Finally, Simona De Silvestro will continue her career with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
The 69 series race veteran noted that it has been seven weeks since Paretta Autosport announced it would field her in three races this season, starting with the AMR-presented Sonsio Grand Prix of Road America. She has had to wait out four series races, including last weekend’s Lear-presented Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, where she sat in the pits for Ed Carpenter Racing to see how the team she will be working with over a race weekend is doing.
In a way, the lead time has allowed De Silvestro to prepare her body for the physical challenges of driving a non-power steering race car around a 14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road course. But in another sense, she had to manage the mental side of the preparation.
“We had a lot of time to think about it,” she says. “Maybe you think about it.”
But now it’s real. De Silvestro was in the simulator this week and will travel to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Thursday. The first practice of the weekend is on Friday at 4:25pm ET.
It’s finally here.
“I’m really happy to be in race week now, to just get to work and get going,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, especially on the road. So yeah, (I’m) pretty excited about that.”
De Silvestro is a familiar name to many fans of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. She’s a driver who burst onto the scene with HVM Racing in 2010, led four laps in her series debut and became Rookie of the Year for the Indianapolis 500 after finishing 14th. At the opening race of her second season, she finished fourth in St. Petersburg and after two races shared points with Scott Dixon in the overall standings.
People forget that when Tony Kanaan won the 2013 500, De Silvestro was his teammate at KV Racing Technology and she finished just two positions behind him in the standings. She finished 14th in points, one place behind Sebastien Bourdais and one place ahead of Josef Newgarden. But that was practically the end of her journey on the show.
De Silvestro went without a driver in 2014 and managed three starts in 2015 with Andretti Autosport. Since then, she only has last year’s 500 outing with Paretta Autosport on her resume.
Beth Paretta has given De Silvestro a way back into the series. They will race the #16 Paretta Autosport Chevrolet this weekend with support from Ed Carpenter’s team and then focus on competing in the Honda Indy 200 on July 3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on August 7th in Nashville.
De Silvestro, 33, is grateful for the opportunity as they can be hard to come by.
“At the end of the day you have to get the right shot, you have to get people behind you who really want to support you,” she said.
De Silvestro will be one of two women in Sunday’s field of 27 cars. The other is Tatiana Calderon, who drives the #14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet in road and street racing this season.
Since becoming a full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver, De Silvestro has raced cars around the world and has been active in the series since her last full season. Having raced in Formula E, Australian V8 supercars and been a works Porsche GT driver, she knows she faces a tough challenge this weekend. The last time she raced at Road America was in 2009 and that was at Atlantics. She hasn’t been on a road course in this series since 2015 – certainly not with an aeroscreen – and she knows the current field of drivers and teams is as large and competitive as last time.
This will also be a two-hour race. De Silvestro said her longest race since last year’s 500 was a sports car race lasting 45 minutes. That’s why she’s trained specifically for the challenge that awaits her.
“You want to do the best job you can,” she said. “I think we also have to be realistic. We didn’t test (this year as a team). It’s mid-season, (and) all these guys and gals are halfway through the season. We have to see where we place ourselves.
“We just have to do our job right and somehow, yes, keep working on it and finish the race (55 laps). I think if we do everything right the race could be ok.”
She said she feels “like a little kid getting to drive an Indy car again.”
“I hope I haven’t forgotten how to drive,” she said, laughing. “Well, I think we’ll be fine.”
The eighth of 17 races on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be broadcast live on NBC and Peacock Premium Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET. The INDYCAR Radio Network will begin reporting at 12:00 p.m. Listen live on the INDYCAR Mobile App, racecontrol.indycar.com and SiriusXM Channel 160.
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