That’s when Patrick won the professionals’ leg of a pro/celebrity race that’s among several races held each April on the city’s streets.
And on the same April weekend in 2008 that Patrick gained her first and only IndyCar victory, a largely unknown Swiss teen also took the checkered flag in a minor league IndyCar race on the streets of Long Beach.
That driver, Simona De Silvestro, is now a 21-year-old rookie in the top-tier Izod IndyCar Series who hoped to beat Patrick and every other driver on the circuit for today’s 36th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach considered to be the #1 street race in America.
By most accounts De Silvestro has the raw driving skills that point to a promising career, and that has prompted comparisons between De Silvestro and Patrick.
De Silvestro grew up in Switzerland, where her father was an auto dealer executive and racing fan. He held a go-kart demonstration at the dealership when she was 4 and De Silvestro remembered being enthralled.
As she grew up, De Silvestro climbed the ladder in developmental racing series in Europe and the United States, including the Atlantic Series, in which De Silvestro earned her Long Beach win in 2008. Then last year, she won four Atlantic races and led the most laps for the season.
While De Silvestro didn’t make it past the qualifying round, and neither of the women took the checkered flag in today’s Grand Prix of Long Beach, it was great to see them participate as legitimate competitors.
In the end, an emotional Ryan Hunter-Reay