A season that started with so much promise for Simona de Silvestro finally delivered a payoff after a long wait for the Swiss driver.
She scored the first podium finish of her career Saturday with a second-place finish in the Grand Prix of Houston. It moved her alongside Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher as the only women in IndyCar history to earn a podium finish.
For de Silvestro, it came in her 63rd career start, and few thought it would take this long. After all, her previous best finish was fourth at St. Petersburg in the 2011 season opener.
"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," she said Saturday.
This was supposed to be a big season for de Silvestro, who moved with sponsor Nuclear Clean Air Energy to KV Racing during the offseason in what was unquestionably the best ride of her IndyCar career. She had spent three seasons driving for Keith Wiggins and 2012 was a disaster with an underpowered Lotus engine that left her barely able to compete.
But the move to KV put de Silvestro in a Chevrolet and with a teammate for the first time in Tony Kanaan. The partnership seemed to be a perfect fit at St. Pete, where de Silvestro opened the season by qualifying third and finishing sixth.
The results didn't follow from there.
She was 18th the next race at Barber, and although she rebounded with a pair of top-10 finishes, de Silvestro failed to finish higher than 16th in the next six races.
She's been on a roll, though, of late. She drove from 22nd to ninth at Sonoma, and moved from 17th to fifth at Baltimore.
On Saturday, she qualified fifth and finished second behind race winner Scott Dixon.
"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,'" she said. "I think I've learned a lot on how to manage a race now and I think that's really important. 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."
With only two races left in the season, de Silvestro isn't sure what comes next.
She and her manager have just a one-year agreement with KV, and it's decided if the partnership will continue in 2014.
"It was a one-year contract and we felt going into this year things were going to go much smoother. The pressure was there to get this done," she said. "We've had a lot of momentum and I think this is really cool. We showed we can be up there and fight in the front."