You’ve already seen this video, because you already watch Fast Lane Daily religiously, right? RIGHT? Well, if you don’t you should! In their latest episode, they go through the history of motorsport and select the top five most influential drivers. If you missed it, here’s the vid.
In summary, the top five most influential according to FLD:
- Aytron Senna
- Rodger Penske
- Dale Earnhart, Sr.
- Dan Gurney
- James Garner as Pete Aaron
I think they make some compelling arguments, but I also think they got it a bit wrong if we’re talking about the most influential drivers. Roger Penske and Dan Gurney were both “game changers” as FLD puts it, but they didn’t change the face of motorsport from the cockpit. The Captain changed the game from the command chair, leading his teams to more Indianapolis 500 victories than any other team in history. It was his complete domination as a team owner that earned him his spot in motorsports history, not his driving. …not that he was a slouch as a driver by any stretch. Dan Gurney was a brilliant driver, but his real acclaim comes not from his driving abilities, which were amazing, but for his ability to design and craft the fastest race cars on the planet. Dan Gurney’s Eagles were second to none, and his addition of a wicker (still called a Gurney flap today) to the trailing edge of the rear wing of his Eagle gave his car an almost unfair advantage over the competition in open-wheel racing. Penske and Gurney are giants in motorsport, but in the end it wasn’t for their driving. The last name, Pete Aaron, I have to reject offhand as being a fictional character. I get what FLD is going for here, but I don’t think the character was as influential as they want to believe.
So who are my three replacements if Penske, Gurney, and Garner/Aaron are out? The first two that stand out are AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti. Both were icons of motorsport and drew hoards of new fans to the sport. Also, both were successful in multiple forms of motorsport. Both won the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, with AJ being the first to win the Memorial Day Classic a then unheard of four times. Both won the premier race of stock car racing, the Daytona 500. They would also both claim victories oversees, Foyt by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Andretti by winning the Monaco GP and the Formula 1 World Driving Championship. This ability to be successful across disciplines at the highest level, earned both drivers profound respect (sometimes in the form of hate) from their competitors and thousands of fans who would come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every year, not so much to see the racing action, but for a chance to see walking legends. For my third, I got some help from my brother who suggested American motorcycle rider, Kenny Roberts. Roberts influenced just about ever young American rider since. Like Foyt and Andretti, he excelled at more than just one discipline of racing. He raced and won on dirt ovals line the Indy Mile on monstrous bikes like the legendary Yamaha TZ 750 two-stroke, as well as on road and street circuits. Having conquered the American racing scene, he began competing on motorcycle road racing’s pinnacle series, MotoGP, where he won the riders championship on a 500cc Yamaha.
So what are your thoughts? Like my picks, do you favor FLDs, or do you have your own?