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Simona De Silvestro seeks to make her mark in Long Beach Grand Prix

The Swiss driver hopes to become the first woman to win an IndyCar event since Danica Patrick in 2008.

April 20, 2013|By Jim Peltz
  • Simona de Silvestro is seeking to become the first woman to win an IndyCar event since 2008.
Simona de Silvestro is seeking to become the first woman to win an IndyCar… (Chris Trotman / Getty Images )

Simona De Silvestro holds out her hands to show there's hardly a sign that they were seriously burned in a racing crash two years ago.

"I wish I had a cool scar because it was really miserable," De Silvestro joked in reference to her car catching fire, "but [the doctors] did a really good job."

De Silvestro, now in her fourth season in the Izod IndyCar Series, hopes to do a good job herself Sunday in the 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The 24-year-old Swiss driver is seeking to become the first woman to win an IndyCar event since 2008, when Danica Patrick scored her only victory in her seven-year IndyCar career.

It won't be easy. De Silvestro will start 20th in the 27-car race based on Saturday's qualifying session around the 11-turn, 1.97-mile street course.

Four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, who won the Long Beach race in 2009, captured the pole position with a lap of 105.369 mph.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the reigning champion and the 2010 Long Beach winner, qualified second at 105.282 mph.

De Silvestro is widely viewed as a talented driver on curvy street and road courses. Before she graduated to IndyCar, she won a junior-league race on the Long Beach track the same year Patrick won her IndyCar race.

But in De Silvestro's first three years in IndyCar she drove for a small team lacking the resources enjoyed by the sport's leading drivers.

This year, however, she moved to the KV Racing Technology team, which uses top-tier Chevrolet engines, and expectations quickly rose that she would be more competitive.

Her results were mixed in the season's first two races. She was sixth in the street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., then 18th two weeks ago on the Barber Motorsports Park road course in Birmingham, Ala.

"We have the pace. Both races we were really quick," De Silvestro said. "But when you look at the field, the talent is so deep."

De Silvestro said she also has to keep improving as a driver and her team has to improve its pit stops to get her back on track more quickly.

"We made little mistakes here and there, and the big teams don't do that — the Penskes, the Ganassis and the Andrettis don't do that," she said. "That's really what our focus is for this race."

Support races

Co-drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr of the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team won in P1, the top-level prototype class, in the American Le Mans Series race Saturday.

Rutledge Wood, co-host of the television show "Top Gear USA," won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race.

Brett Davern of MTV's "Awkward" program finished second among the celebrities, who raced identically prepared Toyota Scions in a 10-lap event.

And finally

IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter will carry a "Boston Strong" decal on his No. 20 car Sunday in honor of the Boston Marathon bombing victims.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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