Worst Team Seasons

Many of you enjoyed my blog post from the other day on who I thought the greatest team-driver combinations since 1979 were, so many of you pondered, who are the worst? Well, I dug through some old numbers and came up with 15 teams and their drivers that had brutal seasons.

There are disclaimers with this. I excluded single car teams, as it is tough to tell if a bad season was a mix of a bad team, a bad driver, or both, so only full-time multi-car teams were chosen under these guidelines. Because of this, most of my research focused on 1996 to present day because before that, most teams did not run full-time programs and thus it's hard to determine how bad they really were. That, or many cars were well funded, and if a driver was performing poorly they could be fired and replaced, whereas nowadays, most drivers have paid for the rides and thus it's legally challenging for teams to fire those drivers. Finally, I took emotion out of my rankings. I analyzed average finishing position relative to the average size of the field and came up with a number. The closer to the number 1, the worse their season was. Again, sometimes it is easy to see why a team did not perform (based on their drivers), but there are some drivers on here that were very good who ended up on bad teams.

Again, in each paragraph, I reference a rating. Rating = average combined finish from the teams' drivers / average field size on the season. The closer to one, the worse the team finished. Average finish can be deceiving if the field sizes were large/small. This helps normalize it. I used this as a guide to the rankings, but it wasn't the ultimate deciding factor.

Here are fifteen teams that I determined to be the worst teams since 1996:

15) Arciero-Wells Racing - 1998

#24 Hiro Matsushita / Robby Gordon
#25 Max Papis

A team that was very embattled after the split was Arciero-Wells Racing. Featured at the back of the grid for their first several seasons while developing the Toyota engines, Arciero-Wells had a tough time in 1998. To be fair, any team with Hiro Matsushita is going to have an uphill battle. Fortunately for the team, Matsushita was set to retire a few races into the season, and Robby Gordon would take his seat for the rest of the season. Max Papis was much faster than his teammates in his second full season. Combined, the two cars averaged a finish of 15.9 out of an average field size 28.0, or a rating of 0.568.

Max Papis races in the MCI car in 1998 (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)

14) Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing - 2013

#15 Graham Rahal
#16 James Jakes

Not a team that stands out in the eyes of most as an all-time bad team, but the 2013 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing outfit reeked of terriblness. In a surprising move, Graham Rahal joined up with his dad, Bobby Rahal, for their first full-time season together. Joining them was well funded Brit James Jakes. It's surprising to see how bad this team was in 2013 given how well they're doing today. Ill handling cars followed them everywhere, especially on ovals. The team was auspiciously bad in almost every race. Between the two, they averaged a finish of 15.2 in an average of 25.1, or a rating of 0.606.

GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Definitely a year to forget for Graham Rahal (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

13) Fernandez Racing 2001

#51 Adrian Fernandez
#52 Shinji Nakano

Second year IndyCar driver and former Formula 1 driver Shinji Nakano joined forces with veteran IndyCar driver Adrian Fernandez, who co-founded Fernandez Racing following the 2000 CART Season. As most first year teams go, they immediately struggled. Once a proven winner with various teams, including Patrick Racing, Fernandez struggled. Meanwhile, Nakano, who appeared to be in the car at the good graces of his sponsors, failed to raise any eyebrows (even though "the team" (his sponsors) brought him back in 2002). The two combined averaged a finish of 16.1 in an average field size of 26.0, earning a rating of 0.619.

Shinji Nakano qualifying in 2001 (Photo: PBase)

12) PacWest Racing - 2000

#17 Mauricio Gugelmin
#18 Mark Blundell

This one is all on the team. Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin were proven badasses on the track, but their teams inability to decide whether to go to the 2000 Reynard chassis or stick with the 1999 chassis meant the team was behind the eight ball from the beginning. Despite strong success in 1996 and 1997, 1998 and 1999 were average seasons at best. 2000 was a train wreck. Other than a Gugelmin podium at Nazareth, the team did nothing right. The two averaged a finish of 15.4 in an average field size of 24.7, giving them a rating of 0.623.

Mark Blundell racing in 2000 (Photo: Peter Burke)

11) Chip Ganassi Racing - 2005

#9 Scott Dixon
#10 Jaques Lazier / Darren Manning / Giorgio Pantano
#33 Ryan Briscoe

You know a season is really bad when Chip Ganassi considers firing Scott Dixon after it. I've heard some rumblings that Ganassi was considering parting from the 2003 champion after a second straight season of misery in IndyCar. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. Still, this is easily Ganassi's worst season since he established dominance in 1996. Darren Manning was fired for sucking, leaving Jaques Lazier to mop up on the ovals and Giorgio Pantano on the road courses. Fast rookie Ryan Briscoe showed flashes in some races, while inherit rookie mistakes in other races. He did not finish the last two races of the season after a horrifying crash in Chicago. Dixon at least put a cherry on top of his misery by winning at Watkins Glen. Still, an average finish of 14.9 in a small average field size of 22.7 earns this team a rating of 0.656.

Scott Dixon battles with Ryan Briscoe (Photo: Motorsport)

10) AJ Foyt Enterprises - 2015-2016

#14 Takuma Sato
#41 Jack Hawksworth

The newest team to be added to this list is AJ Foyt Enterprises. The unique thing about them being on this list is they are the only team to have back-to-back futile years with the same drivers. Takuma Sato, aka Dallara's Secret Stimulus Package, and recent Indy Lights graduate Jack Hawksworth, both struggled at just about every race. In a staggering feat, Hawksworth could not manage a single top-ten in the 2016 season, where most field sizes were just 22 cars large. To Sato's credit, he was consistently faster than Hawksworth. In 64 combined races, the two averaged a finish of 15.2 in a combined average field size of 23.5, giving them a rating of 0.647.

Sato leads Hawksworth at Mid-Ohio (Photo: Indycar)

9) All American Racing - 1998

#36 Alex Barron
#98 PJ Jones / Vincenzo Sospiri

Dan Gurney's team, All American Racing, never really got going in CART, and they appear one other time on this list, meaning that at least this wasn't their worst season. All American Racing, which is a walking contradiction since Vincenzo Sospiri, who replaced the PJ Jones who had decided that he will be going elsewhere in 1999 and opted to step aside for the final couple of races, was Italian. An Italian driving for All American Racing? Anyways, these two combined with young gun Alex Barron all managed nothing in the season. Seems like the only positions they earned was from attrition. The three averaged a finish of 18.3 in an average field size of 28.0, earning a rating of 0.654

PJ Jones in 'The Eagle' (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)

8) Dale Coyne Racing - 2011

#18 James Jakes
#19 Alex Lloyd / Sebastien Bourdais

The first of a couple appearances on this list, Dale Coyne Racing did not have a very good 2011 season. On the plus side, this is and probably will be the last time Dale Coyne Racing will end up on this list because starting in 2012, the team finally got it going. With well-funded rookie James Jakes in one car and Alex Lloyd (ovals) and disgraced Formula 1 driver and former IndyCar champion Sebastien Bourdais (road courses) splitting the second car, the lineup looked solid on paper. However, other than a couple good finishes from Bourdais, the three averaged a finish 18.2 in an average field size 27.4, which earned them a rating of 0.664.

IZOD INDYCAR World Championships at Las Vegas - Day 2
It was a forgettable year for James Jakes, who suffered a nasty crash during practice at Las Vegas
(Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

7) KV Racing - 2010

#5 Takuma Sato
#8 EJ Viso
#32 Mario Moraes

All I can say is God Bless this year for KV Racing. It was one of the most comedic seasons I've ever seen out of a single team. They were not slow, not even close, which is why them being on this list is a little more funny. Most of the time, Formula 1 veteran and rookie Takuma Sato, and third year drivers EJ Viso and Mario Moraes were all fast. But my god, their race craft was absolutely awful. It was so awful that a tribute video was made them to recap all of their incidents. In total, the team combined for 26 crashes on the season... 26!!! On the season, the three combined for an average finish of  18.2 in an average field size of 26.7, giving them a rating of 0.682.

Sao Paulo Indy 300
The car before the further white stripe... Yeah that's Takuma Sato... Also, Mario Moraes
used Marco Andretti as a brake / ramp in the top of the photo during the start of the
2010 season at Brazil (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images North America)

6) Arciero-Wells Racing - 1997

#24 Hiro Matsushita
#25 Max Papis

Gracing the list for the second time, Arciero-Wells Racing and their duo of "veteran" Hiro Matsushita and second year driver Max Papis struggled with poor equipment and Toyota engines. Not much else to say other than to give you their miserable numbers: they averaged a finish of 18.8 in an average field size of 27.5, earning them a rating of 0.684.

Matsushita probably getting in someone's way at Milwaukee in 1997 (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)

5) All American Racing - 1997

#36 Juan Manuel Fangio II
#98 PJ Jones

The All American Racing team led by *laughs* Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio II and American PJ Jones did not have themselves a very good 1997. Just like the team listed at number six, AAR also had Toyota power and their own unproven chassis. The moving road blocks could only manage a season high three 10th place finishes in 36 starts. Overall, the duo averaged a finish of 19.1 in an average field size of 27.5, earning them a rating of 0.695.

The All American Eagles of 1997 (Photo: Canam Cars)

4) Payton-Coyne Racing - 1996

#19 Hiro Matsushita
#34 Roberto Moreno

Gracing his presence for the third time on this list is none other than King Hiro himself (common pattern). Joining him, with his own nickname of Super Sub, is full-timer Robert Moreno. Driving for Dale Coyne and NFL Legend Walter Payton, the two drivers, well, sucked. Moreno was only marginally better than Matsushita, who still managed to get in everyone's way. Overall, the two averaged a finish of 19.1 in an average field size of 26.8, giving them a rating of 0.715.

Hiro Matsushita drives around in the Panasonic car (Photo: SpeedSport Magazine)

3) Conquest Racing - 2008

#34 Franck Perera / Jaime Camara 
#36 Alex Tagliani / Enrique Bernoldi

Conquest Racing was always a team that was small in stature but big in ambitions. Their team would often rotate drivers to give some new blood / old dogs a chance to race (often for financial reasons). Unfortunately, the small team would just be gluttons for punishment in the 2008 campaign. After starting with Franck Perera in the first couple of races, he was relieved in favor of Indy Lights graduate Jaime Camara. Camara showed signs of life in some races, while flat lining on others. Jaime's only real claim to fame came at Richmond, where he led many laps before crashing from the lead. F1-reject Enrique Bernoldi started in the #36 car, but that finished as well as his tour at Arrows. Veteran Alex Tagliani would finish off the sesaon in the car, but overall, it was an utterly futile season. Between the four drivers, they averaged a finish of 18.8 out of an average field size of 26.3, or a rating of 0.713.

Camping World Indy Grand Prix
Jaime Camara chases Enrique Bernoldi at Watkins Glen
(Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)

2) Dale Coyne Racing - 2010

#18 Milka Duno
#19 Alex Lloyd

Okay, you had to see this one coming. I mean, you had to know SHE was going to make this list. The she in this situation is quite undoubtedly the worst IndyCar driver I've ever seen: Milka Duno. 2010 marked the only season where she graced the IndyCar grid on a full-time basis. Teammate Alex Lloyd, who doesn't deserve to be in the same sentence as Duno (as in he's not even close to being that bad), raced for Dale Coyne Racing, a small team that needed funding from their drivers to keep the team going. Milka had massive Citgo sponsorship, while Lloyd had the backing of the Boy Scouts / his boss Dale Coyne. While Lloyd put up a reasonable average finishing position of 16.9 (especially in poor equipment), Duno averaged an astounding 22.9 average finish. While Lloyd finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500, Duno didn't even make the field. Her best finish on the season was 19th. Overall, the two averaged a combined finish of of 19.6 in an average field size of 26.7, giving them a rating of 0.734.

Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Practice
Milka Duno races at Barber (Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America)

1) Payton-Coyne Racing - 1998

#19 Michel Jourdain Jr.
#34 Dennis Vitolo / Gualter Salles

Well, I have officially found the worst team of all-time. Poor Dale Coyne finds himself on this list for the fourth time. Heavily funded Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr., who ran in only his second full-time season, struggled immensely in the car. But even he couldn't hold a candle to Dennis Vitolo, who many people will point out is one of the slowest drivers in IndyCar history. Vitiolo was god awful at just about every race he started in. He shared the seat at various parts of the season with Gualter Salles. Salles was significantly faster, securing the one and only point for the #34 car that season. Still, this trio stands alone as statistically the worst IndyCar team season since 1996. The three averaged a finish of an incredible 20.8 out of an average field size of 28.0, with a list high rating of 0.743.

Dennis Vitolo sits on the grid at Vancouver (Photo: racebyrace.com)

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey