Skip to content

Simona de Silvestro carving her own path in IndyCar

May 15, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

Simona De Silvestro AP

Danica Patrick’s rise to prominence in motorsports has been both a blessing and a curse for fellow female drivers. Those wanting to carve a path as “racers who happen to be female,” rather than simply “female racers” who use their sex appeal to their advantage, have found the road tougher to advance up the ladder.

This is where Simona de Silvestro enters the equation. She’s one of a handful of non-Danica women who’s been in IndyCar since Patrick’s memorable 2005 arrival (others include Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann, Sarah Fisher, Katherine Legge and Milka Duno). But along with Fisher, who has since retired as a driver and now is a team owner, de Silvestro has been the only other woman driver with staying power. The others have struggled to put full-season budgets together, or been in the wrong environment at the wrong time.

Her resolve has been tested. At any point in the last three years, de Silvestro, who’s still only 24, could have quit. She’s been on fire twice (Texas, 2010 and a practice accident at Indianapolis in 2011) and with woefully down on power Lotus engines a year ago, never stood a chance at being competitive. Her and former Formula One race winner Jean Alesi’s best laps were anywhere from 12-16mph off the leaders, and both were parked less than a dozen laps into the 500-mile race.

Rather than bitch about the situation, de Silvestro said the year out of the spotlight gave her peace and resiliency. She could ease back into racing on ovals and regain confidence.

“Last year helped me a lot on the ovals to be honest,” she said Wednesday. “I was skeptical about oval stuff. I think maybe last year really helped me. I had absolutely no pressure, and I got comfortable. Now I go out and feel confident with what I learned last year. It’s been rewarding to myself. When you have a big hit like that, it takes a while to get it back.”

Her switch to KV Racing Technology afforded her the chance at a Chevrolet engine, the mentoring and pushing from teammate Tony Kanaan – her first in IndyCar (and first since “Malcolm in the Middle” star Frankie Muniz in Formula Atlantic in 2009) – and the renewed confidence that her talent plus her equipment could finally pay dividends. She already has three top-10 finishes in four races, after entering the year with only five in three prior seasons.

On-track, she has these benefits. Off, she’s still got the same, carefully managed persona and image that only sees her align with partners dedicated to growing Simona, the racer. Because that’s what she is.

Her management team includes Imran Safiulla and Shane Senaviratne, who have been at almost every stage of her development since her time in Formula Atlantic. They’ve made a conscientious decision to see her through all the difficult stages and the support of partners such as Nuclear Clean Air and Entergy has made it possible for her to keep racing in IndyCar. An excellent report on how the image has been crafted is here, in this ESPNW article authored by Brant James.

When de Silvestro arrived, by default, she was viewed as the “anti-Danica.” Still, that does both an injustice. If Patrick hadn’t had the success she did in IndyCar – and a race win (Motegi, 2008) and fifth in the points standings (2009) is no small feat – there’s no guarantee de Silvestro would have made the leap to begin with. She was at a crossroads at the end of 2009 anyway, when a competitor took her out in the final Atlantic race of the year and cost her the title.

With the learning and challenging years ideally behind her, and Danica out of the way to steal the spotlight and attention, this month de Silvestro could truly enter the broader landscape beyond the core group of race fans and observers that already know her name and her ability with a good run at Indy.

She’s not obsessing over winning, instead methodically going about the process similar to what she did in 2010, when she won Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the-Year honors (finished 14th).

“I think anybody that qualifies has a chance to win it,” she said. “It’s always been hard to put a result as a goal. But if we do all the work we can, we’ll take it. When you’re not expecting too many things, things can go well. They did my rookie year going through the motions. And now with a better team, engine and everything, things can work out. I’m working hard toward that goal.”

Latest Posts
  1. Rain postpones Bristol Trucks race to Thursday morning

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    bristol rain Getty Images

    Wednesday’s UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed due to heavy rain and lightning. The race has been rescheduled to 10 am ET on Thursday morning, weather permitting.

  2. Start of Trucks race at Bristol under rain delay

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:52 PM EDT

    Bristol motor speedway logo

    Heavy rain showers coupled with occasional lightning are delaying Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

  3. NASCAR America video: Jimmie Johnson needs to turn things around

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 - Practice Getty Images

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, we looked at the struggles Jimmie Johnson and his team have had over much of the last six weeks.

  4. NASCAR America video: Jeff Burton to replace Tony Stewart at Bristol

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT

    Burton Michigan 2 2014 AP

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, in the continuing absence of Tony Stewart this weekend at Bristol, it was announced that Jeff Burton will drive in his place for the second week in a row.

  5. Kyle Busch earns pole for tonight’s Trucks race at Bristol

    Aug 20, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT

    kyle busch truck ky Getty Images

    Kyle Busch (who else) earned the No. 1 qualifying position Wednesday afternoon for this evening’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

  6. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 6:30 p.m. ET — Stewart won’t race at Bristol, talk with Jeff Burton, JJ and Harvick

    Aug 20, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

    140820-nascar-america

    We have a huge show for today’s edition of NASCAR America, including the latest on Tony Stewart not racing at Bristol, Jeff Burton back in the No. 14 to replace Stewart, Kevin Harvick’s GoKart race, Jimmie Johnson’s recent struggles. And those are just for starters. Make sure you tune in.

  7. It’s official: Tony Stewart to miss Bristol race, Jeff Burton to once again drive No. 14

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

    Jeff Burton AP

    Tony Stewart will miss this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the third consecutive race Stewart has skipped in the aftermath of the tragic racing incident with sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. nearly two weeks ago.

  8. When — or will — Tony Stewart ever race again?

    Aug 20, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT

    tony stewart watkins glen 2014 a Getty Images

    Amidst news that a grassroots campaign is building support for Tony Stewart, including plans to stand up and cheer during Lap 14 (Stewart’s race car number) of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, one question still remains: When will Stewart race again

  9. STP to once again grace legendary No. 43 RPM machine

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The famed STP logo will once again grace the legendary No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports in Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

  10. Kyle Busch seeks trifecta in Bristol tripleheader

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Terry Renna) AP

    Kyle Busch will attempt to win all three NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.

  11. IndyCar: Penske looks for fifth straight Sonoma win this weekend

    Aug 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Sonoma Pack - IndyCar AP

    Will Power and Team Penske have been dominant over the last several years at Sonoma, and if they are again, the IndyCar championship could be put out of reach.

  12. Conway looks to sign off his 2014 IndyCar campaign with third win in Sonoma

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    ConwayLB2 AP

    If Mike Conway wins Sonoma this weekend, he’ll have his third win of 2014, and tie Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay with the most in the IndyCar field.

  13. Indy Lights: Ryan Phinny, Casamigos switch to Belardi for Sonoma

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Gabby Chaves to get new teammate in form of Ryan Phinny for Sonoma, at Indy Lights weekend finale.

  14. NBA legend Dominique Wilkins made it to Milwaukee last weekend with Kimball’s crew

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    KimballMKE Getty Images

    NBA legend Dominique Wilkins tours Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 team during the Milwaukee IndyCar weekend.

  15. Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    LottererDebut Getty Images

    Le Mans champion Andre Lotterer confirmed for surprise Formula One debut with Caterham at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

  16. NASCAR: Toyota working to find more horsepower for engines

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    Pure Michigan 400 Getty Images

    Last year, reliability was the problem for Toyota’s engines, not power. This year, the situation has been reversed, and Toyota Racing Development’s president says they’re hunting for more performance ahead of the Chase.

  17. NASCAR AMERICA: Crew chief Gustafson key to Jeff Gordon’s renaissance (VIDEO)

    Aug 19, 2014, 8:07 PM EDT

    Sprint All-Star Race - Practice Getty Images

    Alan Gustafson may not be as well-known as other crew chiefs, but it’s clear that he’s played a big role in Jeff Gordon’s success this season. The NASCAR AMERICA crew breaks down what’s made them such a good pair together.

  18. NASCAR AMERICA: New home, new sponsor for Edwards and Suarez (VIDEO)

    Aug 19, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

    Daniel Suarez AP

    NASCAR AMERICA talks about Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing – and the impact of their new sponsor, telecommunications equipment company ARRIS.

  19. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA follows JGR’s big day at 6:30 p.m. ET

    Aug 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Daniel Suarez, Carl Edwards AP

    Coming up today: Reaction from 2015 JGR drivers Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez, and current JGR Cup drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch; No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson on the team’s win at Michigan; the Michigan edition of “Scan All 43.”

  20. NASCAR: Truck Series preparing for Bristol on short week

    Aug 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    UNOH 200 Getty Images

    Four days after racing in Michigan, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series faces the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway in Wednesday night’s UNOH 200.

Video from NASCAR America

Why Edwards switched to Joe Gibbs racing
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1459)
  2. K. Harvick (1217)
  3. T. Stewart (1005)
  4. I. Vences (990)
  5. K. Busch (973)