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The Most Famous

RACING DRIVERS from United States

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This page contains a list of the greatest American Racing Drivers. The pantheon dataset contains 888 Racing Drivers, 100 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 68.12, Carroll Shelby is the most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 28 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 61.06, Phil Hill is the 2nd most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.

Philip Toll Hill Jr. (April 20, 1927 – August 28, 2008) was an American automobile racing driver. He was one of two American drivers to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship, and the only one who was born in the United States (the other, Mario Andretti, was born in Italy and later became an American citizen). 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 Richie Ginther

3. Richie Ginther (1930 - 1989)

With an HPI of 53.27, Richie Ginther is the 3rd most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 24 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 Dan Gurney

4. Dan Gurney (1931 - 2018)

With an HPI of 52.96, Dan Gurney is the 4th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 28 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 Kenny Roberts

5. Kenny Roberts (1951 - )

With an HPI of 51.64, Kenny Roberts is the 5th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 17 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, a safety advocate, a racing team owner, and as 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. He is also the father of 2000 Grand Prix world champion Kenny Roberts Jr.

Photo of Wayne Rainey

6. Wayne Rainey (1960 - )

With an HPI of 51.19, Wayne Rainey is the 6th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 19 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 Mark Donohue

7. Mark Donohue (1937 - 1975)

With an HPI of 51.18, 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 race car 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 Al Unser

8. Al Unser (1939 - 2021)

With an HPI of 50.90, Al Unser is the 8th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Alfred Unser (May 29, 1939 – December 9, 2021) was an American automobile racing driver, the younger brother of fellow racing drivers Jerry and Bobby Unser, and father of Al Unser Jr. He was the second of four men (A. J. Foyt, himself, Rick Mears and Hélio Castroneves) to have won the Indianapolis 500 four times (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987), the fourth of five to have won the race in consecutive years, and won the National Championship in 1970, 1983, and 1985. The Unser family has won the Indy 500 a record nine times. He was the only person to have both a sibling (Bobby) and child (Al Jr.) as fellow Indy 500 winners. Al's nephews Johnny and Robby Unser have also competed in that race. In 1971, he became the only driver to date to win the race on his birthday (his 32nd). After his son Al Unser Jr. joined the national championship circuit in 1983, Unser was generally known by the retronyms "Al Unser Sr." or "Big Al."

Photo of Peter Revson

9. Peter Revson (1939 - 1974)

With an HPI of 50.70, Peter Revson is the 9th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 22 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 Lee Wallard

10. Lee Wallard (1910 - 1963)

With an HPI of 50.14, Lee Wallard is the 10th most famous American Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Lee Wallard (September 7, 1910 Schenectady, New York – November 29, 1963 St. Petersburg, Florida ) was an American race car driver. In the 1951 Indianapolis 500 Wallard drove the Number 99 Belanger Special to victory, at age 40. Tony Bettenhausen had passed up the car, because he wanted to drive a newer front-wheel drive vehicle. A week after winning the Indianapolis 500, Wallard was injured during an auto race in Reading, PA. He was severely burned when his race car caught fire in the home stretch of that race. He required 27 skin grafts.

Pantheon has 100 people classified as racing drivers born between 1906 and 1996. Of these 100, 42 (42.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living racing drivers include Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, and Kevin Schwantz. The most famous deceased racing drivers include Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, and Richie Ginther. As of April 2022, 7 new racing drivers have been added to Pantheon including Pat O'Connor, Danny Ongais, and Rob Schroeder.

Living Racing Drivers

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Deceased Racing Drivers

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Newly Added Racing Drivers (2022)

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