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.”

Make sure to follow all of Friday’s Indy 500 ‘Carb Day’ action on NBCSN from Indianapolis

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It’s known as “Carburetor Day” – or in its simplest term, just “Carb Day.”

But the final day of on-track action Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 is so much more.

Especially on NBCSN, which will have wall-to-wall live coverage starting Friday morning.

Here’s how Friday’s schedule breaks down:

  • 11 a.m. ET: Carb Day kicks off with the final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500. The session will last one hour in length.
  • 12 p.m. ET: We’re going racing! Strap in for coverage of the Indy Lights’ Freedom 100 on the famous Brickyard.
  • 1:30 p.m. ET: We’ll have coverage of the annual IndyCar Pit Stop Challenge. Which teams have the best – and most importantly, fastest and accurate – pit crews? Team Penske has won 10 of the last 12, including the last two years edging out Schmidt Peterson Motorsports each time. Who can potentially beat them this year?
  • 3:30 p.m. ET: We’ll have our annual Motorsports Special. Among segments included will be:

    1) 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi will discuss how it used to upset him when people suggested he “backed into” his big win and how he didn’t really feel vindicated until he qualified on the front row for last year’s race.
    2) Defending 500 winner Takuma Sato, the first Japanese driver to ever win at Indianapolis, discusses the impact of his big win personally and professionally, particularly back in his native land.
    3) An essay by Robin Miller on Stefan Wilson giving up his ride last year to allow Fernando Alonso to race for Andretti Autosport.

Check your local listings for replay times.

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