The Most Famous

RACING DRIVERS from United States

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest American Racing Drivers. The pantheon dataset contains 888 Racing Drivers, 93 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the 3rd most number of Racing Drivers behind United Kingdom and Italy.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Racing Drivers of all time. This list of famous American Racing Drivers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Racing Drivers.

Photo of Carroll Shelby

1. Carroll Shelby (1923 - 2012)

With an HPI of 74.91, Carroll Shelby is the most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages on wikipedia.

Carroll Hall Shelby (January 11, 1923 – May 10, 2012) was an American automotive designer, racing driver, and entrepreneur. Shelby is best known for his involvement with the AC Cobra and Mustang for Ford Motor Company, which he modified during the late 1960s and early 2000s. He established Shelby American in 1962 to manufacture and market performance vehicles. His autobiography, The Carroll Shelby Story, was published in 1967. As a race car driver, his highlight was as a co-driver of the winning 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans entry.

Photo of Phil Hill

2. Phil Hill (1927 - 2008)

With an HPI of 69.31, Phil Hill is the 2nd most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Philip Toll Hill Jr. (April 20, 1927 – August 28, 2008) was an American automobile racer and the only American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship (Mario Andretti, an Italian American driver, won the World Drivers' Championship in 1978, but was not born in the United States). He also scored three wins at each of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring sports car races. Hill was described as a "thoughtful, gentle man" and once said, "I'm in the wrong business. I don't want to beat anybody, I don't want to be the big hero. I'm a peace-loving man, basically."

Photo of Dan Gurney

3. Dan Gurney (1931 - 2018)

With an HPI of 64.21, Dan Gurney is the 3rd most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Daniel Sexton Gurney (April 13, 1931 – January 14, 2018) was an American racing driver, race car constructor, and team owner who reached racing's highest levels starting in 1958. Gurney won races in the Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR, Can-Am, and Trans-Am Series. Gurney is the first of three drivers to have won races in Sports Cars (1958), Formula One (1962), NASCAR (1963), and Indy cars (1967), the other two being Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya. In 1967, after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans together with A. J. Foyt, Gurney spontaneously sprayed champagne while celebrating on the podium, which thereafter became a custom at many motorsports events. As owner of All American Racers, he was the first to put a simple right-angle extension on the upper trailing edge of the rear wing. This device, called a Gurney flap, increases downforce and, if well designed, imposes only a relatively small increase in aerodynamic drag. At the 1968 German Grand Prix, he became the first driver ever to use a full face helmet in Grand Prix racing.

Photo of Richie Ginther

4. Richie Ginther (1930 - 1989)

With an HPI of 63.26, Richie Ginther is the 4th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Paul Richard "Richie" Ginther (Hollywood, California, August 5, 1930 – September 20, 1989 in France) was a racecar driver from the United States. During a varied career, the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix saw Ginther take Honda's first Grand Prix victory, a victory which would also prove to be Ginther's only win in Formula One. Ginther competed in 54 World Championship Formula One Grand Prix races and numerous other non-Championship F1 events.

Photo of Kenny Roberts

5. Kenny Roberts (1951 - )

With an HPI of 62.46, Kenny Roberts is the 5th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Kenneth Leroy Roberts (born December 31, 1951 in Modesto, California) is an American former professional motorcycle racer and racing team owner. In 1978, he became the first American to win a Grand Prix motorcycle racing world championship. He was also a two-time winner of the A.M.A. Grand National Championship. Roberts is one of only four riders in American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) racing history to win the AMA Grand Slam, representing Grand National wins at a mile, half-mile, short-track, TT Steeplechase and road race events.Roberts left his mark on Grand Prix motorcycle racing as a world championship winning rider, an advocate for increased safety standards in racing, and as a racing team owner and a motorcycle engine and chassis constructor. His dirt track-based riding style changed the way Grand Prix motorcycles were ridden. Roberts' proposal to create a rival motorcycle championship in 1979 broke the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) hegemony and increased the political clout of Grand Prix racers, which subsequently led to improved safety standards and a new era of professionalism in the sport. In 2000, Roberts was named a Grand Prix Legend by the FIM.

Photo of Peter Revson

6. Peter Revson (1939 - 1974)

With an HPI of 62.25, Peter Revson is the 6th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Peter Jeffrey Revson (February 27, 1939 – March 22, 1974) was an American race car driver and heir to the Revlon cosmetics fortune. He was a two-time Formula One race winner and had success at the Indianapolis 500.

Photo of Mark Donohue

7. Mark Donohue (1937 - 1975)

With an HPI of 62.20, Mark Donohue is the 7th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Mark Neary Donohue Jr. (March 18, 1937 – August 19, 1975), nicknamed "Captain Nice," and later "Dark Monohue," was an American racecar driver and engineer known for his ability to set up his own race car as well as driving it to victories.Donohue is probably best known as the driver of the 1500+ bhp "Can-Am Killer" Porsche 917-30 and as the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1972. Cars that Donohue raced include: AMC Javelin, AMC Matador, Chevrolet Camaro, Eagle-Offy, Elva Courier, Ford GT40 MK IV, Ferrari 250LM, Ferrari 512, Lola T70, Lola T330, Lotus 20, McLaren M16, Porsche 911, Porsche 917/10, Porsche 917/30, Shelby Cobra, and Shelby Mustang GT350R.

Photo of Wayne Rainey

8. Wayne Rainey (1960 - )

With an HPI of 61.64, Wayne Rainey is the 8th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Wayne Wesley Rainey (born October 23, 1960) is an American former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he won the 500cc World Championship three times and the Daytona 200 once. He was characterized by his smooth, calculating riding style, and for his intense rivalry with compatriot Kevin Schwantz, between 1987 and 1993.

Photo of Carl Scarborough

9. Carl Scarborough (1914 - 1953)

With an HPI of 60.82, Carl Scarborough is the 9th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Carl Scarborough (July 3, 1914 – May 30, 1953) was an American racecar driver. He died from heat exhaustion during the 1953 Indianapolis 500, a race in which several drivers experienced heat-related illness. The race was Scarborough's second entry in the Indianapolis 500. He had also been the national champion in both big car and midget car racing. After he died, race officials announced plans to inspect Indy 500 vehicles for suitable ventilation.

Photo of Rikky von Opel

10. Rikky von Opel (1947 - )

With an HPI of 60.82, Rikky von Opel is the 10th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Frederick "Rikky" von Opel (born October 14, 1947) is a former racing driver who represented Liechtenstein in the Formula One World Championship, the only driver to have done so. He won the Lombard North British Formula 3 Championship in 1972. He participated in 14 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix for the Ensign and Brabham teams, debuting on July 1, 1973. He scored no championship points.

Pantheon has 93 people classified as racing drivers born between 1906 and 1991. Of these 93, 45 (48.39%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living racing drivers include Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, and Rikky von Opel. The most famous deceased racing drivers include Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, and Dan Gurney. As of October 2020, 21 new racing drivers have been added to Pantheon including Carl Scarborough, Al Unser, and Lloyd Ruby.

Living Racing Drivers

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Racing Drivers

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Racing Drivers (2020)

Go to all Rankings

Which Racing Drivers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Racing Drivers since 1700.