HOUSTON -- Soon after Simona De Silvestro finished a career-high second in Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, she was analyzing how to improve in Race 2.
De Silvestro, driving the No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva car for KV Racing Technology, qualified sixth on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn circuit at Reliant Park and lined up fifth for the standing start because of a grid penalty issued to Sebastien Bourdais for an unapproved engine change.
She ran in the top six for all but six of the 90 laps, finishing behind Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Danica Patrick (win at Twin Ring Motegi in 2008, runner-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in 2010) and Sarah Fisher (2000 at Kentucky Speedway) are the only other females to record an IndyCar Series podium finish.
"Finally, we have our podium," said De Silvestro, whose previous best was fourth in the 2011 season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. "We've been waiting for this for a long time. It seemed like a pretty good car the whole weekend. I qualified up there and then the race went actually pretty good."
De Silvestro, 25, of Switzerland, was competing in her 63rd IZOD IndyCar Series race. She was coming off a fifth place on the streets of Baltimore. A week earlier at Sonoma Raceway, she advanced 13 positions relative to her starting spot to finish ninth.
"I think when I look at the season, I think we started off really well with the 78 car (qualifying third and finishing sixth in the St. Petersburg opener), and then in the middle we kind of had a slump," said De Silvestro, who is completing her first season as Tony Kanaan's teammate at KV Racing Technology. "Later, I think the biggest key we did is we just focused on what I needed in the race car and the results have been coming."
Her contract with team co-owners Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven ends after the Oct. 19 finale at Auto Club Speedway, but this result couldn't hurt in free-agent negotiations.
"This was only a one‑year deal, and I felt like going into this year things would go much smoother," she said. "It kind of didn't really until now. Pressure was there for sure to get this done. I'm really happy that it's actually coming together now, and we've had a lot of momentum in the last three races. I think that's really cool, and I think it just shows that we can be up there and fight in the front."