Another pioneering driver from the first decade of IndyCar, Burman at first glance seems to be a slight step up from most of his contemporaries in this range; however, he had a lower unadjusted points per race than several others and the competition he won against was substantially worse. His adjusted points per race in fact were lower than every other driver I listed except Barney Oldfield. Regardless, few other drivers with as few wins as Burman have managed to win on three different track types as he claimed two pre-500 wins at Indianapolis (one on a dirt surface and one on a brick surface) along with two other dirt races and two road course races, with four of those races lasting longer than two hours. Burman's first win at Indianapolis, the 250-mile Prest-O-Lite Trophy race in 1909, was the first race that could remotely be considered any kind of endurance race at the Speedway. However, only nine drivers started that race and only one of the others made my list, so it certainly didn't match any Indy 500 in prestige. Burman also won at Indianapolis after it was paved with bricks in a 50-mile race in 1910, which had a much more impressive field including three future 500 winners Joe Dawson, Ray Harroun, and Howdy Wilcox alongside Johnny Aitken, the winningest driver in IMS history. Despite the shorter distance this is probably his best win especially since Dawson and Harroun both finished 2nd and 3rd and their Marmon Wasps were almost certainly faster than Burman's Marquette-Buick. However, only competing on average against 1.5 other drivers on this list and only 9 other cars total in the 6 races he won is not very good. He was however more competitive in the Indy 500 than a lot of the vintage drivers were, leading 41 laps in the 1913 race where he was also the TNL, so I think from that I can argue that he was capable of competing against strong fields even if he didn't often win against them. However, I didn't knock Oldfield for having very minimal competition so by the same token I probably shouldn't knock Burman either since he was actually more diverse although not a household name like Oldfield became. There is also a 'what could have been' element regarding Burman's career as he died in a non-championship race at the Corona road course in 1916 and judging by his two wins on two different track types and three second place finishes in 1915, he likely would have won more races in future seasons, which makes me feel better about this placement. In retrospect, however, I feel Gil Andersen or Mike Mosley would have been a better choice for this spot.
Petillo made a very brief splash that lasted less than one calendar year when he won four races in a six-race span on all kinds of tracks including the Indy 500, which he won despite starting 22nd. Petillo's hot streak began with a road course win at Mines Field in California on the unusually late date of December 23, 1934 and continued with his Indy win and another win at a dirt oval in St. Paul, Minnesota and a final victory at Langhorne, considered the most difficult of the dirt ovals. It was an incredible 1935 for Petillo and because of his Indy 500 win, championship, rank vs. contemporaries of 1, and diversity I included him, but there is little else there. In his fifteen other starts he finished no better than 5th (admittedly twice) and had a lot of DNFs. Worse yet, he failed to qualify for the 1936 500 for the same team he won with in 1935, and even worse than that, he had the ugliest criminal history of any IndyCar star driver including being imprisoned for a decade for attempted murder. After he was let out on parole, he disappeared before being caught and apprehended again. He also sued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway numerous times after they refused to let him enter the race for various infractions, but by that point in his career it's doubtful he would have done anything anyway, as the total extent of his career was essentially what he did in two years. I tended to leave one-year wonders off and some might argue Petillo is one, but I believe he was a two-year wonder (especially because he also won the pole for the Indy 500 in addition to his 1934 win) and admit that his 1935 championship was one of the most dominant of that era and his very, very brief success came on about as diverse a set of tracks as was possible at the time. While I wanted to leave him off due to his criminal history along with his very short prime, I ended up deciding that was unfair and went with the stats. If I'm going to list Ryan Briscoe and Myron Fohr for instance (two drivers whose careers can also largely be reduced to two seasons), there isn't a good reason to leave off Petillo, who was more dominant against his peers in his time.
Although he never made a start at Indianapolis (failing to qualify twice), Pullen was one of the most impressive drivers of the Pre-World War I period as he won on both road courses (three times, including the five-hour American Grand Prize in Santa Monica, which is sometimes listed as an antecedent of the current United States Grand Prix), and on wooden board tracks twice as well. His second board track win in Beverly Hills came in 1921 many years after his other wins which were all between 1912-15, but the number of drivers who won both before and after the war is not that large. Admittedly, the 1921 win came in a 25 mile heat that lasted only 14 minutes but was actually the only one of Pullen's wins to count for points. Regardless, it was clearly a barnburner because he beat Roscoe Sarles and Eddie Hearne both by a mere two tenths of a second, which would still be considered close today (admittedly many of the board track races of that time, particularly the short heats, were the historical equivalent of IRL-era pack racing, except with much smaller fields). A rank vs. contemporaries of 1 is good and his points per race and adjusted points per race are good for his era. His only Indianapolis appearance came when he took over the car of much bigger superstar Jimmy Murphy as a relief driver and crashed it. A stronger Indianapolis record would have easily been enough for me to place him even higher, but without that, I can't do it.
Amick was the first Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year winner to finish 2nd in the race in 1958, and his car owner Norm Demler and mechanic George Salih thought he might have been able to pass Jimmy Bryan for the win but played it conservative to secure the finish. Amick was already a series veteran at the time having won three dirt track races prior to that, two of which came at Langhorne and Lakewood, often considered the most dangerous tracks at the time, not to mention his numerous midget wins including the Turkey Night Grand Prix, and Amick showed unusual consistency for a driver that inexperienced in championship cars in his early years as well, with 25 top five finishes in his 43 starts. Although he never won a pavement race, he was consistent on paved ovals as well and steadily improved from year-to-year finishing 4th in the 1956 championship, 3rd in 1957 (in neither of those did he start the Indy 500 in an era when Indy carried a significantly greater weight than any other track toward the championship), and finally 2nd in 1958 when he actually qualified at Indianapolis for the first and sadly last time. His ability to contend on both dirt and pavement while other drivers only excelled at one or the other indicates that he likely had great potential to endure into the '60s, even though his last full-time season was winless (but even that year's champion Tony Bettenhausen was also winless). In the season-opening race at Daytona in 1959, Amick was battling for 3rd on the last lap of the race when he crashed, becoming the first fatality at the track. A previously scheduled IndyCar race at Daytona on July 4 was cancelled and IndyCar would never race there again; however, this race was replaced by the Firecracker 400, Daytona's summer NASCAR event. Amick's win numbers, rank vs. contemporaries, and clutch performance are a little low, but his points per race is very good, suggesting a ranking about here.
Hughes and Eddie Pullen are two pre-World War I contemporaries who had very, very freakishly similar profiles, and in their early season heydays both even drove for the same Mercer team. Pullen was barely ahead in wins (5-4), points per race (29.39-29.24), and adjusted points per race (22.54-22.05), but it is worth noting that Pullen had several more starts than Hughes which makes the winning percentages almost identical. Both drivers were road course specialists who managed to nab three road course wins, one significant oval win (Pullen's 1921 board track heat win really wasn't), and both drivers were #1 in their rank vs. contemporaries and had the same number of elite seasons (indeed two of their three elite seasons were the same seasons: 1914-15). However, despite Pullen winning a more prestigious race (the American Grand Prize) than anything Hughes won, I choose Hughes because he led in TNL (5-3) despite fewer starts, which I think is more important in predicting each driver's ability to put themselves in position to win, particularly for drivers like these with few starts and Hughes also had a slightly higher average percent led (13.76-13.08%) and a better peak season (50.47-41.79). To decide this, I note that Pullen did not qualify at Indianapolis while Hughes had a 3rd place finish in 1912, which I think is sufficient to give it to him, especially when you consider that Pullen crashed his car as a relief driver in his only appearance. Furthermore, Hughes's career like Bob Burman's was cut short when he died as a result of a 1916 crash in a non-points race at Uniontown while Pullen had a natural retirement, indicating Hughes might still have had some wins left. Many of these 1910s drivers had extremely similar profiles, which is why I have so many of them listed together in this general range, but these two were about the most similar I saw. I have to give it to the guy who showed that he might have had potential at Indianapolis too, and I'm slightly more impressed by Hughes winning on dirt as opposed to Pullen winning on a board track, since I do think drivers played a bit more of a role on the dirt tracks than the board tracks.
One of the most underrated and unjustly forgotten drivers of the last 20 years, Junqueira entered CART in the deepest season in its history (2001) in the Ganassi car that Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya had previously won titles in, and because both of them dominated so quickly and Junqueira, like Montoya, had been a Formula 3000 champion, his mere 16th in points was considered a huge disappointment, but he still did win his first race at Road America, earn a pole in his first oval start at Nazareth, and finish in the top five in his 3rd oval start at the Indy 500, in a race all the IRL regulars failed to finish on the lead lap. Criticizing Junky for his 2001 is asinine considering even Paul Tracy failed to lead a lap, Zanardi struggled to stay in the top 20 in points all season even BEFORE his injury (despite him having the dominant Reynard-Honda-Firestone package while Junqueira had a weaker one), and drivers as talented as Bryan Herta and Mauricio Gugelmin were at the very bottom of the standings usually reserved for ride-buyers. In the deepest season in American open wheel history, to win a race as a rookie isn't bad; unfortunately he went up against a stronger rookie for a weaker team, Scott Dixon, who managed to win the race at Nazareth and finish in the top ten in points. The people who saw Junqueira as a disappointment because he wasn't matching Montoya or Zanardi were wrong (especially because he WAS beating Zanardi regularly in 2001). The problem is his breakout in 2002 attracted little notice because most of the CART teams were beginning their mass exodus at that point. However, Junqueira managed to finish 2nd in points with 2 wins on both an oval and a street course and he seriously dominated his teammates Kenny bräck (who had dominated the CART oval races in 2001 and was considered the championship favorite after finishing 2nd in 2001 with champion Gil de Ferran leaving for the IRL), and Dixon (who joined the Ganassi team in mid-2002 and did nothing before winning the 2003 IRL title). To beat the previous year's CART win leader and the following year's IRL champion on the same team is a bigger deal than anyone acknowledges. While in retrospect, Ganassi obviously seems right to have kept Dixon over Junqueira, at the time it was not so clear cut (Junqueira won the Indy 500 pole and was even the TNL in his one-off at Indy in 2002, which seemed to indicate maybe he should have still been brought along instead of hiring Tomas Scheckter). With champion Cristiano da Matta leaving for Formula One, Junqueira was expected to win the championship in 2003 when he replaced him at Newman-Haas, but even though he did finish 2nd in points behind only Paul Tracy, his rookie teammate Sébastien Bourdais was significantly faster and was unlucky to finish behind him in 2003. In 2004, Bourdais easily dominated Junqueira although Junqueira got another top five at Indy and at various points was in position to win. Junqueira seemed to be losing his edge, but regained it for 2005 when he was leading the championship after two races until the Indy 500, where this time Newman-Haas entered both cars for the first time since the split. Unfortunately, a wreck with A.J. Foyt IV while running in the top five badly injured Junqueira and he missed the entire remainder of the season. When he returned in 2006, he did not seem the same finishing 5th in points and going winless, at which point he was dumped from the Newman-Haas team for Graham Rahal, who brought sponsorship. Junqueira, forced to the much weaker Dale Coyne team, gave them at the time the best results in that team's history with three consecutive podiums, but when Champ Car and IRL merged in 2008, Coyne was significantly slower to get up to speed than most other ex-Champ Car teams and Junqueira had a miserable season. He became an Indy 500 only driver after that the next few seasons, but had miserable things happen to him, as he qualified in 2009 and 2011 before being kicked out of the cars he qualified for teammate Alex Tagliani and unqualified Ryan Hunter-Reay respectively. Tagliani tried to repay the favor in 2010 by offering Junqueira a ride with his FAZZT team only for him to be wrecked on the first lap. I firmly feel he was better and probably is still better than several of the drivers in the present field and got a raw deal not getting a legitimate opportunity after the split ended, but I suppose the teams feel that he was not as fast after the injury, much as they did with Buddy Rice after his 2005 Indy crash, but I think the 2007 Coyne results (even if Justin Wilson improved on them later) may indicate that was wrong. This guy was a big talent and a relatively diverse one considering he seemed to be more of an oval natural than many of the Euro-trained CART drivers of his era but was forgotten quickly just because he peaked in an era when CART itself was fading. However, I simultaneously admit he probably also would never have won a championship had he not been injured since he didn't seem to quite take it to that next level while his rookie teammate Bourdais surpassed him extremely quickly.
Branson was the last driver to win an IndyCar race in a roadster by winning the season opener at Phoenix in 1965 as formula open wheel cars would go on to win every subsequent race on a paved oval to the present day. Considering how much faster the formula cars were in 1965 this is extremely impressive, but admittedly he only won because his superior teammate Rodger Ward blew an engine to hand him the win. Ward and Branson, who together were driving for the Bob Wilke-owned Leader Card powerhouse (for which Branson would win all six of his races), were not evenly matched. In the races where they were teamed together, Ward won eight while Branson only won three. However, Branson was no pushover, particularly on dirt tracks where he specialized, winning four of his six races on dirt and 11 of his 15 poles (although most of his poles came for the career-winless car owner Bob Estes, who also won several poles and had several near misses with Don Freeland, but Branson was a lot more dominant than Freeland even though he at that point could not close the deal either). Branson would win two dirt races flag-to-flag, his first and last race wins for Wilke, one at the infamous Langhorne in 1962 and the other at Springfield in 1966. On pavement, he was not as stellar but still won at Trenton in 1962 in addition to his Phoenix win. His Indianapolis record is disappointing as he never led a lap there but did usually qualify well and earned two top five finishes. Sadly, Branson, who had announced his retirement at the end of the 1966 season, much like Jack McGrath, did not make it to the end of the season as he died in what was scheduled to be one of his last races, a USAC Sprint Car race at Ascot Park in Gardena, California, where Dick Atkins, who had just won his first USAC Champ Car race less than a month earlier also perished. Considering that Branson had clearly taken over the Leader Card team after Ward left after he failed to qualify for the 1965 Indy 500 (where Branson did qualify and finished 8th) and considering that Leader Card would win the Indy 500 and championship with Bobby Unser in 1968, one wonders what would have happened if Branson had not died and changed his mind about retirement.
I have been planning this list for a very long time, even dating back to around the time I started Racermetrics in January 2015, since the 100th running is a pretty big deal. At the time I originally improvised the list I figured Pagenaud would probably be on it. He had after all earned three straight top five points finishes from 2012-2014 for a second-tier team in Sam Schmidt Motorsports and he was the first driver to do this without driving for Penske, Ganassi, or Andretti/Green when those teams were in the series since Bobby Rahal from 1990-93. However, he did have flaws as he had an extremely conservative driving style (even more conservative than his mentor Gil de Ferran), showed amazing consistency but didn't really seem to be able to dominate a race, and was pretty much completely lost on ovals, even relative to his twice-teammate Will Power, who is himself not great on them. After narrowly winning the 2006 Atlantic Championship in a weaker car over Graham Rahal (who won 5 races to Pagenaud's 1) Pagenaud earned a merit-based ride buy at Walker Racing/Team Australia alongside teammate Power, where he had a solid and consistent but undistinguished rookie campaign where he was overshadowed by the now forgotten Robert Doornbos, not to mention Power, who won his first two races that year. When Champ Car and IndyCar reunited in 2008, he was one of the drivers lost in the game of musical chairs when Team Australia owner Craig Gore decided to only sponsor Power for 2008 and move his sponsorship to KV Racing. Pagenaud moved to sports car racing, where he was one of the most dominant drivers of 2009, winning 5 American Le Mans Series races alongside owner/teammate de Ferran, which propelled him to success in European sports car racing as well where he won a European Le Mans Series race that same season and finished 2nd in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011. Although he was something of an afterthought at the time Champ Car folded, he had built up a significant enough road racing record that he wanted back into IndyCar and was now in demand. He was constantly rumored to drive full-time for a de Ferran-owned IndyCar team, but that never got off the ground. A handful of fill-in starts including an 8th for Dreyer & Reinbold in 2011 further increased his reputation until Schmidt decided to take a chance and fired Alex Tagliani in favor of Pagenaud. The move paid off in spades as Pagenaud showed impressive consistency in his second rookie season before earning two wins each in 2013 and 2014. Roger Penske wanted to hire Pagenaud as early as 2012 but he was still under contract. Once he no longer was for 2015, he moved to Penske's team but shockingly struggled. He dropped to 11th in the championship becoming the first Penske driver to finish outside the top 10 since Hélio Castroneves in 2011 and qualified extremely well but factored in hardly any races. At this point, I would have put him barely on the bubble but still slightly in. Lots of great drivers have had bizarrely inexplicable seasons (Scott Dixon's 2002 for instance). However, this season Pagenaud has clearly fixed most of his flaws as he started with back-to-back 2nd place finishes followed by back-to-back wins to lead the points standings by nearly an entire race after only four races. His win in the most recent race at Barber in particular resolved most of my doubts about him as he finally showed the ability to thoroughly dominate a race start to finish and showed the aggression that seemed to be missing in past duels (like Mid-Ohio in 2013 when he was outdueled by Charlie Kimball). I hasten to add that I do not think he will win this year's championship because I am still completely unconvinced by him on ovals and I think he has been extremely lucky. Gifted the pole at St. Petersburg after Power's inner ear infection, he managed to get passed by Juan Pablo Montoya and could not keep up with him even when Montoya's steering wheel was falling apart! At Phoenix, he solely benefited from gaining positions in the pits several times due to the speed of his Penske pit crew in a race where almost no one could pass. At Long Beach, there was the controversy with him blending onto the track after leaving the pits too soon where many people felt he did not deserve that win. However, Barber finally convinced me Pagenaud has taken the next step to a likely perennial dominance, and even though he had a miserable season in 2015, the speed was still there as he was actually 2nd to Power and even ahead of Dixon and Montoya in average speed that year, so one could say maybe it's just a matter of this year's luck making up for last year's. Whichever the case, I am now finally convinced he has staying power at Penske. To move much beyond this he needs to convince me he can win on an oval.
Here is the 'what could have been' of all what could have beens, and probably the hardest driver to rate on the entire list. While I generally left one-year wonders off the list, particularly if they were maddeningly inconsistent (like Danny Ongais, Teo Fabi, A.J. Allmendinger, Buddy Rice, and so on) Carey is a substantially different case from any of those drivers. Carey won the 1932 AAA National Championship in his rookie season, becoming one of the only rookies to win an IndyCar championship (alongside Barney Oldfield in 1905, Nigel Mansell in 1993, Buzz Calkins in 1996, and Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999; Louis Meyer in 1928 and Mario Andretti in 1965 are debatable, but I would probably say yes to Meyer and no to Andretti.) There were only six races that season, but Carey won two of them and he was the only driver to win multiple races that year. He was both the most consistent and most dominant driver that season and his average percent led of 34.82%, points per race of 60.29, and adjusted points per race of 52.06 are RIDICULOUSLY eye-popping. His two wins actually understate his domination of that season as he was the terminal natural leader four times, and in only one of his wins, meaning that he was either the winner or the TNL in 5 of his 6 races that year. The only race where he was not either was the season-opening Indy 500, where he inherited the lead from Billy Arnold when he crashed until he himself blew a tire and hit the wall but made no further contact. Carey lost ten minutes to the eventual race winner Fred Frame, but gained four minutes on him in the second half of the race. While I don't think anybody was close to Arnold in raw speed in that era, I don't think anybody ELSE was close to Carey. Although he competed in an era that solely consisted of Indy and several dirt tracks, his ability to contend on both in his rookie season would have served him very well for the rest of the '30s. Unfortunately, a stuck throttle in an Easter weekend 1933 qualifying crash at an exhibition race at Legion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles caused Carey to flip over the guardrail and injured him fatally. There is no telling how dominant Carey, who was not yet thirty, would have been in subsequent seasons, particularly after Arnold's retirement. Do I rank him lowly because he only started and won a few races (admittedly in an era when the schedules were very short) or do I rank him highly based on his incredible per-race statistics? I think this is an appropriate compromise.
Ruby is frequently cited as the greatest driver to never win the Indianapolis 500, maybe even usually. While I fully reject that argument (there is no way I think he is in the same league as Michael Andretti, Dan Gurney, Ted Horn, Rex Mays, Earl Cooper, or Sébastien Bourdais, and those weren't the only non-winners I ranked higher), he was certainly a very talented, versatile, and unlucky driver who managed to be highly competitive against some of the deepest Indy 500 fields in history and he was one of the few series regulars who managed to provide significant competition to the era's top Formula One drivers in the brief period in the mid-'60s when most F1 stars did one-offs at Indy. At first glance his profile seems a lot like Mike Mosley's: a long, unlucky career with a number of wins for some underfunded teams with all his race wins coming on one-mile paved ovals. Ruby was certainly better than Mosley, however, as he showed the capacity to win on other types of tracks, even though it never happened. He won two poles on road courses and a pole on a dirt oval and had numerous near-misses at the Indy 500, none of which Mosley had. Ruby also showed his ability to win in other forms of racing, winning the first 24 Hours of Daytona that actually ran for 24 hours as well as the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1966, so I believe he would have adapted to other eras better than most specialists of his era. Although he drove for several very successful teams including John Zink's, J.C. Agajanian's, and Gurney's, Ruby shockingly had his greatest success driving for Gene White, a car owner who had no success with any other driver, including Cale Yarborough, who would be his full-season teammate in 1971. However, despite everything else, Ruby is most fondly remembered for his Indy near misses. In 1966, he was the TNL at Indy in a race where two of the biggest F1 stars Graham Hill and Jim Clark finished 1st and 2nd. However, he was black-flagged for leaking oil while leading and this would hand the lead to Jackie Stewart, who himself had a mechanical problem, which handed the race to Hill. In 1968, Ruby led again until his engine briefly sputtered, handing the lead to Joe Leonard's turbine. The following year, Ruby led again until a mid-race pit stop when he left the pits with his fuel hose still attached, which knocked him out of the race and handed the lead and win to Mario Andretti. While he definitely had way more Indy 500 near misses than most drivers (against some of the most stellar fields ever) and became a popular hard luck driver as a result, I don't think that warrants him the title of best non-winner ever. I mean Scott Goodyear had near-misses in 1992 and 1995 also against incredible fields and nobody calls him that. While Ruby was certainly better than Goodyear, he wasn't THAT much of a standout in his prime over the entire schedule (for instance, RVC of 8, which is the same as Jimmy Vasser, who did it in just as deep an era) as he again generally specialized in one-mile paved oval races and given his overall record outside those tracks, one can argue he was actually fortunate to be in contention to win at Indy as many times as he was, even though he was unlucky not to win there. All in all, I do think he was a great driver primarily for overachieving in weak equipment, but a bit overrated by '60s nostalgists.