May 15, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
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.”
Dec 9, 2013, 8:00 PM EST
Michael Shank Racing has confirmed that John Pew and Ozz Negri will be back with the team for the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, co-driving the No. 60 MSR Ford Ecoboost/Riley. Pew finished 14th in last year’s GRAND-AM Rolex Series championship, while Negri finished 17th despite missing several races due to a setback in his…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
Audi has already banked wins in the 24-hour races at Daytona and Le Mans this year, and also in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Now, the manufacturer can add a 25-hour race win to its mantle … even though Thunderhill is basically a NASA club race in December. Still, a win’s a win,…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:46 PM EST
Two of NASCAR’s rising stars were at the center of a major issue during Sunday’s Snowball Derby short-track race in Pensacola, Florida. Chase Elliott, the son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott and a part-timer in the Camping World Truck Series, appeared to have won the prestigious Super Late Model race as he crossed…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:10 PM EST
After an arduous 2013 season, it appears Formula One tire manufacturer Pirelli will have ample opportunity to get it right for 2014. As part of the FIA’s raft of regulation changes issued today, Pirelli was given the green light to stage a three-day test session next week at the Bahrain International Circuit. All F1 teams…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:28 PM EST
For one day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. traded in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for a new ride – a pink, Power Wheels 4×4. It’s all part of Earnhardt’s recent collaboration with star YouTube video producer Devin Graham that involved a “cardboard rodeo” at Dale Jr.’s property in North Carolina. With the help of an…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
All three Andersen Promotions-run series in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000, are underway in the Chris Griffis Memorial Road to Indy test this week at Barber Motorsports Park. Some news and notes about the driver/team combinations to follow: INDY LIGHTS USF2000 drivers Michael Epps and Alexandre Baron will…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:45 PM EST
A meeting of the F1 Strategy Group and Formula One Commission today in Paris has yielded approval of several new regulation changes, most of which will take effect in 2014. But perhaps the biggest change of all won’t come until 2015, when a budget cap will be instituted. A working group made up of representatives…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Williams has continued its efforts to emerge from the back of the Formula One grid with a pair of new technical hires that are making their way to Grove from two of F1′s top teams. Former Lotus member Dave Wheater has come on board as Williams’ new head of aerodynamic performance, while former Red Bull…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
The outside world is lamenting Nico Hulkenberg’s being passed over, once again, for a top flight seat on the Formula One grid. Yet Hulkenberg is thankful to have any seat in an F1 world where commercial interests have played such a major role in seats of late. “I believe I’m in a good place and just…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Running ninth on the final standings table this…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Coming up eighth after earning his first berth…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Finishing seventh following a…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
FIA Formula E is bringing in some star power for the 10th and final team for its inaugural season, which begins in September 2014. Venturi Automobiles announced a partnership with award-winning actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio to create the new Venturi Grand Prix Formula E Team. DiCaprio will work in partnership with Gildo Pallanca Pastor, founder of…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:23 AM EST
NASCAR’s planned test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway was originally set for today, but has been moved to Wednesday, Dec. 11 due to inclement weather. Teams will still have the option to be on track from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the afternoon, Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development and…
Dec 8, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
“Red Bull driver No. 1 wins another championship in 2013″ is a headline that can be applied to not just four-time Formula One champ Sebastian Vettel, but also to Australian V8 Supercars legend Jamie Whincup. Whincup captured his fifth V8SC title Sunday in Sydney, for his third straight title at age 30. Whincup won Saturday’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
He may have missed out on one drive, but Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa won’t be rideless in 2014. Following a successful first test, da Costa was named to BMW’s DTM program for 2014 as part of the manufacturer’s annual year-end ceremony in Munich. An official release confirmed him as one of two new…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
NEW 2014 VERSION (Photo: Audi) 2013 VERSION (Photo: Getty Images) Meet the new Audi, which basically looks the same as the old one. New worldwide LMP1 regulations focusing on efficiency for 2014 means manufacturers and teams have to reveal new cars, and at first glance, the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro looks remarkably similar to…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
Prior to Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony, the always-entertaining “After the Lap” event for fans took place earlier in the week in Las Vegas. And it was there we learned Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a fever … and the only prescription is more eBay. Dale Jr. already has the popular vote locked…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:36 AM EST
Target Chip Ganassi Racing appears close to unwrapping an early Christmas present, in the form of the replacement for the retired Dario Franchitti in its No. 10 Target Chevrolet for 2014 in the very near future. Reports from both Autosport and RACER this week have more or less narrowed the field of contenders, at least…
Dec 7, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
A few minor bits and pieces of news around the IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy have popped up over the last couple weeks. Here’s a quick roundup, since the last one we did a couple of weeks ago: Besides Tony Kanaan having his first running in Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar machinery, Francesco…
- Cost cap, double points for Abu Dhabi part of new FIA regulation changes 7
- Team co-owned by Leonardo DiCaprio is 10th and last for FE 1
- Franchitti’s ride appears down to Briscoe or Tagliani vs. the field 2
- Jay Mohr’s skewering monologue stars at NASCAR banquet (VIDEO) 1
- Todt re-elected as FIA President, plans “ambitious” second term 1
- Eddie Gossage: “Foolish move” by F1 to go head-to-head with NASCAR at Texas (12)
- GP of America organizers issue statement on race postponement (10)
- IndyCar TV sked for 2014 released; 13 races to be shown on NBCSN (9)
- NASCAR Sprint Cup silly season update for 2014 (8)
- Mark Miles talks about the road ahead for IndyCar (8)