The Greatest 33
The Greatest 33 is a list of top drivers from the history of the Indianapolis 500. In 2011, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gathered a panel of media and historians to establish 100 nominees for the best drivers who have participated in the Indianapolis 500 from 1911 to 2010. During the months leading up the race, fans were invited to vote on the best 33 among the nominees, and the finalists were announced in the days leading up to the 2011 race.
Of the 732 drivers who had participated in the Indianapolis 500 from 1911 to 2010, a list of 100 nominees was narrowed down by a panel of experts. The criteria was somewhat loose, as winning the race was not necessarily a requirement for inclusion. Only 68 drivers have won the race, and of those, only 57 were nominated. Other factors that were weighed included: pole position winners, lap leaders, rookies of the year, individual statistical accomplishments, accomplishments of a historical nature, and popular fixtures.
The original list of 100 drivers was released on March 18, and voting continued through May 14.
The final list of 33 drivers was announced May 15. The three four-time Indy 500 winners A. J. Foyt, Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears comprised the front row. The three most recent three-time winners Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, and Hélio Castroneves, made up the second row. Three non-winners, Tony Bettenhausen, Sr., Dan Gurney, and Michael Andretti, were selected, although Gurney and Andretti are former race-winning owners, and both had second place finishes in their careers. Ray Harroun, winner of the inaugural race was situated in row nine, alongside Tommy Milton, the first-ever two-time winner.
All 17 of the multiple Indy 500 winners going into the 2011 race were included on the list. Of the thirty-three finalists, twenty-one were living at the time the list was released. Only four drivers (Castroneves, Franchitti, Dixon, and Montoya) on the list were considered active in professional-level motorsports at the time.
Immediately after the list was released, critical reaction was both positive and negative. There was almost universal acclaim for the three four-time winners being on the front row (Foyt, Unser, Mears). However, there was considerable dissent regarding winners that were not included, bias towards recent years, and the inclusion of non-winners. Due to the limitations of the final list size (33 names), it was not possible for all 68 former winners to be included. Also, significant non-winners such as Rex Mays and Ted Horn were not included in the final grid.
There were several dissents early on among fans and media regarding drivers included on the original list of 100 finalists, such as Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti. However, none of the highly controversial nominees made the final official list. Dan Wheldon (who at the time of voting had won only once) won the race for the second time just days after the list was released. Along with four other top-4 career finishes, and three front row starts, considerable speculation afterwards suggested Wheldon would have made easily the list had the voting been conducted after the race.
After the official announcement, merchandise including t-shirts and other collectibles, were marketed in The Greatest 33 theme.
The top three vote-getters consisted of the three four-time Indianapolis 500 winners.
- The Greatest 33 - Official Site
- Greatest 33 drivers in Indy 500 history - Photo Gallery, IndyStar.com
- Cavin, Curt (2011-05-15). "Fan vote selects top 33 drivers for the Indianapolis 500". The Indianapolis Star (USA Today). Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- Miller, Robin (2011-05-16). "MILLER: The Greatest 33?". Speed. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- Kelly, Paul (2011-05-15). "Four-Time '500' Winners Foyt, Mears, Unser Lead 'The Greatest 33'". news/Blogs (Indianapolis Motor Speedway). Retrieved 2012-07-19.
- "Cavin & Kevin pick THEIR Greatest 33". WFNI. 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- Cavin, Curt (2011-05-17). "On the Greatest 33". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2012-02-20.