In sports, it’s never a bad time for a good performance.
Still, the timing of IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro’s best result wasn’t ideal.
Last weekend, she made a bit of history, though by most news accounts, you’d barely know it. With the spectacular crash that marred the IndyCar race on Sunday and the shake-up in the overall series standings, then the come-from-behind Indianapolis Colts victory on Sunday and all the noise about the city’s bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl, few here have heard much about de Silvestro’s rise.
In Houston on Saturday, she scored the second best finish by a woman driver in IndyCar history, finishing second on the road course adjacent to Reliant Stadium.
Danica Patrick won an IndyCar race in Japan in 2008, and Sarah Fisher took second in Miami in 2001.
Maybe some of the success Patrick and Fisher had over the years has made this story a bit passé. And some will say it’s no longer politically correct to point out someone—whether successful or a failure—merely due to their gender.
But I’m not merely pointing out the Swiss-born de Silvestro is good for a woman. She’s just plain good, and I find it curious that few even in the racing media seem to acknowledge that.
For my money, she has the ability to surpass the accomplishments of the much ballyhooed Patrick and Fisher, who is now blazing her own trail as a team owner. I think if she ever gets surrounded by one of the power teams like Patrick was for years, her results would bypass Patrick’s by a wide margin.
No disrespect to Patrick and Fisher, but neither one of them could drive very well on road or street courses. I don’t think you can say the same about de Silvestro. She’s consistently held her own on the serpentine courses, viewed by many as the most difficult to navigate. At only 25 and with her best days likely in front of her, de Silvestro may be the first woman racer to possess all the skills needed to legitimately contend for an IndyCar title.
Remember, Houston is a road course. And de Silvestro not only finished second on Saturday, but scored a solid 10th on Sunday. But with all the hype surrounding Sunday’s last-lap crash involving Dario Franchitti and the duel between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves for the series championship, there was little ink left for de Silvestro’s accomplishments.
If given the right ride, de Silvestro could be the first woman to win at Indianapolis, and it could just as easily come at the new IndyCar road race as on Indy’s famed oval.
Despite the fact de Silvestro is set to become a free agent at the end of this year, there’s little talk of her signing with one of the power teams. There’s so little talk of her this silly season, it’s just plain, well, silly. KV Racing officials said they’ll start negotiating with de Silvestro after they find a replacement for 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, who departed for Ganassi Racing. That doesn’t sound like a team that thinks they have a potential champion on its roster in de Silvestro.
Those who criticize de Silvestro for being slow to get up to speed this year seem to forget that last year was a wasted year in the young driver’s development as her Lotus-powered team was ridiculously underpowered and black flagged on more than one occasion.
Driving for the relatively small KV Racing team, de Silvestro is sitting 14th in this year’s IndyCar standings. Her 338 points is a fair bit off of Dixon’s 541 and Castroneves’ 521. But she’s even with young gun Josef Newgarden and ahead of Graham Rahal (304) and Ed Carpenter (292) and as near as I can tell doesn’t get half the press those drivers do.
In the past four races, de Silvestro finished ninth at Sonoma, fifth at Baltimore, second at Houston day one and 10th at Houston day two. In 18 starts this year, she has eight top 10 and two (nearly three) top five finishes.
Not bad for a woman. In fact, pretty spectacular for any young driver.