CRL with what was only the 17th fastest speed, but Blaney certainly outperformed both Logano and his car significantly more as he ranked 3rd in lead shares and 8th in CRL with the 11th fastest car. As with many of the Fords this year, Logano was substantially better on drafting tracks than on other track types because they do allow slower cars to be competitive with faster cars; additionally, I just think the Fords nailed the setup for those tracks better than the Chevies and Toyotas did. He did have a really dominant run in the spring Atlanta race where he passed his ex-teammate Brad Keselowski on the last lap, but the problem here is that no other good Ford driver had a larger gap in performance between their performance on drafting tracks and their performance on all other tracks. Logano led only seven races naturally (his second-worst as a Penske driver and only better than 2017), but five of those came in five of the six drafting races, which means he only made an on-track pass for the lead in two races all season that were not on drafting tracks. That smacks more of DEI-era Michael Waltrip than what we typically expect of Logano. Blaney did not have that issue as he made passes all over the place on a variety of different types of tracks. I'm still going to give Logano the benefit of the doubt here a little since he did decline in speed at the same rate as his teammates, but I can't put him in the top 100. Blaney actually improved in performance despite the decline in speed while Logano seemed to decline in performance by an even larger margin than his decline in speed.

José María López (C-)

I can see why López is the WEC driver that Toyota Gazoo Racing dropped for 2024 to make room for Nyck de Vries. For the second year in a row, I think López was the worst of the six Toyota drivers, but he was certainly better in 2023 than in 2022 when he literally cost his car the championship with a crash. Not only did he and teammates Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway double their win count from 2 to 4 in 2023, but López was also actually the fastest driver of the #7 Toyota Hypercar with a speed percentile of 82.78 to Kobayashi's 78.55 and Conway's 78.54. However, I still find López to be the worst of the six Toyota drivers again. He was the only one of them who had no lead shares, and only he and Brendon Hartley failed to make a pass for the lead this year, although Hartley was the fastest Toyota driver this year with a speed percentile of 87.82 and he at least had a full lead share from a race where he won the pole, while López was the only Toyota driver this year who had no poles, no fastest laps, and no fastest races. He was certainly on pace with all his teammates, but the performance just wasn't there, especially when you consider that López's two teammates combined for four of the nine Toyota passes for the lead and 2.67 lead shares. Kobayashi in particular led the Hypercar class in every single category except surprisingly speed. Considering all that, López was still the worst Toyota driver for the second consecutive year in spite of the speed he did have, but he was definitely still very good and a lot better than last year: more wins, more speed, and less responsible for his car losing the championship to the other Toyota than he was last year. His big blemish I suppose came in the European Le Mans Series, where he took out his teammate Malthe Jakobsen in another class and caused him to lose the title, and he also only finished 6th in points among WEC LMP2 drivers in what was a very shallow class, even ranking behind the likes of Kyffin Simpson in speed (although I think Simpson had a substantially faster car.) I get why he was replaced, but don't get it twisted: he's still a good driver even if he's not the great driver he was when he won three World Touring Car Championships in a row. Honestly, maybe he should go back to touring cars and try to win some TCR World Tour titles, where the competition is good but maybe a little weaker than when he was in the WTCC.

Oscar Piastri

It seems almost everyone agrees that Piastri was one of the top ten F1 drivers of the year and even one of the best F1 rookies of the last decade because when the McLaren cars got suddenly faster halfway through the season, he managed back-to-back podiums at Fuji and Losail and scored a second-place finish in the latter event (where he also won the sprint race.) However, let's pump the brakes a little. I'm reading lots of people calling this the best F1 rookie season since Lewis Hamilton and I find that puzzling. I actually expected more and the main reason he looked as good as he did is that McLaren had the second-fastest car for a while. Piastri's minor league performances were so strong that my model projected he would beat Lando Norris 45.8% of the time as he debuted with a rating of .161, eighth-highest of all F1 drivers at that time. However, by season's end, his career rating had plummeted to -.077, behind every single F1 driver this season except Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant. This year alone, his teammate rating of -.128 ranked him 67th overall and 18th among F1 drivers and only Daniel Ricciardo, Nyck de Vries, and Sargeant ranked lower. It makes sense that rookies will show up lowest in my model because of their lack of experience and I realize he did have a few great runs, but I feel people are really understating the massive gap Piastri had to Norris. Norris beat him 205 points to 97, which is almost the same proportion as the gap of 206-74 between Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, and many people (not me) argue Alonso was the second best F1 driver this year and that Stroll was one of the worst. I didn't even list Stroll and I obviously do agree that Piastri was better even though Stroll actually beat him in my model by quite a bit. But if the comparison can be made at all, that does imply what I believe: Piastri was the most overrated F1 driver this season. I don't even think he was the best rookie (Liam Lawson impressed me a lot more, but obviously he didn't have the car to contend for podiums.) Furthermore, you might not guess this but Piastri was also slightly below average in speed with a speed percentile of 49.96 to Norris's 63.82, which is just as large as the gaps between Max Verstappen/Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton/George Russell. Norris also had a couple passes for the lead and had the most natural races led of any non-Red Bull driver. Piastri had none of that. Now just like Ty Gibbs, I think rookies have a different curve and should get a little credit if they show potential even if the objective stats aren't there. But besides his two podiums (in a year Norris had seven) and one sprint win (which doesn't really count for anything, and which nobody will remember once F1 finally inevitably abandons their stupid sprint races), he objectively showed a lot less than a lot of people think he did. Piastri clearly has a lot of potential, but I unlike many others do not think he has actually realized that potential yet in a year when Norris beat him more than 2-1 (and I don't even think Norris's season was as good as everyone else seems to either.) It's also worth noting that Piastri's only previous teammate comparison in my model prior to this year came in Formula 3 when he beat Sargeant 9-5. When Sargeant made it to F1 this year, he got swept by Alex Albon. Yet the F1 drivers seem to think Albon was only barely better than Piastri? Furthermore, in that same F2 year, Piastri only barely beat Théo Pourchaire for the championship, a driver who is 2.5 years younger who everybody is dissing because it took him three years to win the F2 championship while Piastri did it in one year. Yeah, I think Piastri is probably better, but I don't think it's a no-brainer (especially considering that year when Pourchaire dunked on Christian Lundgaard when he was an F2 rookie) yet Pourchaire is not even considered remotely good enough by F1 teams while Piastri is considered a top ten driver? Ridiculous. Piastri is the most overrated F1 driver of the year.

Alessio Picariello

Picariello competed simultaneously in both the World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series and showed great talent in both. He won the ELMS championship in the LMGTE class with teammates Zacharie Robichon and Ryan Hardwick, but he was easily the fastest driver on the team with a speed percentile of 84.51 to Robichon's 60.63 and Hardwick's 35.03. In the WEC LMGTE Am class, he was actually arguably better even though he and teammates Matteo Cressoni and Claudio Schiavoni finished only 15th in points. Despite the miserable championship finish, Picariello was overwhelmingly the fastest driver in the class with a speed percentile of 97.29 and he set the fastest race four times in seven races while Cressoni's speed percentile of 57.69 was mediocre and Schiavoni's 1.24 was godawful. Clearly, Picariello wasn't the reason for his WEC team's failure as he was substantially faster than all five of his teammates by a huge margin. So why not top 100? The poor WEC championship finish and lack of wins there has to count for something, especially since WEC competition is a lot deeper than the ELMS. Finally, while his speed was clearly there, his passing didn't seem to be as he failed to make a pass for the lead in both classes despite his blinding speed. Regardless, I definitely think his speed was likely overlooked because of his poor WEC championship performance, making him one of the more underrated sports car drivers this year.

Bobby Pierce

I still don't know a lot about minor league dirt racing and I wasn't sure where exactly to rate Pierce, and I may decide in the future this was too low. Pierce won his first championship in the World of Outlaws Late Model series with 14 wins in 38 starts, and he claimed numerous other wins in various other dirt late model races as his overall record was even more impressive, with 34 wins in 93 starts and a staggering season winnings of $1.2 million. His season highlight came arguably right at the start of the season in the Wild West Shootout at Vado Speedway Park, where he outdueled Kyle Larson to win the feature race, although he lost the overall Wild West Shootout championship to Jonathan Davenport, who I placed on my top 200 list last year.

Théo Pourchaire (C)

Am I the only person who still thinks Pourchaire is good? For all the hype Oscar Piastri gets, I do not honestly think Pourchaire is any worse. As I mentioned in the Piastri capsule, Pourchaire lost the Formula 3 title in 2020 by only three points despite being 2.5 years younger, and he blew out his teammates by a significantly greater margin than Piastri, who only beat Logan Sargeant by four points and a 9-5 margin in shared races, which looks less impressive now than it did in 2020. Meanwhile, Pourchaire finished second in points and scored almost twice as many points as his teammates Alexander Smolyar and Sebastian Fernández combined. Both Piastri and Pourchaire won two races apiece so it's not like the performance was any different. The next year, Piastri won the F2 title but it seems he had an obviously dominant car as his teammate Robert Shwartzman finished second in points and he hasn't made any major league series yet. Piastri did beat Shwartzman by a margin of 12-6 and won 6 races to his 2, but again Pourchaire looks more impressive to me (especially in retrospect) because he beat Christian Lundgaard by an even greater margin of 14-2, and Lundgaard was arguably the breakout driver in IndyCar this year and now seems much better than Shwartzman. In 2022, Pourchaire beat teammate Frederik Vesti 14-8 and Vesti just won the most F2 races this year. Pourchaire finally got the F2 title that I've been expecting for quite a while in 2023, but I do think this was probably his worst season in all that time as he only won once and beat his rookie teammate Victor Martins 9-8. I can see why on the basis of this season F1 teams aren't particularly impressed, but despite being younger than Piastri, he has shown the ability to beat drivers like Lundgaard and Vesti by a greater margin than Piastri beat drivers like Sargeant and Shwartzman, who both seem to be worse. For all the hype Piastri gets, I do really think Pourchaire is just as good and I think teams are overlooking him a lot more than they should. He has just been signed by Impul in Super Formula, the team owned by greatest-of-all-time Japanese driver Kazuyoshi Hoshino. Apparently he's attempting to make the same transition Liam Lawson made this year, and although Lawson was better than Pourchaire in 2023, I've got a feeling Pourchaire will go on to have the better career.

Will Power (32)

Like his fellow Penske driver Joey Logano, Power had an astonishingly weak championship defense but I have to say Power's was a lot less surprising. I openly admitted last year that I thought Power was clearly worse than both of his teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin. That has not changed. What did change is that the Penske cars were significantly slower in 2023 than they were in 2022 (in both IndyCar and NASCAR) and Power was the biggest victim of that. Or at least it seemed like they were slower, but were they? Newgarden despite all his wins had by far his slowest speed percentile in his Team Penske years this year, but McLaughlin actually (barely) had his fastest season to date while Power has had several seasons slower than this one. Power's speed percentile of 72.75 was actually his fastest since 2018, the year he won the Indy 500 and led all IndyCar drivers in my teammate model. Regardless, it was clear that the Ganassi cars had a huge advantage on the road and street courses this year and for a while this year, it seemed like Álex Palou was the default winner on any road or street course and Newgarden was the default winner on any oval almost to an F1 extent and as a result, Power had his first winless season since his 2006 rookie campaign. I can't say I was very surprised as he has been trending downward for years. What surprised me more is that this is also his first season since 2006 when he didn't even make a single pass for the lead. Power had at least one lead share every single year from 2007-2022 and had a flat goose-egg in that column this year and a 0-3 lead change record. That isn't necessarily saying a lot because passes in IndyCar can be hard to get at times. Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud have both had top two points finishes before in years they had zero lead shares (Dixon even won a title in 2018 without making a pass for the lead.) But unlike those two, Power didn't really have the consistency to overcome his lack of passing, nor did he have the strategy. It's hard to say there was any race where Power should have even contended to win, while Dixon and Pagenaud were at least masters of strategy and racecraft at a higher level than Power, who usually had to rely on his raw speed for wins as he didn't win strategy races as often and now that speed has declined. Having said that, I do think the Penske cars were pretty slow this year and that's probably the only reason he didn't win. Dixon and Marcus Ericsson had lackluster passing years too with Dixon only earning .02 lead shares in a year he won three times and Ericsson's .21 wasn't much better, and he won too. Power likely would have won a race in a Ganassi car this year, but admittedly he's never had Dixon's ability to pull fuel mileage wins out of his ass or Ericsson's crass luck. Since I do think Dixon is a major contributor to his strategy his wins, I rated Power lower than Dixon but higher than Ericsson. I think Power and Ericsson pretty much had the same season in that they both had solid speed but not much else, but I placed Power in a higher tier because it seemed clear to me that the Penske team didn't have as much speed. My teammate model is also consistent with this as Power ranked 39th overall and 11th in IndyCar, and he was directly behind Maximilian Günther and Romain Grosjean, two other drivers I rated in this tier. Power is still good and I'm almost certain he'll win again, but I do think he won't ever be great again.

René Rast (91)

The veteran touring car driver who was for a while clearly the best touring car driver in the world with three Porsche Supercup titles and three DTM titles has definitely faded from his height, but he was still pretty good. Although Rast's teammate Sheldon van der Linde ended up nosing him out for fourth in the DTM points standings, Rast was forced to miss the Zandvoort round of DTM to compete in the Formula E event at Portland. If you discount the two races that weekend, Rast did still outscore van der Linde in the other races, and the pair were pretty evenly matched as they tied 5-5 in their teammate comparison. I would say overall van der Linde was a little better than Rast. He beat him in speed percentile by the margin of 67.24 to 60.77. van der Linde also had two fastest laps to Rast's one and one fastest race to Rast's zero. Rast did win two poles to van der Linde's one and he led more, but van der Linde seemed to be pretty solidly better in the races. However, the reason why I left Rast out of the top 100 was primarily due to his Formula E performances, in part because that clearly took priority over DTM for him this year. Rast's rookie teammate Jake Hughes unexpectedly beat Rast in the points standings and also won two poles while Rast did not. Rast was significantly faster than Hughes by a margin of 51.54 to 36.04 because as we've already seen from Ty Gibbs and Oscar Piastri, rookies do seem to struggle with speed for the most part. Nonetheless, for a driver such as historically dominant as Rast to finish behind both his DTM teammate and his rookie Formula E teammate has to be a disappointment. Both of them also beat him in my teammate models. Because van der Linde and Rast tied but Rast was significantly higher-rated, that gave van der Linde a rating of .487, ranking him 4th among all touring car drivers and 3rd among DTM drivers, while Rast at .357 ranked 11th and 6th. You might think that's still worthy of a placement in the top 100, but I feel all the DTM drivers were overrated significantly in my model this year. On the open wheel side, neither Hughes nor Rast posted particularly strong ratings, with Hughes's rating of .039 ranking 48th overall and 11th among Formula E drivers, while Rast's .022 ranked 52nd and 14th. Based on the DTM season alone, Rast might have still deserved top 100. Based on the Formula E season, he probably didn't belong on the list. This I suppose was my compromise position. Since Rast seemed to value Formula E more than DTM this year (as evidenced by him skipping the Zandvoort DTM race to compete at Portland), I think I have to dock him accordingly since he struggled in what he chose as his main discipline.

Matías Rossi (C)

Despite running only a partial season in the Brazilian Stock Car Pro series starting 18 of 24 races, Rossi continued to prove himself one of the most consistently strong touring car drivers in the world by tying the top three points finishers Gabriel Casagrande, Daniel Serra, and Ricardo Zonta for the most wins with three. Despite all that, I don't think he was the best Stock Car Pro driver of the year because even if you exclude the six races he missed, he was still outscored in points by all three of those drivers. Additionally, it's hard to say he was the team leader at Full Time Sports either because his teammate Rubens Barrichello beat him 7-6 and came out slightly higher in my teammate model. Rossi was still very good, ranking 38th in my model overall and 6th in Stock Car Pro with a rating of .225, ahead of all the aforementioned top three who tied him in wins. Rossi missed those races to run a full season in Argentina's Turismo Carretera simultaneously, but he didn't do very well even though he was a past champion in the series, finishing only 20th in points and beating his obscure teammate Andrés Jakos only 3-2. Much like René Rast, I might have been able to justify a top 100 placement based on his performance in his best series (Stock Car Pro) but as with Rast, he clearly had worse performance in the series he valued more, so I likewise have to dock him accordingly.

Alessio Rovera

Rovera won three GT sports car races across different series in 2023, which were comprised of one win in the WEC LMGTE Am class, one win in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, and one win in the LMP2 Pro/Am class in the European Le Mans Series, all for the AF Corse team. In the WEC, Rovera was the fastest of the six AF Corse drivers in his class and the fourth-fastest driver in the class behind only Alessio Picariello, Matteo Cairoli, and Ben Barker, but he finished better in the championship than any of those drivers except for Barker and he was the only one to win a race, although admittedly Rovera was only barely faster than his teammate Davide Rigon, whose speed percentile of 87.92 was only barely worse than Rovera's 88.64, and Rigon's car finished third in points while Rovera's was eighth. Although Rigon was also a worthy candidate and I ultimately considered him before leaving him off the list, I went with Rovera because he seemed to have more top-level speed with two fastest races and a series best three-fastest laps while Rigon had none of either. In the ELMS, Rovera made only two starts but he filled in for Ben Barnicoat (the third driver on the championship car co-driven by François Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxiviere.) Although he only made two starts in the class, he was faster than all the series regulars with the exception of Malthe Jakobsen. (Rigon also won a race in a separate ELMS class, which is starting to make me think I should have included him, but oh well.) Rovera's win in the season finale of the GT Europe Endurance Cup with teammates Nicklas Nielsen and Robert Shwartzman, which did allow them to beat the other AF Corse co-driven by the powerhouse team of Antonio Fuoco (who in some people's views was the best sports car driver of the year) along with Rigon and Daniel Serra, who simultaneously finished second in Stock Car Pro this year. Clearly he remains one of the best GT sports car drivers even if he didn't win any titles this year as he often does.

Bryan Sellers

Sellers and Madison Snow won the IMSA GTD championship this year and they dominated that class by a far larger margin than any of the other IMSA championship teams this year with a series-best five wins in eleven starts, including the pair's second 12 Hours of Sebring win. However, the duo was certainly not evenly matched as Snow led almost all statistical categories with 4 natural races led, 3 TNL, 3.33 lead shares, 1.98 CRL, and 3 poles. However, Sellers was not far behind in many categories except for lead shares, where he only had 0.67 and poles where he had none. The gap between the two looked a bit larger than it was because Snow tended to be the qualifying driver, which means if there were no lead changes in a race that he would get an entire lead share, but Sellers's dominance and pace weren't too far off as he nearly matched Snow with 1.88 CRL and the speed gap between them was pretty narrow: 75.60 and 71.50. Ultimately, this difference reminds me of the gaps between Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski or also Antonio García and Jordan Taylor. One teammate was clearly better in almost all categories (particularly in terms of on-track passing) but in terms of speed, dominance, and pace, they were almost indistinguishable. Sellers clearly played a major role in his championship even though Snow led the team.

Marcos Siebert

Siebert, Adrien Chíla, and Alex García won the European Le Mans LMP3 championship with three wins. More accurately, Siebert won the championship and the other two were along for the ride as I can't think of many sports car teammate comparisons this year that were as lopsided as this. Siebert was the fastest driver in the LMP3 class with a mind-boggling speed percentile of 96.44, the third highest speed percentile for regulars in all classes across WEC, IMSA, and the ELMS. The only two drivers with faster speed percentiles (Alessio Picariello and Nico Varrone) were also included in this tier. However, while usually on most three-driver sports car championship teams, at least two drivers are significantly contributing. That didn't happen here as Siebert pretty much won the title single-handedly. García's speed percentile was 42.73 and somehow he landed a WEC Hypercar ride out of it and Chíla's speed percentile was even worse at 36.46. It's pretty rare to see any kind of championship team where one driver has a speed percentile differential of greater than 50 against both teammate, and I'm not sure I've ever seen that before in any series. That's enough for me to include him even though ELMS is not the most prestigious series and LMP3 is not the most prestigious class. Siebert set the fastest lap in five out of six races and he was the only driver to have the fastest race twice. I didn't quite think he deserved consideration for the top 100 because he did not make a pass for the lead (his profile was almost all the flip side of Matt Bell's; if either Bell had had a little more speed or Siebert had had a little more passing, they probably would have made the top 100, but I felt both were a little too unbalanced.)

Marco Sørensen (C)

Sørensen and teammate Roman De Angelis finished a fairly distant second to Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers in the IMSA GTD class. The GTD class was very competitive in spite of Sellers and Snow's five wins and I'd say there were a lot of drivers whose performance was relatively close, but I would say Sørensen was the most consistent across all categories outside of Snow, just nosing out Sellers for second-best driver in the class. He had the best lead change record at 2-0, ranked tied for second in the class with Philip Ellis for the most natural races led (3), 2nd in wins (2), 2nd in lead shares (1.14), 3rd in CRL (0.90), and he and Loris Spinelli tied for the most fastest races with 2. It was pretty close in general between Sørensen and Bryan Sellers in most categories. They were almost exactly tied in speed with Sørensen at 71.58 in speed percentile to Sellers's 71.50. Both drivers were slower than their teammates, but the difference is that Sellers lost to Snow in almost all categories while Sørensen beat De Angelis in pretty much every category except for speed. And of course, De Angelis and Sørensen also won their class in the 24 Hours of Daytona, which probably outranks Sellers and Snow's 12 Hours of Sebring win.

Luca Stolz (C-)

Stolz had a very prolific sports car season in 2023 with seven wins across a wide variety of categories. His main role was in DTM, where he finished sixth in points and won one race at the Sachsenring. Although he only ranked 9th in speed overall with a speed percentile of 61.14, when he was fast he was very fast as he set the fastest race three times. Stolz blew out his teammate Arjun Maini, most famous for being the target of Santino Ferrucci's racism in Formula 2. Maini isn't very good and had his career-worst DTM points finish in 20th, which is probably why Stolz didn't do very well in my teammate model, but a 14-gap position in the points standings speaks for itself. Aside from that, Stolz mostly competed in championships sanctioned by the Stéphane Ratel Organisation, so I don't have accurate lap time data to go in depth for the most part. However, he and teammates Al Faisal Al Zubair and Martin Konrad finished second in the Asian Le Mans GT class behind the championship team led by Nicky Catsburg (both teams won two of the four races.) He also finished second in the Intercontinental GT Challenge to his Bathurst 12 Hour co-winning teammate, the aforementioned Jules Gounon. Stolz won two races to Gounon's one and I would honestly say his season impresses me more, but they seemed to have very similar seasons in most ways. Finally, Stolz won two races in the GT World Challenge Asia and finished fifth in the championship but he along with most of the other "name" drivers did not enter the entire schedule. He was the highest-finishing of the sports car stars in that series behind four extremely obscure Asian drivers who ran the entire schedule and considering Alessio Picariello and Daniel Juncadella both ran about as many races as he did there, he had solid competition. Although he has not won a championship since 2018 in the many, many sports car series he competes in, he was definitely very good everywhere he competed this year.

Santiago Urrutia (C)

Despite only finishing eighth in the inaugural TCR World Tour championship and also only ranking eighth in speed, I think he was still one of the stronger TCR drivers this year regardless. Although he was no match for his Cyan Racing teammate/#1 driver Yann Ehrlacher, the most consistent driver on the tour, he did tie Ehrlacher for second in wins with three, and tied or beat him in a lot of the categories I track including natural races led (3), TNL (3), lead shares (3), fastest laps (3), and he even ranked second in CRL with 3.64, which was better than Ehrlacher and only narrowly worse than the champion Norbert Michelisz's 3.73. It's not even so much that Urrutia was luckier than Ehrlacher, because both drivers won two races without a field inversion and one race with. Ehrlacher was certainly a lot better when you consider his consistency and his speed, but Urrutia's top level clearly was not far off Ehrlacher's. Ehrlacher did have a 1-1 lead change record to Urrutia's 1-2 in a series where it was almost impossible to pass and Ehrlacher did pass Urrutia for the win at the start of third and final Bathurst race, but that could have potentially been team orders because Ehrlacher was still in the championship and Urrutia was far out of it at that point. Cyan Racing did seem to screw around with team orders a lot this year, as did some of the other contending teams. Nonetheless, the speed and consistency differentials were too large for me to justify a top 100 placement for him. He only ranked 62nd among touring drivers and 6th of the nine TCR World Tour full-timers in my model, including ranking behind his teammate Thed Björk, who I already placed in the C- tier. Ultimately I decided to downgrade him a little for his lack of consistency rather than upgrading him for his dominance, but it's nice to see that after he had the 2016 Indy Lights title stolen from him that he's been able to bounce back and become something of a touring car juggernaut.

Nico Varrone

Varrone, Nicky Catsburg, and Ben Keating combined to win the WEC LMGTE Am championship in 2023 with three wins, highlighted by a win at Le Mans. It's debatable whether Catsburg or Varrone was the team leader. Although Catsburg was the fastest of the three drivers with a speed percentile of 82.81 to Varrone's 71.59 and Keating's 30.28, Varrone led his teammates in most statistical categories, including teammate record (1-0), TNL (0-1), lead shares (0.67), and CRL (0.80; in this category he led the entire class.) Varrone also competed in the four marquee IMSA endurance races. Although he competed in the low-prestige LMP3 class, he won the 24 Hours of Daytona in class with Wayne Boyd, Anthony Mantella, and Thomas Merrill. In his IMSA class, he set the highest speed percentile of all drivers who started half or more races at 96.63 (I was very surprised he ended up faster than Felipe Fraga.) Although I certainly didn't think Varrone's overall season was as good as Catsburg's (Catsburg had one of the most eclectic and prolific seasons in motorsports this year), Varrone's Le Mans/Daytona double is still rarely done and the only thing keeping him off the top 100 list for me is just my feeling that both his WEC and IMSA classes were a little too shallow. He is clearly one of the hottest rising up-and-comers in sports car racing and deserves better opportunities in higher-profile classes.

Frédéric Vervisch

Vervisch finished fourth in the TCR World Tour in 2023, one position behind his teammate Rob Huff in the championship, but Vervisch was considerably behind Huff in both results and performance. Although Huff beat Vervisch 16-6 in terms of shared finishes, Vervisch was definitely a lot closer to Huff than he was to any of his other teammates at the goofily-named Comtoyou Racing. The team only ran two full-time cars for Huff and Vervisch across the whole tour, but Tom Coronel, John Filippi, Kobe Pauwels, and Viktor Davidovski all competed for them in the TCR Europe events so Vervisch faced all those drivers in the shared TCR World Tour/TCR Europe events and he beat those four teammates by a margin of 19-5, narrowly giving him a winning record against his teammates this year. However, because those drivers on average weren't as good as the TCR World Tour drivers, that resulted in Vervisch only ranking 75th overall and 8th among World Tour drivers. Nonetheless, I think the reason I placed Vervisch in this tier instead of the bottom tier was because for one thing, he narrowly beat Huff in speed by the margin of 74.15 to 73.31. He seemed to have more speed in general because he had 2 fastest laps to Huff's 0 and 3 fastest races (tied for second most in the series) to Huff's 1. Huff definitely had the edge in all passing-based performance metrics in addition to the consistency metrics though, as he had the best lead change record in the series, 2.33 lead shares to Vervisch's 1, and 2.79 CRL to Vervisch's 0.36. However, Vervisch did win the most prestigious race on the schedule - the season finale at the Guia Race of Macau. It was an inverted grid race but he attempted to play good teammate to help Huff catch up to Santiago Urrutia after Vervisch passed him for the ultimate win. As it turned out, Huff ran into the back of Urrutia and his hood detached from the car and ended up blocking his windshield, forcing him to pit and ending his championship bid. The attempted team order was foiled and Vervisch as a result was allowed to win. I was kind of on the fence about whether to put him in C or C- and it was highly debatable, but I think the fact that he was forced to play such a deferential role for his teammate by hunting down the leader, passing them, and then holding him up just to set up a failed Huff championship bid means that the team had probably been letting him down to favor Huff for a while, which is why I guess I gave him an extra boost here.

Bubba Wallace (C)

Although Wallace failed to win like the two previous years, he did make the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the first time in his career because both of his wins so far came in the playoffs. Win or not, this year was still probably his best to date as he achieved his career-best numbers in natural races led (9), lead share (1.06), CRL (also 1.06), led the most laps for the first time in the fall Texas race, and had easily his career-best speed percentile at 61.35, easily besting 2022's 52.73 (he was even faster in 2023 than Kurt Busch was in 2022.) The main thing that impressed me however was his comparison with new teammate Tyler Reddick. Considering Reddick's general proclivity towards intermediate racing and the fact that 23XI Racing seems to be best on those tracks, I really thought Reddick would be one of the three main championship contenders alongside Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott and that did not happen (although he was certainly better than Elliott.) Reddick was certainly better: he also had his fastest speed percentile ever at 73.09, which is a large gap and he beat Wallace by every single metric I track except natural races led (both had 9) and races leading the most laps (1). Despite that however, Wallace seemed better at consistency and getting results that matched the level of his performance than Reddick did, which meant he had a much higher floor while Wallace was still volatile. Since Reddick has been arguably the most underrated driver in my teammate model for years, I've just been waiting for him to dominate a teammate head-to-head and it just isn't happening. After shockingly losing to Austin Dillon last year, he beat Wallace only 16-15 this year, which to me is the main thing that impresses me about Wallace's season. I guess the main difference is Reddick's greater propensity to get caught up into incidents. According to Toby Christie's incident tracker Reddick was involved in 22 crashes this year, which is tied for 4th most, while Wallace was only involved in 16, which was tied for 8th best among drivers who did not miss a race. This is probably one of the main factors that led Reddick to only barely beat Wallace in the teammate head-to-head even though if you measured it by how many times each driver had the better race performance, he'd have beaten Wallace more handily (and come to think of it, this is probably entirely why Chase Elliott, the least crash-prone driver of the year, led my model this year too.) Ryan McCafferty did also have Reddick as the unluckiest driver of the year, but Wallace wasn't too far behind as he ranked sixth-unluckiest, so a lot of it probably does have to do with long-standing issues with the team (particularly its wildly inconsistent pit crews.) Wallace did make one bad mistake at the spring Talladega race where he took the lead from Kyle Busch coming to the white flag before a failed block of Ryan Blaney led to a last-lap crash, but despite missing out on a race he had a strong chance of winning, he was still consistent enough elsewhere to give him both his first playoff bid and what I think was his best season.

Marco Wittmann (C-)

Wittmann basically had the touring car equivalent of Lucas di Grassi's Formula E season. Both di Grassi and Wittmann in DTM had been perennial championship contenders in those series most years but now have faded more because they've had slower cars than because they've actually declined in talent. Even though Wittmann ranked only 13th in the DTM championship in 2023, he beat his nineteen-year-old rookie teammate Sandro Holzem, whose team debuted on the circuit after six of the sixteen races had been completed, by a margin of 8-1. Because Holzem never had any previous touring car teammates, this means Wittmann's season rating effectively comes out to his overall career rating, but because he is one of the highest-rated touring car drivers in my model's history, this meant he ranked fifth of among all touring car drivers and fourth among DTM drivers this year as well. Like di Grassi, whose open wheel rating was also likely inflated by Roberto Merhi's recent inexperience, I don't think Wittmann was that good but I also don't think he's fallen too much from his height either. Despite ranking 12th in speed, he still tied for the second-most fastest races with the series champion Thomas Preining, so I think he's still punching above his weight. It's hard to draw many conclusions because of Holzem's inexperience, but Wittmann still defeated him soundly in points by the margin of 91-0 and if he ever has a championship-caliber car again, I bet he can still contend for a championship in that series as he seems to be one of the few drivers who was truly able to adapt from DTM's recent switch from touring cars to GT3 cars.

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.