Simona de Silvestro leads all-female IndyCar team for three-race schedule, no Indy 500

Simona De Silvestro, test and development driver for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team.
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Beth Paretta‘s ultimate goal is to run a full-time IndyCar program.

So she made a deal to run three races on this season’s schedule, and perhaps more, in lieu of the Indianapolis 500.

Paretta made the announcement Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the same venue she announced the formation of her all-female team and the same venue it became such a compelling story last May while working with series powerhouse Team Penske.

Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro will again pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet but this time Paretta Autosport will be working with Ed Carpenter Racing on June 12 at Road America in Wisconsin, July 3 at Mid-Ohio and Aug. 7 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.

“We had to figure out what would be the best fit for us and if Ed was running three cars at the 500, we didn’t really want to be the fourth car,” Paretta said. “The decision was, ‘OK, they’re going to do three cars for 500 and that allows us to do these three races later in the year.’ This is growth for my team. It’s getting our team to new places, it’s getting Simona to new places and as far as becoming a full-time team, this is a good investment for us.”

It comes with a cost — bypassing a chance to become the 33rd entry for the series’ biggest race next month. But skipping the 500 could make Paretta’s team more competitive in the long run.

Last May, de Silvestro struggled during qualifying week and sweated out an anxious Bump Day to hold onto the final starting spot on the traditional 33-car grid. She finished 31st.

This year, De Silvestro plans to arrive before the scheduled May 29 race date and will work with Carpenter’s team during the following week’s stop in Detroit before making her season debut.

“We were really hoping to grow and now joining Ed Carpenter Racing I think is definitely the way to go,” de Silvestro said. “It’s amazing. The places we’re going to are tracks where I’ve been quite fast in the past, so I’m super motivated.”

In the meantime, Paretta’s all-female crew will continue refining their pit-stop skills as they adapt to cars coming into the pit stalls from a different direction than they did last year in Indy.

A potential pairing of de Silvestro and Colombian rookie Tatiana Calderon, who competes on road and street courses for A.J. Foyt Racing, also could be another step forward for women in the series. Road America could mark the first time two female drivers compete in the same IndyCar race since 2013.

“We have research that shows IndyCar is growing overall but one of the fastest growing segments is women. That’s true for races generally as well as television audiences,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of the series’ parent company, Penske Entertainment. “We’re just really pleased you’re taking this next step.”

Paretta did not provide any hints about what other races could be added.

The red, white and blue car will be sponsored by KiwiCo, which bills itself as a company that specializes in creating STEM and STEAM building kits for people ages four to 104. The University of South Carolina also agreed to return as an associate sponsor this year and Paretta said she will retain most of the crew members who worked with de Silvestro last season.

Skipping the 500 leaves a hole for that 33rd car on the entry list. With 32 car-driver combinations already on board, many thought Paretta and de Silvestro would fill the void.

Instead, Miles expressed confidence there will be enough cars to fill the field and perhaps even enough to create some Bump Day intrigue.

“A lot has been written about that and I think we can pretty much guarantee there will be 33 cars in the field and possibly one more,” Miles said.

But getting Paretta back on the track with two more starts than the team made in its inaugural season has everyone eager to see the results and what’s next for Paretta Autosport.

“Beth and I have have discussed different ways to help her dreams, and it took us a little while to find the fit but we’re finally there,” said Carpenter, the three-time Indy pole winner and 2018 runner-up. “It’s going to be fun.”

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Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.