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. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA has the latest on Tony Stewart saga at 5 p.m. ET

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Federated Auto Parts 400 - Practice Getty Images

    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.

  2. IndyCar’s Mikhail Aleshin released from Indianapolis hospital

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Mikhail Aleshin AP

    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.

  3. DA will submit evidence from Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. case to grand jury

    Sep 16, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Tony Stewart AP

    The three-time NASCAR champion responds that he intends to “continue to provide my full cooperation.”

  4. OAK set for three of last four FIA WEC races

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Le Mans 24h Race Getty Images

    OAK Racing to return to FIA WEC for three of last four races.

  5. NASCAR: Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott to be honored next month at M’Ville

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    Credit: Front Row Motorsports Credit: Front Row Motorsports

    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.

  6. PWC: 25th Anniversary and Season Recap Videos (VIDEO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    WC

    Videos from the Pirelli World Challenge championship celebration highlight 25 years, and the 25th year (2014) of the championship.

  7. Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at New Hampshire

    Sep 16, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    SYLVANIA 300 Getty Images

    All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as NASCAR enters the second race of the Chase’s Challenger Round.

  8. Australian GP may have a new contract, but it also posted a record loss in 2014

    Sep 16, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Australian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Reports from Australia peg the season-opening race having posted an A$60 million loss in 2014.

  9. IndyCar: CFH to make major team announcement on Wednesday

    Sep 16, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    CFHlogo

    CFH Racing reveals logo and will reveal a part of its 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series program on Wednesday.

  10. Big weekend for Chevy upcoming in Austin

    Sep 16, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    CorvetteCOTApre Getty Images

    Corvette Racing and Corvette DP teams look for Austin win encore this weekend.

  11. Renault’s Taffin: Fuel consumption could well be an issue in Singapore

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Lotus F1 Formula One driver Grosjean drives in the pit lane during the qualifying session of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix Getty Images

    Expect the 100 kg fuel limit to enter the equation this weekend, says Renault’s head of track operations.

  12. Perez seeks to continue Singapore points streak this weekend

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain Getty Images

    Sergio Perez looks to go 4-4 in Singapore scores.

  13. Michael Waltrip premieres to less than critical acclaim on “Dancing with the Stars”

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    MWslaterdance1 Getty Images

    Michael Waltrip and partner Emma Slater look to avoid being eliminated after first dance effort on DWTS.

  14. Tony Stewart awaits District Attorney’s review of Kevin Ward Jr. case

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:54 PM EDT

    tony stewart chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    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.

  15. NASCAR America (video): Aric Almirola needs a good showing in New Hampshire

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT

    Aric Almirola Chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    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.

  16. NASCAR America (video): Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson struggle in first Chase race

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT

    jj dale jr. 2014 Getty Images

    On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we recap how Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson struggled in the first race of the Chase.

  17. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR America at 7 pm ET — Chase race recap, RPM’s heartbreak, Ganassi’s drivers

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT

    140915-NASCAR-AMERICA

    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.

  18. Great piece from Indy Star: John Paul Jr. keeps fighting

    Sep 15, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Indycar logo

    John Paul Jr. keeps fighting despite Huntington’s disease.

  19. Parker Kligerman weighs in on Indy Lights test (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    kligerman Getty Images

    Parker Kligerman recaps his Indy Lights test at IMS.

  20. After heartbreaking Chase opener, Almirola already in must-win situation

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    Almirola Chicagoland 2014 Getty Images

    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.

Video from NASCAR America

Johnson's quest for a record 7th title
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Johnson (1569)
  2. K. Busch (1527)
  3. J. Gordon (1325)
  4. J. Logano (1239)
  5. B. Keselowski (1222)