An IndyCar season that started with so much promise for Simona de Silvestro finally delivered a payoff for the Swiss driver.
She scored the first podium finish of her career Saturday with a second-place finish in the Grand Prix of Houston, becoming only the third woman in IndyCar history to make the podium, alongside Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher.
For de Silvestro, it came in her 63rd career start, and few thought it would take this long. After all, her previous best finish was fourth in the 2011 season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I’m just really happy to be here. We’ve been waiting a really long time for this podium and everybody on the team and all my sponsors that have supported me all these years — it’s really cool we can be together and celebrate this,” she said.
This was supposed to be a big season for de Silvestro, who moved with sponsor Nuclear Clean Air Energy to KV Racing and began driving unquestionably the best car of her IndyCar career.
Her 2012 season with Keith Wiggins had been a disaster, driving an underpowered Lotus engine that left her barely able to compete.
But the move to KV put de Silvestro in a Chevrolet and with a teammate for the first time in Tony Kanaan. The partnership seemed to be a perfect fit at St. Petersburg, where de Silvestro opened the new season by qualifying third and finishing sixth.
The results didn’t follow from there.
She was 18th in the next race at Birmingham, Alabama, and although she rebounded with a pair of top-10 finishes, she failed to finish higher than 16th in the next six races.
She’s been on a roll, though, of late. She drove from 22nd to ninth at Sonoma, California, and moved from 17th to fifth at Baltimore.
On Saturday, she qualified fifth and finished second behind race winner Scott Dixon.
“I think over the last three years, we’ve been fast but it seems like we never really could get it together — `Oh, we had a bad pit stop, oh, we didn’t have something go our way,’” she said. “I think I’ve learned a lot on how to manage a race now and I think that’s really important.”IndyCar, Simona de Silvestro