03/25/2013 11:33 am ET Updated May 25, 2013

Simona Proves Her Worth at St. Petersburg

The IZOD IndyCar Series season opener may have been about James Hinchcliffe getting his first career win, but finishing in sixth is a driver that is long overdue for a good run -- Simona de Silvestro.

De Silvestro is a warrior and a survivor through and through. Whether it being her tenacious run climbing into the oldest car in the paddock affectionately nicknamed porkchop after suffering burns to her hands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or being stuck last year with the underpowered pig of an engine in Lotus, she never gave up and always looked forward.

Last season with the Lotus powered car she never had a fighting chance anywhere, but she never lost her confidence. When I spoke to her in September of last season she told me, "I think a lot of people who would have been in my situation would have been demotivated, but I've tried to continue to work hard when I get in my race car. I think it proves a lot that I am committed to this."

This weekend in her first outing for KV Racing Technology, she was in the top 10 in all three practices on Friday and Saturday and in qualifying, she made it into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in her career and qualified third.

During the race, she never ran outside the top 10 and was competitive against the likes of Takuma Sato, Hinchcliffe, Will Power and Helio Castroneves. At the end of the race she was running third but had to save fuel and her tires were shot. She was passed by Marco Andretti with two laps to go and subsequently passed by KV Racing Technology teammate Tony Kannan. Scott Dixon nipped her at the line, but she held off E.J. Viso to finish sixth.

Even though she had a shot at the podium ruined by worn tires, she remained optimistic. "It's been a good weekend for us. Unfortunately we lost a few positions at the end there," she said. "We kind of ran out of tires at the end. I think we can be pretty happy with sixth. Now we know what we have to work on for the next race. It was really cool to be up front all day with Will, Hinch and everybody; it was awesome. I think we can learn a lot from this weekend to have a better result at the next race. I really want to thank Chevy and my Nuclear Clean Air Energy sponsors for all their support. I'm really excited to get to Barber and see what we can do there."

She earned the respect of her competitors and team, receiving congratulations from Mario Andretti, and his grandson Marco spoke highly of her in a post race interview. "She drove a hell of a race," Andretti says. Her teammate 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Tony Kannan also spoke highly of her in a post race interview.