The first foreign-born winner of the Indy 500 as well as the first to win in foreign-based equipment, Goux may have cherrypicked IndyCar starts only entering five Indy 500s, but made a big impact winning on his debut in 1913 and backing that up with a 4th in 1914 and a 3rd in 1919 on his return after missing the 1915 and 1916 races while serving in the French military in World War I (before the US entered the war in 1917 and the Indy 500 was shut down). He had more longevity than a lot of drivers in that era as except for a few holdovers (Ralph Mulford, Ralph DePalma, Louis Chevrolet, Earl Cooper, Eddie Hearne) most of the other pre-WWI stars were no longer relevant afterward. Goux was actually the first Indy 500 winner to win in his first start at IMS, as although Ray Harroun and Joe Dawson won the first two races there, they previously competed in 1909 and 1910 races there with shorter distances and did not win on their debuts. The debate here was really between Goux and René Thomas, the fellow Frenchman who won the following year. Both of them had eye-popping statistics (particularly their points per race and average points per race) because they only entered at Indianapolis and usually contended. Thomas was the terminal natural leader in his win in 1914 while Goux was not, Thomas beat Goux in his win while Thomas was not entered the year Goux won, and Thomas had higher points per race stats, and both of them had a win before the war and a good finish afterward, which would seem to favor Thomas. However, I favored Goux because his making the breakthrough first does matter, I am marginally more impressed by a 1st, 3rd, and a 4th than a 1st, 2nd, and a 10th, and most importantly, I am more convinced Goux could have adapted to other periods or circuits. After his Indianapolis career was over, he won three Grands Prix (the 1921 Italian Grand Prix, the 1926 French Grand Prix, and the 1926 San Sebastián Grand Prix), indicating he had the ability to be just as dominant on ovals and road courses and over a quite extended period (even into his 40s). Thomas does not have quite the same record, and I think that's what made me choose Goux. A driver of this profile would still succeed in IndyCar today, but I am less sure about Thomas. Goux is primarily famous for drinking champagne during his Indy 500 win, but as with most urban legends, stories wildly vary as depending on the source, he may have drank anything from between only a few sips to several bottles (although naturally the latter is the story that people remember). Regardless, this may make his performance even more impressive if he actually managed to do it while intoxicated.
Vasser had a championship and an impressive win total at the height of CART (he is the first of many drivers on this list who competed in the 2001 CART season, which I have calculated to be the deepest in competitive depth in IndyCar history; if you want to argue for 1994 because of the four full-time Formula One champions, I will note that none of them were exactly at their career peak and there were many, many more bad drivers active then, while in 2001, there were virtually none, not to mention that 1994 was basically a one-team season). However, the problem is despite a very lengthy career, he rarely proved he was able to win or even really contend when he did not have the best car. From 1999-2000 he barely contended when he did have the fastest cars. Vasser made his debut for Hayhoe Racing in 1992, a team making its first starts in over a quarter century, and the team shut down its operation to become a loose affiliate of Chip Ganassi when Vasser joined the Ganassi team in 1995. Comparing these seasons in context to anything else is pretty hard because he did not have a teammate and there was no driver who followed him or preceded him at Hayhoe. He did show steady improvement from year-to-year (finishing only one position behind Mario Andretti in his retirement season) but was maddeningly inconsistent with 4 top 5 finishes including a 3rd at Phoenix but also a staggering 20 DNFs (eight of which were crashes) and only one lead lap finish (then again, there weren't many more lead lap finishes to get against the 1994 Penskes). After a very slow start to 1995 with Ganassi, he took off in the second half of the season with two 2nd and two 3rd place finishes to propel him to 8th in points (better than Eddie Cheever but worse than Arie Luyendyk and much worse than Michael Andretti for the Ganassi team previously), but Ganassi caught on to the speed of the Reynard chassis, Honda engines, and Firestone tires before any of the other full-time owners could catch up and suddenly in 1996, Vasser began dominating as he won four of the first six races of the year including the infamous U.S. 500 where despite arguably causing the crash on the pace lap, he won the race in his backup car (which would not have been allowed at Indianapolis) and said 'Who needs milk?' after the race which just ended up making both sides of the split look bad really. Now with a massive points lead, Vasser played it incredibly safe the rest of the year and finished every race (usually between 6th-10th) but only got two more top five finishes. While he coasted to a championship like is rarely seen, his teammate Alex Zanardi stole the headlines and essentially took control of the team from Vasser before his championship season was even over, cementing it with his last-lap pass in the hairpin at Laguna Seca in the season finale. Vasser remained consistent in 1997 and 1998 and got 3rd and 2nd place points finishes, but a lot of that was simply that Ganassi's RHF combination was unbeatable (only Team KOOL Green with Dario Franchitti/Paul Tracy and Tony Kanaan with Tasman had this combination from 1996-1999 among major talents). In an era when the CART field was stacked top-to-bottom, a small advantage paid huge points dividends and Vasser was one of the chief benefactors. To his credit, Vasser did win on all four modern track types and win eight races in this period (matching Paul Tracy and beating Tony Kanaan in 1998-1999 in wins when they all had the same package), which is good. However, his career fell off too quickly when he still had the best equipment. In 1999, Vasser continued to have the dominant package (with his rookie teammate Juan Pablo Montoya winning seven races on all kinds of tracks), but Vasser went winless. The following year, he won a street race at Houston despite Ganassi changing to the much less reliable Lola/Toyota package but he won it on pit strategy and wasn't much of a factor all season while Montoya continued to dominate races. In his 2000 Indy 500 comeback, Montoya dominated the race while Vasser got passed by Buddy Lazier on track before he ran out of fuel (and Lazier didn't make my list). Vasser next moved to Patrick Racing in 2001 and finished 13th in points (the year after the much-less heralded Adrián Fernández finished 2nd in the same car, although admittedly each beat Roberto Moreno by only one position in the standings, so likely the 2001 cars were worse). After that, he did manage to win one race for Bobby Rahal in 2002 at Fontana (but the Rahal team had been dominating at Michigan and Fontana in almost every race since 1999, so once again it came down to him having the best car), and did beat his rookie teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2003 in points (but RHR won a race and Vasser didn't), and unlike Fernández, who somewhat succeeded as an owner/driver in his career, Vasser's stint as coowner/driver for KV to end his career was relatively forgettable, and not against strong fields. Most CART champions proved their ability to win in weak equipment. Vasser didn't and had a very short peak despite having the best cars, making him more comparable to Ryan Briscoe (however he was likely still better since he won more races against deeper fields and did not manage to choke his championship away). His stats are still easily sufficient to make the list, even if relative to his era, he wasn't that hot (with an RVC of 8 and so on). Still, what an era! The 1996-2001 post-split CART was way deeper in talent than anyone wants to admit now.
Chevrolet was the youngest of the three Chevrolet brothers and the only one to win the Indy 500. His brother Louis was much more talented and much more important to auto racing history even as a driver (ignoring the fact that he cofounded the car company that now bears his name); however, Gaston was in the process of making a big albeit brief splash to rival his brother before his death at a board track in Beverly Hills in the 1920 season finale, which made him the first driver to win the AAA National Championship (now the IndyCar title) posthumously. Although revisionist historian Russ Catlin found some additional unofficial races and added them to the tally for 1920 and declared Tommy Milton the champion after the fact, Chevrolet's title has been subsequently and properly restored. I list Chevrolet lower than a lot of other drivers of his era because I am not particularly sold on his diversity. He did earn an Indy 500 win but was not the terminal natural leader of that race as Joe Boyer was the TNL and Ralph DePalma was dominating the race with a two lap lead when he pitted thinking he was out of fuel when he wasn't (and pit stops were certainly much slower than they are today such that DePalma could easily lose a two lap lead in that time period). Chevrolet's main advantage was that he became the first driver ever to win at Indianapolis without a tire change, but it may also be argued that advanced technology (superior tires) won him the race over his own speed or nerve. Chevrolet's other wins came on wooden board ovals, which were starting to take over the schedule in the late 1910s before completely doing so in the 1920s. Chevrolet won a 100-mile and 150-mile race at the Sheepshead Bay board track in 1919 and split a 225-miler at Uniontown with Boyer to claim a shared victory (with both drivers receiving credit). Although it's relatively easy to quibble about some of his wins (an arguably lucky win at Indianapolis, two wins over relatively short distances, and a split win of a modern distance) and his lack of diversity (he only competed at one road course race and didn't do well at it, and never made a dirt track start ever), I don't think it's reasonable to criticize him for this because road courses and dirt tracks largely did disappear off the schedule after the war until the board tracks disappeared in the late '20s and '30s and were generally replaced by dirt tracks. He only made fifteen starts and still won four of them (in a five-race span, no less). He was the dominant driver within his number of starts with an RVC of 1 and his points per race and his adjusted points per race are very good for that era too. Although he wasn't as good as his brother Louis not to mention several other of his contemporaries, his being the first to win an Indy 500 and a championship within the same season still ensures his legacy (Dario Resta won both in 1916, but Indianapolis was shortened to 300 miles that year before the race even started, so I don't think it counts).
When I started this project, I admit Fohr was one of the few drivers on this list I had barely even heard of, but that is a shame, since although he was a two-year wonder, it was one of the biggest and most consistent two-year splashes ever seen in IndyCar racing, and not for a great team. Fohr only really competed anything resembling regularly in two seasons (1948 and 1949) and finished 2nd in both championships, despite failing to qualify at Indianapolis in 1948 (and considering how much weight Indianapolis carried toward the championship, this is pretty impressive; admittedly, had Mauri Rose ran the full schedule and not just won Indy in a one-off that year, he would have easily beaten Fohr and might have challenged Ted Horn for the championship). Driving for past driver and fellow Milwaukee native Carl Marchese, Milwaukee Mile promoter at the time, he not surprisingly debuted at his hometown track in 1947, and mostly stayed limited to his home region of Wisconsin and Illinois in 1948 but showed incredible consistency in an era that was not particularly reliable, earning 21 consecutive top ten finishes (including a period of 10 consecutive finishes of 4th or better, including all four of his wins). Granted, the standard field size for non-Indianapolis races at the time was 18 cars, but still, that level of consistency is remarkable for any era. While Fohr was certainly a Milwaukee specialist as he earned two of his four wins there (one shared with Tony Bettenhausen, but Fohr drove most of the race) and one of his two poles, he won his other two races at Springfield and Trenton (the Trenton race being his only win outside of his home region and despite not winning the pole, he led every lap). However, despite keeping up his consistency in 1949 he arguably slipped a little as his two wins were the only races he led all season, and when Chuck Stevenson filled in for Fohr at Springfield in 1949, he instantly got a 4th place finish, giving some idea of the general strength of the team. Fohr earned his best of two finishes at Indianapolis with a 4th in 1949, matching his boss Marchese's 4th place finish of 20 years earlier. However, in 1950 he suddenly faltered and was noncompetitive in both of his starts at Indy and Milwaukee, while missing the race at Milwaukee after Indy (which he had won the previous year), and was fired in favor of Stevenson. He failed to qualify at Springfield and Syracuse later in the year (in races where Stevenson was unavailable) and was seen as damaged goods at this point. Suddenly, despite his staggering consistency of the previous two years, he was entirely forgotten, and after failing to qualify at Indy and Milwaukee for a much weaker team in 1951, he was completely forgotten. Stevenson did manage to qualify much more consistently than Fohr did in 1950, but despite going on to win the 1952 championship, he failed to match Fohr's results of the previous years (or even lead a lap), leading one to wonder if maybe the Marchese team was the problem (since they never won a race without Fohr) and maybe Fohr should have been given another shot (although others qualified better than he did, his race results in that admittedly brief period were incredible, and lots of drivers including Indy 500 winners and champions from around that time missed races alongside Fohr...qualifying on the dirt tracks in that period wasn't easy). Normally you don't see drivers who show this much potential just disappear like this not due to injury, although occasionally it still happens (Robert Doornbos). Fohr has been unjustly forgotten.
Before he became much more famous as the United States's leading fighter pilot in World War I, Rickenbacker competed in early American open wheel racing and had a successful career winning seven races from 1914-16 and steadily becoming more and more competitive from year to year. Like all the drivers of this era he competed on a mindbogglingly diverse set of circuits, including Indianapolis, board ovals, concrete ovals, dirt ovals, and road courses (some of which were on the beach). However, Rickenbacker was not quite among the most diverse or dominant drivers of his era in general. When trying to decide between him and other rough contemporaries like Eddie Pullen, Bob Burman, Hughie Hughes, and Gil Andersen, who all seemed rather close to me, I ended up choosing Rickenbacker last because all four of those other drivers won on both ovals and road courses and he didn't, and the first three in particular were #1 in their era while he was not. His fame and later management of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not enough for me to take him over any of those now-much less famous drivers. What Rickenbacker did share with his contemporaries was an ability to win grueling marathons that were much longer races than today's races. Four of his wins (two on board tracks and two on dirt tracks) lasted over three hours, which is only comparable to Indianapolis today. I do have to give him credit also for winning on a variety of types of ovals (he won races on board tracks, concrete ovals, and dirt tracks, which is probably more impressive than most drivers who just specialized on dirt ovals, which was common from the '30s-'50s, or drivers who just specialized on paved ovals, which was common in the '60s and '70s), but relative to most of his era's stars he fell a little short. Admittedly, he was becoming more and more dominant up until 1917 when he withdrew from racing to focus on his even more legendary career as a fighter ace, so to some degree this can be another "what could have been" entry. Given his grit in the war, he probably would have been able to remain relevant quite longer had he raced when he came back. In 1927, he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the last remaining of the original owners and maintained it until selling it to Tony Hulman in 1945. His hardline American patriotism changed the nature of Indianapolis, as his decision to ban high-tech cars with superchargers to make cars more similar to American street cars was derided in the press as the 'Junk Formula'. His reintroduction of riding mechanics after the teams were generally coming to a consensus that they were inefficient and had largely stopped using them and his lifting of the already traditional 33-car field limit were also controversial. International drivers and equipment were basically nowhere to be seen for decades after these changes, and on the schedule (which admittedly Rickenbacker had no control over), the numerous board track and road course races of the 1910s and 1920s were generally replaced by a paltry 3-5 dirt track races a year alongside Indianapolis. One can argue Rickenbacker was the distant precursor to the IRL side of the CART/IRL split. Both sides embraced past traditions with CART embracing the tradition of the very early seasons with the fastest US and international drivers competing in the most advanced, cutting edge high tech equipment on a variety of circuits including ovals and road courses, and IRL embraced Rickenbacker's tradition of cheap, low-cost racing with all American heroes. Then again, even if Rickenbacker did hijack the early 1920s traditions to create a more insular race that was no longer an international player (perhaps as a result of Rickenbacker's understandable nationalism as a war hero), he probably did get lucky in retrospect that his changes allowed the Indy 500 to survive the subsequent Great Depression (as the junk formula was announced in 1929, but before the stock market crash). With the higher-performance cars of the '20s, perhaps without his stewardship, the race may not have survived. However, the all-American oval aspect of it may have caused more trouble than it was worth, when considering this became the defining nature of the sport to a lot of fans over several decades, who were ignorant of the diversity of the 1910s and accused CART of hijacking the series with its added road courses and international drivers, leading to well, today's mess. Although Rickenbacker only ran IMS, not AAA, which sanctioned the series, I do somewhat wonder if there would have been more road courses in the late AAA years if he had been particularly talented on them, which he wasn't.
Is anybody else really surprised that Fernández has 11 wins particularly when he spent most of his career in such a hugely competitive period of CART? He was never a big star (except to fans in his native Mexico, where he was HUGE), he was never talked about as a leading championship contender, and he was even probably talked about less than a lot of drivers of that era who had significantly worse credentials (Bryan Herta, Max Papis, and his Patrick Racing teammate Roberto Moreno to name but three). Well, looking at other aspects of his record, it becomes clearer why he wasn't hyped as much in the media as he probably should have been. He was only the terminal natural leader in a race five times and his 5.03 cumulative races led indicate he was winning MUCH more than he should have been theoretically based on the level of his dominance (perhaps my comparison was unfair to Herta, who actually had more TNL than Fernández). Still, doesn't that mean he was incredibly clutch against some of the best fields ever? Yes, he was. A lot of that was that he did seem to specialize in fuel mileage races in his prime (and having one of the greatest crew chiefs/race engineers/strategists in IndyCar history, Jim McGee, who had the most wins ever in this role, was certainly a major, major asset in this regard). Unfortunately, his career was a bit more overshadowed than maybe it should have been by tragedy. Fernández scored his first win at Toronto in 1996 which was completely overshadowed by Jeff Krosnoff's death in the same event, and he won at Fontana in 1999, which was overshadowed by the death of Greg Moore. A tire from his crash at Michigan in 1998 also flew into the stands and killed three spectators. Unfortunately thanks to the split these are the things he is most remembered for and not his quite good career. His 1996 and 1997 generally weren't so great as he did have the dominant Honda engines and Firestone tires yet was beaten in the championship both years by André Ribeiro (a driver I don't rate highly), but once he hooked up with Patrick and McGee he spontaneously entered superstardom (very similar to Jimmy Vasser in fact, except that Fernández eventually did prove he could win outside the best equipment). In 1998 and 1999 none of his Patrick teammates were close to him and he earned consecutive 4th, 6th, and 2nd place finishes in the points (McGee or no McGee, I do not think Patrick was anywhere near as strong as Ganassi in 1998-1999 or Penske in 2000, yet he still managed to beat Vasser in the championship in '98 and Hélio Castroneves in 2000). Ultimately, it is a really similar profile to his contemporary Vasser. While Vasser was blessed with the best equipment (but his teammates Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya tended to also have the better engineering), Fernández had a slightly weaker package but the best strategist in the book. I choose Fernández because he did manage to win on both sides of the split as an owner-driver, winning at Portland in 2003 in CART and three IRL intermediate superspeedway races in 2004 (and Vasser did *way* worse when he replaced him in 2001). He was not as balanced as a lot of other drivers of his era, which is one strike against a record that maybe indicates a higher ranking than this. While he was a master of the high-speed superspeedway, winning seven races, and did win twice on road and street courses each as well, his short track record was not that stellar, but Paul Tracy's superspeedway record wasn't that stellar either, and I'm not really going to ding him for that much. Although not an all-time legend and his win total probably overstates his historical importance, he seems closer to a legend than most media would admit (but I do understand why he is kind of overshadowed given his TNL and CRL results, which indicate he wasn't as dominant as his record implies, which I also think most people would agree with).
One of the leading popular favorites among IndyCar fans and people 'in the know' from the 1960s, Hurtubise started his career with a bang by winning one race in each of his first four seasons from 1959-1962. He exploded onto the scene with a bang by winning at Sacramento in his 3rd start as a relief driver for the injured Johnny Thomson for the Racing Associates team (and after missing the previous race at Phoenix, no less), but maybe this shouldn't have been such a shock since Thomson won there with the same team the previous year. He was named permanent replacement for Thomson in 1960 after earning his second win at Langhorne, which was considered the most dangerous track on the schedule at the time (where '50s legend Jimmy Bryan died on the opening lap of the race), and he did so for a questionable Peter Schmidt team that a driver as great as Eddie Sachs could not score better than a 7th place finish the previous season despite winning two races in the second half of the year for another team late in 1959. However Hurtubise's 1960 stint with Racing Associates did not go as well as his 1959, as he had numerous DNFs followed by one second place finish at Phoenix to semi-salvage the season. In 1961 and 1962 he was increasingly consistent for the new Barnett Brothers team, but in very old-school fashion he also switched teams from race to race a la Joe Weatherly in NASCAR but kept up the good finishing record regardless of which team he was driving for (particularly in 1962 when he had 11 top 10s in 13 races). The main blemishes were that he was nowhere near as dominant on pavement as on dirt (in an era when dirt races were slowly becoming a thing of the past) and his Indianapolis finishing record was abysmal, but that admittedly ignores how dominant he was in 1961 at the start of the race when he led the first 35 laps from the outside of the front row before eventually burning a piston. Hurtubise's career was derailed in a fiery crash at Milwaukee in 1964 one week after the even more tragic Indianapolis race and his badly burnt hands had to be reshaped for him to return to racing. Amazingly, Hurtubise managed to win a NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta after this happened! However, his IndyCar career after his return was an endless stream of DNFs with fewer and fewer good runs over time. His career was probably not affected as much by his injury as his belligerent decision to continue to race roadsters after the formula cars rendered them obsolete in 1965. While most of his contemporaries like A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones continued to dominate in formula cars, Hurtubise took a stand. He lamented the rise in technology which arguably gradually diminished the driver's importance over time and the rise of public relations and media engagement that the top teams and sponsors expected of their drivers, and was willing to go toe-to-toe with USAC over rules, specification, and officiating like no other driver. Like Robby Gordon more recently, he failed to live up to the level of his natural talent by not giving into the increasingly corporate IndyCar politics, which made him a fan favorite but eventually primarily an underground legend. He did manage to get the last front-engined cars in the show, but he was hardly competitive with them, and it's hard to say whether his crash or his commitment to the roadster really affected him more, but I would guess the latter. Having said that, in his early years he hardly stood up to the level of Foyt, Jones, or even Sachs in my opinion and did not show enough versatility to me outside the dirt tracks for me to go much higher. I certainly do have enough respect for him to ignore the fact that he is the only driver on here with a points per race total of under 20 points (if you ignore the post-1964 seasons, he is over 26 however, and that makes a placement here much more reasonable).
Forget the four wins on dirt tracks. McGrath's primary legend comes from his duel with Bill Vukovich in the 1955 Indy 500. Vukovich dominated this period at Indianapolis to a degree no driver before or since ever did over a multiple-year span (with the possible exception of Billy Arnold from 1930-32). Vukovich entered the race as the two-time defending champion and was the terminal natural leader in all four of his last four starts (1952-55), including the race where he had his fatal crash while leading in 1955. In all those years, McGrath was the only guy who seemed to have anything for Vukovich at ALL and they had arguably one of the most famous duels in the race's history (although probably not quite up there with A.J. Foyt and Eddie Sachs in 1961 or Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward in 1960). While Vukovich did generally dominate from the first time he took the lead from McGrath until his crash, McGrath did pass him multiple times to keep him honest. McGrath was incredible in his starts at Indianapolis, as he took the lead on the first lap in 1952 and 1955 despite starting on the outside, dueled early with eventual winner Lee Wallard in 1951 before falling back, and won the pole in 1954 and led the first 44 laps until an unscheduled pit stop set him back. Even more impressively, McGrath served as his own mechanic and crew chief as an all-purpose driver in an era when even then drivers doing their own engineering had become rare. McGrath's primary dominance came on dirt tracks where he claimed eight of his nine poles and all four victories, but on shorter paved ovals (Milwaukee, Darlington, and Raleigh) he relatively struggled failing to lead any laps. Unfortunately, in one of the most brutal years of the sport (1955) he, his best friend Manny Ayulo, and his biggest rival Vukovich all died in separate racing accidents. McGrath had announced that the 1955 season finale at Phoenix would be his final race on dirt as he was planning to take a job outside racing and enter Indianapolis exclusively in subsequent years until he won. However, it was not to be and as with Vukovich and Ayulo, we won't know what McGrath might have done. Considering his strength at Indy in the early '50s, he would have stood a strong chance of winning the next few Indy 500s.
One of the biggest stars from the earliest years of American open wheel racing, Andersen won the first ever Astor Cup race in 1915 on the board track at Sheepshead Bay, which was considered one of the most prestigious trophy races at the time before the trophy was reintroduced in 2011 where it is now awarded to the IndyCar champion, but that is far from all Andersen did. In 1916, he finished 3rd at Indianapolis behind the two biggest stars of the time, Ralph DePalma and Dario Resta, and he started on the pole for the 1912 event, but that deserves a giant-sized asterisk because while qualifying sessions were held, the field was determined by the order that entry blanks were received. Andersen claimed two road course wins in Elgin and was most successful on road courses generally with 12 top fives in his 14 road course starts, and as with many drivers of his day, these races were lengthy with all three of his wins coming in races that lasted longer than three hours. While most European crossover drivers in that era came from England, France, Switzerland, or Italy, the Norwegian Andersen broke ground as the first Scandinavian winner (and there would not be another until Kenny Bräck over eight decades later), which is worth noting. While he only won three races, compared to most of the other drivers from the early years of IndyCar racing, he competed against deeper fields on average, as his adjusted wins and adjusted points per race are only barely behind his actual totals, while most drivers from that period dropped more significantly, which strengthens his case. His Astor Cup win had a modern-looking 20 car field and nine of the other 19 drivers made this list (although admittedly he was the only listed driver to finish). I still listed the more prolific winners of his era over him, but he was no pushover and probably one of the most underrated drivers of that period.
Mosley, like Hurtubise, is one of the most popular insider favorites of the USAC Champ Car period. He was particularly renowned for his ability to overachieve in weak equipment and is the go to example for baby-boomer era fans of a driver who should have gotten better breaks. He did get a major break as a rookie in 1968 when he was named a part-time teammate to Bobby Unser for the then-powerhouse Bob Wilke-owned Leader Card team. Unser would win the championship and the Indy 500 that season, while Mosley, whose Watson chassis were not as competitive as Unser's Eagles, regularly qualified outside the top ten but reliably finished unless his equipment broke down. He nearly even won the inaugural race at Michigan that year before he was ordered to leave the car so Unser, who had previously had an engine failure, could take it over (in an era when both drivers who shared a car received partial points). It was one of the ugliest examples of team orders in IndyCar history, but Unser did get enough points in that race to take the championship from Mario Andretti, even if it cost Mosley the win. In subsequent years, the team began missing the setup more and more frequently (particularly after Bob Wilke's death when the team transferred to his son Ralph) and Unser only won one race in 1969 and 1970 while Mosley was a general non-factor before Unser departed the team and Mosley became the team's focus, dominating a race at Trenton in 1971, but his career was derailed by missing several races due to injuries in back-to-back Indy 500s in 1971 and 1972 (the latter race of which he was the terminal natural leader no less despite leading only 3 laps). He claimed the final win for the team in 1974 at Phoenix (yet the team itself would soldier on into the '90s completely uncompetitive) and gained a reputation as a mile oval master whom everyone felt would do better in better stuff, as Gary Bettenhausen felt that if Mosley had a McLaren (the dominant chassis at the time) "everyone else would be competing for second place". Next, Mosley moved to Jerry O'Connell's Sugaripe Prune team winning back-to-back races at Milwaukee in 1975 and 1976, the latter of which was flag-to-flag, and he would win more races and be more dominant although slightly less consistent than Tom Sneva who followed him in the car shortly thereafter (when Sneva was fired after winning back-to-back titles in 1977-78 for Roger Penske because he wasn't winning enough), which says a lot for him. Mosley himself was offered a Penske ride but turned him down because he didn't think he could handle the expectations outside the car that would be expected of a Penske driver, but he probably would have done very well. Mosley managed to shock everyone by winning his last race in 1981 in a CART race at Milwaukee where he failed to qualify but was added as a promoter's option; it would end up being the last race won by a naturally-aspirated engine in a race where the far faster turbochargers competed. With 2nd place qualifying runs in 1981 and 1983, he was still probably not far off of the top of his game, but his career was cut short when he died in a traffic accident prior to the start of the 1984 CART season when his truck caught fire. Because he was quiet and mild-mannered and raced for slightly above average but not great teams, he gained respect from hardcore race fans but never crossed over to the celebrity most IndyCar stars enjoyed. Many fans wonder how much he could have won for an elite team. I place him so low not so much because of his weaker stats, which I can accept since he only had an arguably premier ride once in his rookie season, but because of his lack of diversity. All his wins came on 1-mile ovals, and he didn't show that much speed in his road course and dirt track starts (never finishing better than 4th on either), and his Indianapolis record is pretty bad (although his qualifying results late in his career show potential). While I have no doubt he probably would have won more races for a top-line team, I'm not as sure he would have been able to adapt as well to eras where dirt track racing, superspeedway racing, and/or road racing had a bigger focus. Justin Wilson won a race at Texas for Coyne, but Mosley rarely contended on the superspeedways in an era where even weaker drivers like Jim McElreath and Roger McCluskey were winning on them, so that is my hesitation here. One major thing in his favor is the competition he faced (his first win came in 1971, which was the second-deepest season in IndyCar racing history) but it wasn't enough for me to put him much higher. This could just be one of those 'you had to be there' cases, and sadly, he died a year before I was born so I wasn't.