Josef Newgarden throwing out first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.

Evaluating an elite basketball player is as easy as seeing how one handles shooting, dribbling and/or dunking.

The NBA Finals matchup between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks displayed an array of players with such talent. The Stanley Cup Final pairing of the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers was full of top-notch hockey players on ice. It didn’t take a hockey expert to confirm Connor McDavid as an elite player.

On the gridiron or baseball diamond, quarterbacks and pitchers boast strong arms. Batters hit with power. An excellent golfer might excel at driving off the tee or putting on the green.

But what about assessing a race car driver?

“I think race car drivers have probably the best of senses,” said Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “That’s a nice skill. I would say your inner senses, your ability to react to things before your mind even processes it.

“An oversteer moment or an accident, you don't have time to think and process it. In football, you run this route (or) you see a play and you kind of react to that. In (racing) it's a life-or-death thing sometimes where it's a big accident versus no accident thing and you often have a millisecond to react to something and do something that afterwards -- even a lot of times -- you think to yourself, ‘Holy sh--, what just happened and how did that happen? What did I do to get through there?’

“I don't think everybody has that (skill).”

Rahal said it takes a special individual to process that information and have both the hands and the feet to move in reaction. That, he said, separates race car drivers from other athletes.

“That's why you see the reaction tests and things like that (from) drivers and (the results are) extremely exceptional because that's our world each and every day,” he said. “Your senses, your ability to have spatial awareness, your ability to do all of those things on track because it's not like on a football field. I may run into a guy. Here, when you touch wheels we all know it can happen -- like it's a massive, massive deal – and knowing down to the inches of where to place your car and where to be and all of those things, I think race car drivers are exceptional at that.

“I think race car drivers combine a lot of things that maybe don't get the credit for all of the intricacies and the difficulties of what the sport is.”

For the record, there are several examples of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers showcasing their athletic skills away from the track. Rahal is a top-level golfer while two-time reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge champion Josef Newgarden was a standout baseball player in his school days. Athleticism comes in many forms.

Ed Carpenter is the only owner/driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and he said he evaluates drivers simply by winning.

“Winning at the lower levels is a must,” he said.

Carpenter said the competition level improves while climbing a racing ladder and if a driver can’t win at those competition levels, they likely will struggle at the pinnacle of the sport.

Another key contributor Carpenter looks for is mental toughness. The way his rookie driver, Christian Rasmussen, closed out the INDY NXT by Firestone championship season last year while driving for HMD Motorsports was important.

“That showed me his mental toughness because as things got more intense as that season went on, he seemed to get better and better and really made it not very dramatic in the end,” Carpenter said. “That’s probably the biggest thing that stood out to me and obviously he's really quick. You've got to be quick.

“There's no weak links (among drivers) around here anymore. So, you've got to basically have the mental toughness to really be able to stick with any level.”

Will Power has helped youth programs at the karting level and said he just looks for a natural ability. The unexplainable “it” factor.

“You just almost pick it straight up off the bat,” he said. “Then, (it’s) the work ethic and the drive and all that has to come into it. At some point when everyone is meeting at the top, you’ve got to try to separate yourself to get to through ranks.”