The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series championship season provided fans of America’s premier open-wheeler series with another end-of-their seats, thrilling championship year that will go down as one of the most exciting in the sport’s history.

Ultimately, it was Dario Franchitti who took a third championship at the final round when a mistake from championship leader Will Power cost him the title, but the championship was also about the 38 other drivers who made the grid in the seventeen-round season. What of their stories, who cut the mustard, and who failed to make the grade?

In the first of a five-part series, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon rates his high- and low-performers of 2010. Enjoy!

40. Francesco Dracone
Francesco Dracone Francesco Dracone

A relative unknown outside of the Euroseries 3000 championship, Dracone’s drive at Conquest came at the expense of Mario Romancini after the Brazilian’s sponsorship backing ran out. The Italian never really got to grips with the IndyCar style, finishing no less than 3 laps off the pace in either of his two outings and causing an embarrassing caution period by spinning unassisted on the start/finish straight in Mid-Ohio.

Team: Conquest Racing Championship Ranking: 37th Points: 24
Starts: 2 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 23rd Best Result: 20th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 153


39. Milka Duno
Milka Duno Milka Duno

In many ways Milka is lucky she has good sponsorship, as it would be difficult to imagine her in a regular race seat on merit alone. Beginning her racing career so late – at age 24 – has left Milka without the step-by-step progression through the junior formulae. Her marketability has perhaps seen her pushed too fast to the really serious racing categories. As a result, she has struggled to adapt to the IndyCar series, regularly qualifying and finishing at the back, if she finished at all.

Team: Dale Coyne Racing Championship Ranking: 23rd Points: 184
Starts: 16 DNFs: 9 Best Grid: 17th Best Result: 19th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 1,330


38. John Andretti
John Andretti John Andretti

Undoubtedly one of the veterans, Andretti competed at Kansas and Indianapolis in 2010, achieving a top-ten finish in the Window World sponsored machine. Perhaps a little race-rusty in open-wheeler racing, as was shown by his poor on-track manners when being overtaken or lapped.

Team: Andretti Autosports Championship Ranking: 32nd Points: 35
Starts: 2 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 17th Best Result: 9th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 261


37. Roger Yasukawa
Roger Yasukawa Roger Yasukawa

A talented American driver from Japanese descent, Roger has been returning to the IndyCar series in a driving capacity usually at his spiritual home race in Motegi, Japan, which indeed served as his only start in the 2010 season. He finished last of the classified runners, although was not running at the end of the race. Outside of this, Roger has proven a capable spotter for his countryman Takuma Sato.

Team: Conquest Racing Championship Ranking: 40th Points: 12
Starts: 1 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 21st Best Result: 20th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 195


36. Ana Beatriz
Ana Beatriz Ana Beatriz

A little more time in the feeder formulae will do this promising young driver a world of good. Despite making four starts in 2010, only finishing one of them proves there is more work to be done here

Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Championship Ranking: 30th Points: 55
Starts: 4 DNFs: 3 Best Grid: 15th Best Result: 13th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 387


35. Bruno Junqueira
Bruno Junqueira Bruno Junqueira

Bruno made his only start of 2010 at the Indy 500 in May, crashing out on Lap 7. It is no secret though, that Bruno is looking for a full-time return to the series. A decent sponsorship package along with a few positive results should be all Bruno needs to reassert himself as a high-profile driver. Look for him in the paddock at the 2011 IndyCar race in Sao Paulo.

Team: FAZZT Race Team Championship Ranking: 39th Points: 13
Starts: 1 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 25th Best Result: DNF Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 7


34. Mario Romancini
Mario Romancini Mario Romancini

Motorsport is a fickle business, especially for a young up-and-comer such as Mario. While a very talented competitor, Mario’s sponsors were unable to meet their bills and his seat at HVM Racing was involuntarily vacated following Edmonton. While another season in Indy Lights would be of benefit, there is promise in Mario and one hopes that he can find the necessary financiers to back him on a more permanent basis.

Team: Conquest Racing Championship Ranking: 24th Points: 149
Starts: 11 DNFs: 5 Best Grid: 17th Best Result: 13th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 7


33. Townsend Bell
Townsend Bell Townsend Bell

A proven racer with success in all the formulae leading to IndyCars, Townsend has never realised his potential or run a full season with any team since 2001. The Indy 500 saw Bell’s only start of 2010 in which he finished a lap down in 16th place

Team: Sam Schmidt / Ganassi Racing Championship Ranking: 38th Points: 18
Starts: 1 DNFs: 0 Best Grid: 10th Best Result: 16th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 199


[Original images via AUTOSPORT, Flickr, IndyCar official site and LAT]

COMING SOON! The IndyCar drivers ranked 32 to 25!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.