May 15, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
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.”
Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Also coming up today: What’s more important in winning a Sprint Cup title: Experience or Drive?; rookie phenom Kyle Larson on dealing with the hype; NASCAR pioneer Wendell Scott to be honored next month.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
The Russian driver will continue his rehab work in Indy after sustaining multiple injuries in a practice crash on Aug. 29 at Auto Club Speedway.
Sep 16, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
The three-time NASCAR champion responds that he intends to “continue to provide my full cooperation.”
Sep 16, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
OAK Racing to return to FIA WEC for three of last four races.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Sprint Cup driver David Ragan and Camping World Truck Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. will sport special paint schemes honoring Scott during the Martinsville Chase weekend in October.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Videos from the Pirelli World Challenge championship celebration highlight 25 years, and the 25th year (2014) of the championship.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as NASCAR enters the second race of the Chase’s Challenger Round.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Reports from Australia peg the season-opening race having posted an A$60 million loss in 2014.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
CFH Racing reveals logo and will reveal a part of its 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series program on Wednesday.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Corvette Racing and Corvette DP teams look for Austin win encore this weekend.
Sep 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Expect the 100 kg fuel limit to enter the equation this weekend, says Renault’s head of track operations.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT
Sergio Perez looks to go 4-4 in Singapore scores.
Sep 16, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT
Michael Waltrip and partner Emma Slater look to avoid being eliminated after first dance effort on DWTS.
Sep 15, 2014, 10:54 PM EDT
Tony Stewart is expected to learn later this week if he will not face charges or may be indicted in last month’s Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy. A noted attorney with extensive experience in death and catastrophic injury cases explained to MST the legal process in Stewart’s case.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
In his first-ever race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Aric Almirola suffered a blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time in his three-year career.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we recap how Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson struggled in the first race of the Chase.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
Monday’s edition of NASCAR America recaps all the highs and lows of Sunday’s opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, from Brad Keselowski’s win to Aric Almirola’s heartbreak.
Sep 15, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
John Paul Jr. keeps fighting despite Huntington’s disease.
Sep 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Parker Kligerman recaps his Indy Lights test at IMS.
Sep 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT
Aric Almirola came into Sunday’s opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with high hopes of being perhaps the Cinderella of the playoffs, someone who would fly under the radar all the way to the final four season-ending battle at Homestead.
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