Simona de Silvestro earns first career IndyCar podium

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Simona de Silvestro won’t have much time to celebrate her first IZOD IndyCar Series podium finish, as she’ll have another 90 laps to contend with tomorrow at Houston’s Reliant Park. But it’s still a great result for the Swiss fan favorite, who held off a hard-charging Justin Wilson for the runner-up spot this afternoon.

In a race marred by attrition, De Silvestro – who qualified fifth for Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston – was steady throughout the afternoon on the bumpy, 1.7-mile temporary circuit. Her second-place result marks a career-best finish, improving upon her fourth-place run at St. Petersburg in 2011.

“I tried to keep up with [race winner Scott Dixon] but I didn’t quite have his pace,” De Silvestro said. “But I think we were pretty good on cold tires and I could pull a little bit of a gap on Justin and work from there.

“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.”

De Silvestro was expected to take the next step forward in her IndyCar career when she joined up with KV Racing Technology over the off-season. But after a solid start (three Top-10 finishes in the first four races), she was unable to net a Top-10 for the next seven races.

However, her performance has been on the uptick lately. At Sonoma, she made up 13 positions to finish ninth, and on Labor Day weekend in Baltimore, she collected her first Top-5 of the year with a fifth-place showing.

“Lately, the biggest key has been just focusing on what I need in the race car,” De Silvestro said of her recent surge. “Me and my engineer, we really sat down and tried to get what I wanted and the results have been coming. It’s been really nice to kind of put our heads into it and just do it our way and the results have been coming.”

Today’s podium finish is a milestone for De Silvestro, who rose through the ranks of Formula BMW and the Atlantics series before making her way to IndyCar in 2010 with HVM Racing.

She showed flashes of potential during her three-year run with HVM but also had to endure a disastrous 2012 in which she was saddled with a woefully uncompetitive Lotus engine. Nonetheless, she refused to throw Lotus or her team under the bus and she saw things through in order to land at Chevy-powered KV.

“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.’ I think I’ve learned a lot on how to manage a race now and I think that’ s really important,” she said.

“I feel like everything is really starting to come together. Hopefully, we can be as successful here in IndyCar as we used to be in Atlantics or Formula BMW.”

Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership

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Wednesday morning’s announcement that NBC Sports Group will become the exclusive home to the Verizon IndyCar Series via TV, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights was the conclusion of a long and thorough process to finalize a media partnership that can build on the recent growth of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

And CEO of Hulman & Company Mark Miles believes the final outcome is one everyone can be happy about.

“We’re delighted by every aspect of this announcement today and these arrangements,” Miles asserted in a media teleconference on Wednesday, also making note of a number of highlights about the new media package. “The increase in broadcast, the number of races on broadcast, is really important to the continued growth of the series. The continuity with one media partner who is committed to the sport and to INDYCAR, who can help promote from race to race to race to race throughout the season is important. Having our first product, if you will, our first offering to fans in the direct-to-consumer channel is important to us.”

Miles added, “It met our objectives of increasing the exposure of the sport, increasing the promotion of the sport, and getting us into the over-the-top (streaming) market. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

John Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports and NBCSN, echoed Miles’ enthusiasm and noted that INDYCAR viewership on NBCSN has grown substantially in recent years, and this new and enhanced partnership, which will feature the 103rd Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC in 2019, will build upon that.

“From the NBC perspective, we’ve seen the growth of IndyCar on our cable network NBCSN. We’ve had sustained growth each of the past several years. So the opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us and makes our championship season portfolio even stronger,” Miller said.

James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, added that this will also help the individual drivers grow their brands and attract more sponsorship opportunities.

“As drivers, we’re out there risking our lives to put on a good show,” Hinchcliffe said. “The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us. As athletes, we’re all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board.”

The sponsorship angle is a critical side-piece to the new media contract, especially in light of several new sponorship announcements for a number of IndyCar teams as well as IndyCar’s ongoing effort to find a new title sponsor for the series in 2019.

Miles further emphasized that new media partnership will do a lot to serve the business of the teams, drivers, and the series in regards to sponsorship.

“I think it’s important to the entirety of the IndyCar ecosystem,” Miles noted. “For the series itself, at some point we should talk about our sponsorship effort, how we think they’re going to be benefited with this relationship. James earlier talked about our drivers or athletes, and they are individual brands. They’ll get more exposure. That will be good for them.

“We earlier this morning spoke to our team owners. They’re enthusiastic about it as it gives them more to say in the marketplace, more value. Certainly that will be true for our promoters of the races as well.”

A few highlights of the partnership are below.

  • Eight races will be broadcast on NBC, including the Indianapolis 500. The remaining races will be broadcast on NBCSN.
  • Qualifying and practice for all events will also be available live, either through NBC, NBCSN,, the NBC Sports App, or NBC Sports Gold an over-the-top streaming service offered by NBC.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also feature extra content to further supplement IndyCar coverage such as archived races and full event replays. Further information about that content will be revealed in the coming months.
  • Details about international coverage are pending.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also do a handful of exclusive live broadcasts for practice and qualifying sessions that are not televised.
  • NBC Sports Gold will do live broadcasts for all Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races. More details about coverage for the Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series will come at a later date.