Skip to content

Resilience defined Simona de Silvestro’s four years in IndyCar

Feb 14, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

Simona De Silvestro AP

Tough as nails. Resilient beyond belief. Personable beyond comprehension. Respected by her peers.

Although Simona de Silvestro didn’t win a race in her four years in IndyCar, she ticked a lot of boxes to make her a fan and paddock favorite.

What sticks out to me most was her resiliency.

De Silvestro entered IndyCar in 2010 with Keith Wiggins’ HVM Racing operation, a team with slightly-more-than shoestring finances. She entered after a crushing blow in the Formula Atlantic season finale a year earlier at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, when she was taken out by another competitor on the first lap to cost her the title.

No matter. Her management team and support, from what was at the time Team Stargate Worlds, helped her take the next step in her open-wheel career. Meanwhile the others from Atlantic, Americans John Edwards and Jonathan Summerton, weren’t able to.

Her new car just looked ragged watching it either on the ground on TV. But de Silvestro hustled it like nobody’s business. She was Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, and some of her qualifying and race performances (Edmonton and Mid-Ohio in particular) were just sublime to watch.

The breakout should have happened in 2011, still with HVM but with new support from Nuclear Clean Air Energy and Entergy. Fourth place at St. Petersburg behind eventual KV Racing Technology teammate Tony Kanaan – in a race with its own subplot featuring de Silvestro’s old engineer working with Kanaan in his first race with KV – heralded her as a star in the making. Ninth at Barber and fastest lap in Brazil were further proof.

Then Indianapolis 2011 happened, and quite honestly, it was hard to imagine her being able to recover fully from it. Her practice crash was her second fiery one on an oval (Texas 2010) and also cost her the team’s new, improved chassis.

But the resilience emerged once again even in the unloved, heavier, older backup chassis that she qualified for the field before Bump Day. Working together with her PR rep Monica Hilton at HVM, the legend of Simona and “Pork Chop” was born.

Further results the rest of the year went begging… and the less said about 2012 with the Lotus engine the better. Except that when she had every opportunity to throw her engine manufacturer under the bus, she never did. That was the professional in her.

So, the breakout, part 2, was planned for 2013. And sixth place at St. Pete, with KV, battling Kanaan for what had been a podium position, was the first sign ’13 was the finally year we’d all been waiting for.

To follow the narrative though, even though she finished in the top 10 in three of the first four races and battled through a tough midseason, the resilience returned again. She was one of the series’ top-10 drivers on a consistent basis the last five races (finished top-10 in all five), and her first podium with second at Houston was no less than she or her supporters deserved.

In summation, then, 65 starts, three top-fives, and 14 top-10 finishes, a best start of third at St. Pete this year and a couple fastest race laps. Not great numbers on paper, but toss out the 15 starts from 2012 with the hapless Lotus sled in her car and you see she did overachieve at a rather good level given the equipment at her disposal.

Ultimately though, 13th in the final standings – as she was this year – was probably as good as it was going to get given her career struggles on ovals. She made strides, but with the field as deep as it is, it was the final mountain to hurdle. Even her best oval finish, eighth at the IndyCar season finale in Fontana, came after being caught up in an accident and merely surviving the high attrition rate. Her road and street course prowess, however, was very much evident.

For IndyCar, the loss is its second major driver gut-punch of the offseason, following Dario Franchitti’s medically enforced retirement.

De Silvestro was liked by some because she was the “anti-Danica Patrick,” who built her brand purely on her racing ability rather than her sex appeal. In interviews, de Silvestro often said she didn’t want to be the next Danica, but the first Simona.

But she was also liked because of her down-to-earth nature, effervescent smile, and ability to wring as much as possible out of less than the top machinery.

De Silvestro and her management team deserve credit for sticking it out this long, and for her, F1 has always been the goal. At 25, she’s far from “old,” but when you consider she’s older than almost half the field of 22, she’s got another test of resilience to come.

But I’ve had the chance and privilege to cover her consistently since her first Atlantic season in 2007. Knowing her, she’ll tackle it full on.

Latest Posts
  1. Danica Patrick finishes career-best 6th after G-W-C craziness in Atlanta

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:25 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    The result beats her previous high water mark of seventh this past May at Kansas.

  2. Kevin Harvick far from being happy after Paul Menard wrecks him, costing a chance for win

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:10 AM EDT

    (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — It was a rough night for a number of drivers in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, including Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

  3. Kenseth clinches Chase berth; Bowyer falls out of Grid with one race to go

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:43 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth enters the post-season with a second place result, while Clint Bowyer finds himself outside the Chase Grid going into next Saturday’s regular season finale.

  4. Kasey Kahne rallies in last 2 laps to win at Atlanta, makes Chase

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT

    Kahne wins at Atl 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne’s 17th career Sprint Cup win couldn’t have been any larger.

  5. Tony Stewart’s comeback hopes end with rough 41st-place finish at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    stewart atlanta 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the comeback that Tony Stewart had hoped for.

  6. NASCAR Atlanta Update: Stewart falls back after contact with Kyle Busch; Kenseth leads

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Tony Stewart’s return to competition tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway has encountered some trouble after a restart run-in with “Rowdy.”

  7. Schumacher (TF), Hagan (FC), Line (PS), Krawiec (PSM) ones to beat in Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals finals

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals LOGO

    Following Sunday’s final round of qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their respective classes as No. 1 qualifiers for Monday’s final eliminations of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

  8. Tony Stewart the obvious fan favorite during pre-race introductions at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    ATL fans pre-race 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — There was no question which driver received the most applause and cheers during driver introductions prior to the start of Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  9. Another major sponsor reaffirms backing of Tony Stewart

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts - Practice Getty Images

    Rush Truck Centers’ CEO: “We stand with Tony.”

  10. How many Chase spots will still be in play after Atlanta?

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Pure Michigan 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth can clinch a spot in the post-season with a finish of seventh or better in tonight’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  11. Atlanta Motor Speedway honors longtime motorsports reporter ‘Capt. Herb’ Emory

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    herb emory AMS media center

    HAMPTON, Ga. — Atlanta Motor Speedway will honor longtime Atlanta-area broadcaster and motorsports reporter “Capt. Herb” Emory, who passed away in April at the age of 61, prior to Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

  12. Ryan Blaney takes last-lap duel, wins NASCAR Trucks at CTMP (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    14th Annual Michigan National Guard 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Ryan Blaney uses a cross-over move on German Quiroga in the final corner and then beats him to the stripe, winning the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

  13. NHRA: Tony Schumacher claims $100K Top Fuel bonus at U.S. Nationals

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    NHRA Auto Racing AP

    The 9-time U.S. Nationals champion dispatches Richie Crampton in the final of the Traxxas Shootout with a track-record speed of 328.54 mph.

  14. Former Caterham staff begin legal action against team

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Practice Getty Images

    The legal wranglings following the sale of the team look set to continue.

  15. Mosley: Mercedes shouldn’t publicly chastise Rosberg

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BRITAIN-MEDIA-POLITICS-LEVESON Getty Images

    Former FIA president believes Mercedes made a mistake hanging its dirty laundry out for all to see.

  16. VIDEO: Max Verstappen crashes during Rotterdam show run

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Previews Getty Images

    Not the best start to life with Red Bull for the young Dutchman.

  17. Moto GP: Marquez a winner again, beating Lorenzo at Silverstone

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    MotoGp Of Great Britain - Qualifying Getty Images

    Marquez claims win number 11 of his remarkable sophomore year in Moto GP.

  18. COTA and V8 Supercars mutually terminate contract

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    V8 Supercars - Austin 400: Qualifying And Race Getty Images

    Australian touring car series will not be returning to Austin in 2015 as originally planned.

  19. Will Power’s brother Damien live tweets Will’s IndyCar title run; hilarity ensues

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:00 AM EDT

    WillChamp2 Getty Images

    Will Power’s brother Damien provides raucous, hilarious commentary as Will drove towards the Verizon IndyCar Series title.

Video from NASCAR America

Inside Tony Stewart's return to racing
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (2134)
  2. K. Harvick (1979)
  3. T. Stewart (1539)
  4. K. Busch (1344)
  5. J. Logano (1336)