There is a show on ESPN about numbers and statistics, called “Numbers Never Lie”. While there is some truth that philosophy, it is not always the case. Statistics can show us a lot of things from a different angle. Things that we wouldn’t normally see without them. While many people were sick of hearing the name Danica Patrick, she was a very polarizing figure during her time in IndyCar. She was a high-profile driver that many people (including myself) considered to be wildly overrated. I decided to put her statistics up against two of today’s high-profile drivers, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal. The results were very interesting.
When applying this to IndyCar, there are several factors you have to take into consideration when comparing drivers. First and foremost, you have to consider the era in which they raced. Times change, and things evolve rapidly, especially in motorsport. Second, you have to consider the teams and equipment that they drivers have, and how those compare. Third, you must look at many different aspects of the sport. While winning is important, it isn’t the only thing that matters.
All three of these drivers have competed in the same era, against the same competition for the most part. Both Danica and Marco drove for Andretti Autosport, the team owned by Marco’s father. Graham has been with multiple teams, most recently with Ganassi and his father’s team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan. None of these drivers have been stuck with non-competitive teams. All of these things put them on fairly level ground.
Obviously there are expectations with Marco and Graham, because of their family trees in the world of open wheel racing. While they may never live up to be the next generation great drivers people thought they would be, there doesn’t seem to be much criticism over their performance over the last few years. It’s very interesting to see where they rank when you put their numbers up against Danica’s. I’m using her as a comparison because her numbers are actually better, and she was always criticized and labeled as overrated.
The chart below focuses on the number of years in IndyCar, how many total races they participated in, number of wins, career average finishing points position, and their career average finish in the Indianapolis 500. It’s interesting to note that Graham’s only win came in his first career start, which means he is on an 84 race winless streak, counting the two races from this season. Marco is now in his ninth season, and Graham in his seventh. After two races this year, they are 17th and 18th respectively in the current championship standings. Their seats are secure for obvious reasons, but it’s about time they start performing.
Graham has no more excuses this year. He has one of the best race engineers in all of racing, plenty of resources, years of experience, and the most lucrative sponsor package in IndyCar. Just performing better than his teammate would be an excellent start. Marco has shown he can compete each weekend. Over the past two years, he has matured more than anyone in the paddock. He is focused, and determined, but it seems we only see him up front on the ovals. He’s a better road and street course driver than people give him credit for, but he needs to start showing that.
Someone recently posed the question, “Who will win another race first, Marco or Graham?” It’s a good question. One that I hope the answer isn’t neither.
This article also appeared on Open Wheel Now.