Simona de Silvestro - IndyCar's "Iron Maiden" - will be racing emission-free in the Duel in Detroit

De Silvestro got the racing bug at age 6

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) - Simona de Silvestro is a fierce 24-year-old IndyCar racer, a Swiss native, and a KV Racing Technology team driver.

But some know her by the nickname "The Iron Maiden."

"Well, I started [racing] pretty young. My dad always used to say that I was only quiet as a baby when racing was on TV," explained de Silvestro.  "I had the racing bug really early. And I started when I was six racing go-carts."

She debuted in the IZOD IndyCar series in March of 2010.  She finished 19th in her first season and earned the rookie honor at the Indianapolis 500 that year as well.

She is not intimidated by competing in a male-dominated sport.

"When I got to the IndyCar series, you know, I kind of earned my stripes," she said.

"I always tell my parents they were crazy because when I see pictures of me.  I was so small, and my helmet is way too big," she laughed.  "I was like, ‘Do you guys trust me?' But they did. And you know it was just a passion."

You'll see Number 78 driving in the Nuclear Clean Air Energy Race Car.  

"Actually, I'm the only emission-free driver out there," said de Silvestro.  "It's pretty exciting."

She returns to the Belle Isle Grand Prix with a healthy respect for the track.

"It was kind of difficult to pass in some places [last year],so they added another straightaway after Turn 2.  I think that's going to make a new opportunity for passing.  So I think the race is going to be even more exciting than it already was," said de Silvestro.

The biggest challenge may be driving in two big races back-to-back.  The first is on Saturday, June 1 st, and the second is on Sunday, June 2nd.

"Those two races – that's really going to be different than what we know," she admitted.

She finished in the top 15 in last year's Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.  She hopes to do even better this year.

Her teammate is Brazilian Tony Kanaan – who just won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

"I'm learning a lot from him on the ovals.  He's really strong on the ovals," said de Silvestro.  "On the road courses, we really push each other.  So we make a good team, and we always kind of bounce off ideas on each other."

De Silvestro will be driving a 2.4-liter twin-turbo engine that has about 750 horsepower.

"Yeah, it's a lot of fun to drive," she smiled broadly -- showing her childhood racing passion is alive and well.

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