Race car fans are a passionate bunch. Whether it's NASCAR, Formula One or Indy Car, they love to consider who is the greatest driver of all time. Fans of racing and performance driving hotly debate the merits of various drivers — their championships, rivalries and the trophies that got away.
Here's our list of the top 10 race car drivers of all time.
If you only follow NASCAR or Formula One, this name might not be familiar, but Ken Block's driving skills are legendary. Block was the first American to drive in the FIA World Rally Championship, founded both DC Shoes and Hoonigan lifestyle brands, and starred in numerous viral YouTube stunt driving videos, known as Ken Block's Gymkhana. In other words, Block's talents took him on a different route than the rest of the drivers you'll see on this list.
But his ability to control a car at its limits won him fans and accolades around the world. Block died in January 2023 at age 55 in a snowmobile accident, but his contributions to the motor sports community will never be forgotten.
9. Alain Prost
Alain Prost is the most famous French race car driver of all time and a four-time Formula One Champion. And between 1987 and 2001, he held the record for most Grand Prix victories in history, 51. Prost also enjoyed several classic rivalries with other drivers during the 1980s and 1990s, notably with Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell. In 1986, during the last race of the season, Prost beat Mansell for the Formula One championship.
An instinctive driver, Prost was known for his smooth, relaxed style behind the wheel. Nicknamed "The Professor" for his intellectual approach to racing, in 1999 Prost received the World Sports Awards of the Century in the motorsport category.
8. A.J. Foyt
Known as "Super Tex" to friends and foes, A.J. Foyt is one of the best American race car drivers of all time — distinguished by the fact that he raced in several different genres of motorsport, including Automobile Club Champ cars and midget cars. Foyt also raced stock cars in NASCAR, and holds the United States Auto Club (USAC) career wins record with 159 victories, and the American championship racing career wins record with 67 first place trophies.
Foyt also is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (which he won four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Foyt also won the International Race of Champions all-star racing series in 1976 and 1977. This incredible run was despite Foyt having had three serious crashes during his career that left him with lifelong injuries.
7. Jeff Gordon
The "Rainbow Warrior" joined NASCAR in the 1990s, and in 1995, Jeff Gordon became the youngest driver in the modern era to win a Cup Series title when he was just 24 years old. He went on to win three more Cup Series championships (1997, 1998, 2001) and three Daytona 500 cups. He also was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2019.
In his 23 years of full-time Cup Series competition, Gordon won 93 races, which puts him at No. 3 on the all-time wins list behind only NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105) in all-time victories.
6. Richard Petty
Richard Petty, nicknamed "The King," raced in the Grand National era of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He won the NASCAR Championship a record seven times (tied for most wins with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson), and won a record 200 races during his career. Richard Petty also won the Daytona 500 a record seven times and won a record 10 consecutive races in the 1967 season.
Statistically, Petty is still the most accomplished driver in the history of NASCAR, and he remains one of the most respected figures in motorsport. His other accomplishments included winning a record number of pole positions (127) and over 700 Top 10 finishes in his 1,184 starts, including 513 consecutive starts from 1971 to 1989.
5. Nigel Mansell
A legend in his native England, Nigel Mansell won both the Formula One World Championship in 1992 and the CART Indy Car World Series in 1993. He was the reigning F1 champion when he moved to CART, becoming the first person to win the CART title in his debut season, and making him the only person to hold both titles simultaneously.
Mansell's career in Formula One racing lasted 15 seasons, with his final two full seasons spent in the CART series. Mansell is seventh overall on the Formula One race winners list, and held the record for the most number of poles set in a single season, which he held until 2011. In 2005, Mansell came out of retirement to race in the Grand Prix Masters series, and he won the championship. He was inducted to the International Motorsport Hall of Fame later that year.
4. Ayrton Senna
Brazilian race car legend Ayrton Senna da Silva won three Formula One world championships before he was killed on the track while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. During his career, Senna was one of the most dominant and successful Formula One drivers of the modern era.
Senna made his Formula One debut in 1984, and won six Grand Prix races in his first three seasons as a driver. In 1988, he won all but one of the 16 Grand Prix and accomplished his first World Championship. He won his second and third championships in 1990 and 1991. His rivalry with Alain Prost during the period dominated global motorsports. From 1989 until 2006, Senna held the record for most pole positions.
3. Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt represents, for many race car fans, the pinnacle of excellence. Earnhardt started his legendary career in 1975 at the World 600, which was held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of the Winston Cup Series (today the Sprint Cup Series). From there, Earnhardt won a total of 76 Winston Cup races, including 34 victories at Daytona International Speedway (and one Daytona 500), the most of any racer. He also earned seven NASCAR Winston Cup Championships.
His aggressive, some claim dangerous, driving style earned him the nickname "The Intimidator." Earnhardt was killed Feb. 18, 2001, at the Daytona International Speedway, when he crashed on the very last lap of the race. Earnhardt has since been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the very first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
2. Michael Schumacher
The runner-up position for greatest racecar driver of all time goes to German driver Michael Schumacher. A seven-time Formula One World Champion, Schumacher is considered one of the best Formula One drivers in history, and the most successful of the modern era. He was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year twice, and holds many F1 records, including most championships, race victories, fastest laps, pole positions and most races won in a single season.
In 2002, Schumacher became the only driver in F1 history to finish in the top three in every race of a season, and he broke the record for most consecutive podium finishes. In December 2013, Schumacher had a serious head injury while skiing, despite wearing a helmet. The family has been very private about the accident, which left him with severe brain injuries, though it's clear it ended his driving career for good.
1. Mario Andretti
At No. 1 sits Mario Andretti, the Italian American race car legend who transcended motorsport. A household name all over the world, Andretti is one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, Indy Car, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR. He also won races in midget cars and sprint cars.
During his illustrious career, Andretti won the 1978 Formula One World Championship and four Indy Car titles. To date, he remains the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One World Championship, and the only driver to have won a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Formula One and an Indianapolis 500. Andretti remains the last American to have won a Formula One race victory — back in 1978 at the Dutch Grand Prix. He also is one of only three drivers to win races on road courses, paved ovals and dirt tracks in one season, a feat that he accomplished four different times.
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