Simona de Silvestro pleased with her effort _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--IndyCar racer Tony Kanaan, left, spins out at Turn 12 almost hitting Simona De Silvestro at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on Sunday in Avondale.

Simona de Silvestro arrived in New Orleans as a one-race entry for the inaugural Verizon Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

Forty-seven laps later, de Silvestro exited in fourth place at NOLA Motorsports Park, a performance that could catapult her into improved prominence in Indy Car.

Sunday’s race on a 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course ended under caution because of the 1 hour, 45 minute time limit.

“I’m really happy,” said De Silvestro, the 2010 IndyCar Rookie of the Year. “It’s great for my team and myself, second race back, to finish fourth. It wasn’t something we were expecting, the way the weekend started, but sometimes thing kind of fall your way, and it did today.”

During the race, marred by wet conditions, she moved up after starting 18th in her No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda, which carried Ochsner Health System’s branding and the Racing For Kids logo.

De Silvestro has started the first two stops on the 2015 series. She finished 18th during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, her first IndyCar Series race since September 2013.

“We weren’t where we wanted to be,” de Silvestro said. “The car was pretty good and the tricky conditions kind of played in our (favor) and the team made a great call to come in (and pit) at one point.”

Her next scheduled race is the Indianapolis 500, although Sunday’s finish might change that.

Montoya keeps series lead

Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the IndyCar’s first race of the season, settled for fifth in Avondale. He earned 33 points, allowing him to maintain first place in the standings.

“We did everything right,” said Montoya, who drove the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “We pushed when we needed to push. We did everything we needed to do. We took good points.”

Helio Castroneves moved up to second place, overtaking 2014 series champion Will Power, who finished seventh Sunday and Tony Kanaan, who this weekend finished sixth.

Honda bests Chevrolet

Honda won Round 2 of the aero kit wars.

The company placed two of its cars on the podium with winner James Hinchcliffe and James Jakes finishing third. De Silvestro also placed fourth and Graham Rahal eighth.

“I mean, I like him, but not that much,” Jakes said, laughing. “No, he’s a great “guy. I think we can work well together to really propel the team forward and do great things for Sam, like you said. So we look forward to the year. When they put us together, we were both excited about the feedback and information that we can bring to the team.”

During the first race of the 2015 series — the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (March 29) — Chevrolet enjoyed the top-six finishers.

Jakes, driver of the No. 7 car of Schmidt Peterson Honda, earned his first podium finish since Belle Isle in 2013, as well as his second career top-five finish.

“We had the speed to get in the (Firestone) Fast Six, but qualifying was canceled (Saturday),” James said. “It was frustrating, but it paid off today. We needed that after St. Pete (performance).”

Close call

On Lap 20, Castroneves made contact with No. 19 Francesco Dracone, a rookie. Dracone spun in a corner before continuing with damage. Castroneves had front wing damage.

“It’s extremely hard when you have slick tires and you go into critical areas where you have water on the race track,” said Castroneves, who credited his pit crew for managing his four or five pit stops and finishing second. “It was damp, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish what is wet because of the color of the asphalt.”

Five laps later, Dracone spun, exiting his box and hit Todd Phillips, Dale Coyne Racing Honda crew mechanic and outside tire changer. Phillips suffered a cut to his lower right leg and was treated on site.


1:47:19.4896: Time of race ... 120: Amount of top-five finishes for Castroneves, who finished second. He’s now in a five-way tie for sixth all-time …88.5583: Seconds of fastest lap, completed by No. 9 Scott Dixon (Brita Chrevolet) on Lap 40 …71.995: Average speed of race ... 26: Amount of caution laps ... 19: Least amount of laps completed, a statistic owned by Jack Hawksworth whose No. 41 Honda was too damaged to continue ... 15: Laps completed caution-free on wet track as entire field started on grooved Firestone rain tires ... 3:Lead changes.


Grand marshal Thomas Morstead, a punter for the Saints, issued the command to start engines ... Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk drove the Honda Civic SI pace car.