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 third of a five-part series, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon rates all of the grid’s performers in 2010, ranking positions 24 to 17 today. Enjoy!

24. Jay Howard
Jay Howard Jay Howard

This young man is worth watching in coming years. Give him a performing car and he will give you results. The machinery given to this man is no indication of his talent, proven by winning the Indy Lights championship in 2006 and he was left to rue a poor-quality Sarah Fisher Racing entry in Kansas, Texas, Mid-Ohio and Chicago.

Team: Sarah Fisher Racing Championship Ranking: 31st Points: 44
Starts: 4 DNFs: 4 Best Grid: 21st Best Result: 22nd (DNF) Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 408


23. Bertrand Baguette
Bertrand Baguette Bertrand Baguette

Despite a difficult introduction to the series, hastily placed into the drive at HVM from Barber onwards, Bertrand adjusted to the series rather quickly. Looking through his results, with his race finishing position becoming higher up the field as the season progressed, Bertrand will surprise few when he achieves success in the IndyCar Series. With a best finish of 10th at Kentucky, give this kid a bit more time to find his feet and the success will come.

Team: Conquest Racing Championship Ranking: 22nd Points: 213
Starts: 15 DNFs: 5 Best Grid: 6th Best Result: 10th Laps Led: 0 Laps Raced: 1,867


22. Sarah Fisher
Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher

Having recently announced her retirement from full-time in-car competition in order to focus on running her team, Sarah has started well by investing in the recruitment of Ed Carpenter for 2011, although we may see Sarah appearing at the Indy 500 in a second car. For 2010, Sarah competed well in an underperforming car, even leading some laps at Chicago.

Team: Sarah Fisher Racing Championship Ranking: 26th Points: 92
Starts: 7 DNFs: 3 Best Grid: 14th Best Result: 15th (DNF) Laps Led: 10 Laps Raced: 1,172


21. Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal Graham Rahal

Driving for four different teams in 2010, this inconsistency resulted in some poor finishes for Graham, whose standards would obviously be higher by virtue of his famous surname. Despite this, seven top-10 finishes from 12 starts show that this young man has what it takes to deliver when the team name stays the same all year…

Team: Sarah Fisher, Rahal/Letterman, Newman/Haas, D&R Championship Ranking: 20th Points: 235
Starts: 12 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 6th Best Result: 5th Laps Led: 11 Laps Raced: 1,735


20. E.J. Viso
EJ Viso EJ Viso

A fairly consistent finisher, E.J. was unlucky to have not had better results in 2010. When everything came together, he delivered exceptional results, such as his podium in Iowa. But that was very much a rarity, and he picked up only one other top-ten finish all season. It is expected that E.J. will retain his seat for 2011, but more is expected.

Team: KV Racing Championship Ranking: 17th Points: 262
Starts: 17 DNFs: 5 Best Grid: 6th Best Result: 3rd Laps Led: 1 Laps Raced: 1,876


19. Simona De Silvestro
Simona de Silvestro Simona de Silvestro

Exploding onto the scene in her very first race in Brazil, leading 4 laps even, Simona experienced all the highs and lows one possibly can in her debut season, including a very frightening fiery accident in Texas. For one reason or another though, poor reliability and some amateur handling errors caused a few too many retirements for the Swiss miss. HVM Racing have confirmed De Silvestro will be returning to the seat in 2011.

Team: HVM Racing Championship Ranking: 19th Points: 242
Starts: 17 DNFs: 7 Best Grid: 7th Best Result: 8th Laps Led: 4 Laps Raced: 1,833


18. Mike Conway
Mike Conway Mike Conway

All set for a big year was young Mike Conway, even qualifying on the front row at Barber Motorsports Park. Three top-ten finishes by Kansas had heralded his arrival before a massive accident on the last lap at Indianapolis sidelined him for the remainder of 2010. Expect big things from the returning Briton in 2011 and beyond.

Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Championship Ranking: 25th Points: 110
Starts: 6 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 2nd Best Result: 8th Laps Led: 15 Laps Raced: 696


17. Takuma Sato
Takuma Sato Takuma Sato

Definitely the highest-profile signing of the 2009 off-season, the veteran of 90 starts in Formula 1 was widely tipped to struggle to adapt to the nature of oval-racing in the USA. Unfortunately, plenty of instances where Takuma qualified well up the field were not converted into positive race results. If he can keep his car out of the wall come race-day, bets on Takuma will pay dividends, as the raw pace and talent is there.

Team: KV Racing Championship Ranking: 21st Points: 214
Starts: 17 DNFs: 9 Best Grid: 3rd Best Result: 9th Laps Led: 1 Laps Raced: 1,544


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

COMING SOON! The IndyCar drivers ranked 16 to 9!

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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.