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 fourth of a five-part series, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon rates all of the grid’s performers in 2010, ranking positions 16 to 9 today. Enjoy!

16. Vitor Meira
Vitor Meira Vitor Meira

Vitor never really replicated the promise his early podium in Brazil may have generated, despite plenty of good consistent results. Vitor holds the unenviable record of having started the most IndyCar races without a win. Don’t rule out this win coming in 2011, and when it does, watch as Vitor transforms back into the driver we have seen and want to see again.

Team: A.J. Foyt Enterprises Championship Ranking: 12th Points: 310
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 6th Best Result: 3rd Laps Led: 18 Laps Raced: 2,194


15. Alex Lloyd
Alex Lloyd Alex Lloyd

The Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award doesn’t go to just anybody. Alex had some good positive results in 2010, peaking with a 4th place finish at the Indy 500. Expect a bigger team than Dale Coyne Racing to pick this kid up and watch as he fulfils his potential. He is good friends with Lewis Hamilton, so maybe a future in Formula One awaits.

Team: Dale Coyne Racing Championship Ranking: 16th Points: 266
Starts: 17 DNFs: 5 Best Grid: 6th Best Result: 4th Laps Led: 3 Laps Raced: 2,081


14. Raphael Matos
Raphael Matos Raphael Matos

De Ferran Dragon Racing is a young team on the way up, not least for the fact it is co- owned by Jay Penske (yes, the son of the other Penske). Rafa Matos burst onto the scene in 2009 but quietly went about his business in 2010, when another burst was required.

Team: De Ferran Dragon Racing Championship Ranking: 14th Points: 290
Starts: 17 DNFs: 4 Best Grid: 10th Best Result: 4th Laps Led: 18 Laps Raced: 2,049


13. Alex Tagliani
Alex Tagliani Alex Tagliani

Not a bad showing in 2010 from "Tags" first effort as an owner/driver. Most of the time when Tagliani led a race in 2010, it was due to running off-sequence with his pit strategy. Having said that, the car was quick, so with further development while the big teams turn their focus to 2012 and the new formula, the FAZZT Team may surprise us all in 2011.

Team: FAZZT Race Team Championship Ranking: 13th Points: 302
Starts: 17 DNFs: 4 Best Grid: 2nd Best Result: 4th Laps Led: 67 Laps Raced: 2,194


12. Dan Wheldon
Dan Wheldon Dan Wheldon

With only 2 DNF’s in 2010, finishing 9th in the points standings is way too low for a driver of this quality, and a former series champ and Indy 500 winner no less. Unfortunately, just as Panther Racing were starting to gel with Wheldon, he has confirmed he will be elsewhere in 2011. Hopefully the IndyCar Series doesn’t lose him altogether. If he can put together the required sponsorship, I wouldn’t put another tilt with Andretti Autosports beyond the realm of possibility for Dan.

Team: Panther Racing Championship Ranking: 9th Points: 388
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 3rd Best Result: 2nd Laps Led: 108 Laps Raced: 2,277


11. Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson Justin Wilson

Starting the year in fantastic form, Justin had moments of brilliance in 2010, but unfortunately these were few and far between. Take nothing away from a fantastic pole position in Toronto, but Justin is capable of making moments like these regular instead of rare.

Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Championship Ranking: 11th Points: 361
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 1st Best Result: 2nd Laps Led: 43 Laps Raced: 2,085


10. Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter

With Vision Racing, his former home, failing to secure sufficient funding to run the entire season, Carpenter found himself out of his familiar fluoro-yellow car and into the Fuzzy’s Ultra-Premium Vodka entry on a part-time basis in 2010. Pole position and a 2nd place finish at Kentucky should make the bigger teams sit up and take notice. Ed has signed for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2011, hopefully on a full-time basis.

Team: Panther Racing Championship Ranking: 28th Points: 90
Starts: 4 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 1st Best Result: 2nd Laps Led: 14 Laps Raced: 777


9. Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan Tony Kanaan

Tony’s off-season has not been good so far, having sought and been granted a release from his Andretti Autosports contract due to the withdrawal of 7-Eleven as his main sponsor. While Tony searches for new sponsors and a new ride for 2011, he can look back on a positive 2010, winning well at Iowa and regularly running at or near the front despite all too frequent poor qualifying performances.

Team: Andretti Autosports Championship Ranking: 6th Points: 453
Starts: 17 DNFs: 0 Best Grid: 2nd Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 68 Laps Raced: 2,413


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

COMING SOON! The top eight IndyCar drivers!

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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.