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 final part of the series, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon rates the top eight performers of the 2010 season, as well as his ‘best in class’ award recipients.

Enjoy!

8. Marco Andretti
Marco Andretti Marco Andretti

Marco had a good year by most standards, doing almost everything required to win, without actually winning. Three podiums in 2010, including Indy, showed Marco is hungry to win again. With new investment from his main sponsor Venom Energy Drinks, Marco’s seat appears safe, but he knows he needs to deliver soon.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Andretti Autosports Championship Ranking: 8th Points: 392
Starts: 17 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 3rd Best Result: 3rd Laps Led: 85 Laps Raced: 2,344

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7. Ryan Briscoe
Ryan Briscoe Ryan Briscoe

After coming so close to winning the 2009 series title, Briscoe was a hot favourite to get the job done in 2010. Only one victory in Texas would not be what Ryan thought his season would include. Ryan will know he is capable of better and will be going all-out to ensure he is among those fighting Ganassi for the championship in 2011.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Team Penske Championship Ranking: 5th Points: 482
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 1st Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 308 Laps Raced: 2,238

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6. Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick Danica Patrick

Danica finished 2nd twice in 2010, at Texas and Miami. She is on her way back to the top step of the podium. Regularly in the Top-10, Danica is capable of challenging the front-runners however she needs to focus on Indycars and not let the big dollars of NASCAR lure her away.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Andretti Autosports Championship Ranking: 10th Points: 367
Starts: 17 DNFs: 0 Best Grid: 8th Best Result: 2nd Laps Led: 1 Laps Raced: 2,408

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5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay Ryan Hunter-Reay Profile

At the beginning of 2010, Ryan was a part-time driver who thought he would only be starting a handful of races. A great win at Long Beach went a long way to securing his eventual full-time ride, as did a rush of new sponsors. He appears to have now foun d a home at Andretti Autosports, having signed a new 2-year deal and fighting for regular wins in 2011 is an entirely reasonable prospect.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Andretti Autosports Championship Ranking: 7th Points: 445
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 2nd Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 87 Laps Raced: 2,384

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4. Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon Scott Dixon

No doubt a solid year, but by Scott’s standards, failing to win the Indy 500 or the series title may probably mean failure. Despite three good wins and not being out of the running for the title until the final race or two, Scott will want to position himself as the front-running Ganassi driver fighting for the title again in 2011.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Target Chip Ganassi Championship Ranking: 3rd Points: 547
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 2nd Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 273 Laps Raced: 2,373

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3. Helio Castroneves
Helio Castroneves Helio Castroneves 

No doubt it was an emotional year for Helio. It is well documented what happened at Edmonton, but despite plenty of good consistent results, he found himself out of the title running earlier than he hoped. Refocusing in the off-season will hopefully inspire Helio to good results earlier in the year rather than later to give him a shot at that elusive title

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Team Penske Championship Ranking: 4th Points: 531
Starts: 17 DNFs: 2 Best Grid: 1st Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 244 Laps Raced: 2,251

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2. Will Power
Will Power Will Power

Hardly anybody could stand up to Will Power in 2010 on the road-courses. In 9 road or street events, Power won 5 of them. There is no doubt that the lack of oval-course experience, along with some poor luck with fuel strategy cost him what seemed like a sure title at his first attempt at a full season. He came so close, but watch as the disappointment of 2010 makes him a better oval racer in 2011.

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Team Penske Championship Ranking: 2nd Points: 597
Starts: 17 DNFs: 1 Best Grid: 1st Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 460 Laps Raced: 2,353

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1. Dario Franchitti
Dario Franchitti Profile Dario Franchitti

What more can be written about Dario Franchitti? The true champion showed what he was made of and never gave up until the final turn on the final lap. This determination brought him the title when it seemed worse than an outside chance by mid-season. The only question is “who can stop him doing it again in 2011”?

THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Target Chip Ganassi Championship Ranking: 1st Points: 602
Starts: 17 DNFs: 0 Best Grid: 1st Best Result: 1st Laps Led: 552 Laps Raced: 2,376

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BEST OF 2010 AWARD WINNERS
IndyCar Chicago Alex Lloyd Mario Moraes
Best Race
Chicago
Most Improved
Alex Lloyd
Most Disappointing
Mario Moraes
Simona de Silvestro Dario Franchitti
Best New Talent
Simona De Silvestro
Best Driver
Dario Franchitti

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

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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.

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