The phrase ‘if only she was in one of Roger Penske’s cars’ must have been uttered a few thousand times while Simona De Silvestro toiled away in IndyCar entries that were rarely among the best.
During her four-and-a-quarter seasons in the series, the native of Switzerland earned a career best of second in the first of two races in Houston in 2013, and put together nine finishes inside the top 10 during that season with KV Racing.
That’s as far as she got in her pursuit of an IndyCar victory.
More than five years removed from her last outing with Andretti Autosport at the Indy 500, the well-traveled De Silvestro, now a factory Porsche driver, is readying for a return to the Speedway in one of Roger’s cars with Paretta Autosport. Imagine the possibilities.
“It’s something that I’ve worked for my entire life – to get a proper shot at this race – and I think it’s super exciting that it’s finally happening,” she said.
“Beth called me a few months ago and told me about this opportunity, and I think literally an hour later, I was on a Zoom call with Roger Penske and [Penske Corporation president] Bud Denker. It was quite surreal, that it all happened so quickly. For me to really come back to the Speedway with a constellation like this, with the association with Team Penske, it’s really – to be honest, as a driver – a dream come true. It’s something that is really special.”
De Silvestro will drive the No. 16 Chevy provided and run by Team Penske, and will have a pair of Indy 500 winners in Will Power and Simon Pagenaud – plus two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden and rookie Scott McLaughlin – as teammates for the month of May. It’s everything the 32-year-old could have asked for on her return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I think it’s going to be (my) best opportunity yet, with everyone involved believing in the same goals,” she said. “I think we can be really successful when we come in May, and I really hope that along this journey we will inspire more women to follow their dreams – create some pretty cool opportunities for them to join and for them to follow this (same) amazing journey.
“I can’t wait to actually be for real back on the starting grid.”
Thanks to an impressive group of followers and fans that were established during her time racing in North America, De Silvestro has been the subject of steady calls to be given another shot in IndyCar with a leading team. The efforts via social media certainly weren’t made in vain.
“Yeah, it’s quite special,” she said. “I’ve seen those tweets, my name getting put in there, and it feels really special. It means people really saw what I was able to do on the racetrack, and I think that’s pretty cool, for sure.
“It took a bit of time to come back, but I think 10 years ago when I was there and kind of making my stride, I think I’ve grown quite a lot as a driver. IMS, I think, has really built me, especially from my character side as well. I’ve had lots of highs and pretty big lows at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To come back like this …
“I’m pretty grateful that the fans are welcoming me back with open arms, and hopefully we can put on a really good show when we’re on track out there.”