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Catching up with the rookie contenders
The race for IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year began with all eyes on a Formula One veteran making his debut, but it quickly turned into a duel between distinguished graduates of the U.S. open-wheel development ladder - 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion Alex Lloyd and Atlantic Championship standout Simona Di Silvestro.

Di Silvestro, whose path to racing was set when she saw her first go-kart at age four, has become one of racing's brightest young stars in her rookie season in the IZOD IndyCar Series with Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing. The Swiss driver picked motorsports over soccer and tennis -  two other sports that she excelled at as a young girl - and has become a fan favorite with her positive attitude and her prowess on the track.

Lloyd, who made a pair of Indianapolis 500 starts as a Target Chip Ganassi developmental driver, got a late start on the 2010 season signing his deal with Dale Coyne Racing on the eve of the season-opening race in Brazil. While it took some time to gel with his new team, he scored major points on the ovals - with back-to back top-eight finishes at Indianapolis and Texas.

Both drivers took time to discuss their rookie seasons.

Q. Has this season been what you thought it would be when it began in March?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: I didn't think I was expecting be so good, especially on the road courses. I think we had a couple of good runs where we were running up front with the big guys and I think that's pretty special for a rookie. On one side, my expectations were to learn a lot and I did that this season and to run for Rookie of the Year has been really cool.

Q. What's the highlight been of your season?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: I would say Indy because we won Rookie of the Year. Just to participate in the Indy 500 was something really special, but I must say that last stretch on the road courses where we were running pretty was is something pretty good as well. Both moments have been really special.

Q. Would being the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year and sweeping top rookie honors add to your special year?

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: It would be nice to have both (trophies). Indy was a surprise because it was only my second oval. To get Rookie of the Year there was something pretty cool. My goal now is to win the rookie title for the overall season - because it's ovals and road courses. We're still really working hard to make it happen.

Q. You've become really popular with the fans. Did you expect the fans to connect with you so soon in your career.

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: It's really nice that people appreciate what I'm doing on the race track. I'm really thankful that the fans are supporting me. Without them, I wouldn't be racing. I think it's really nice.


Q. Has this season been what you thought it would be when it began in March?

ALEX LLOYD: In some respects, yes, and some respects, no.  One of the biggest aims for the year was Indy, for starters and then Rookie of the Year was probably No. 2 on the list. Obviously, Indy went very well for us and the Rookie of the Year is very close. At the same time, we've had races where we did struggle a bit. Street courses were our Achilles heel this year.

It's been up and down year, but you always have your ups and downs in a rookie campaign. But despite our ups and downs, we seemed to be able to tick off our main goals for the year or at least head in the right direction towards achieving them. Winning Rookie of the Year will be a large tick on that goal sheet.

Q. What's the highlight been of your season? Would it be Indianapolis?

ALEX LLOYD: Definitely. It was the race we wanted to do the best at. For me personally, that was my No. 1 goal to have a good race at Indy. When you are a smaller team, all the testing that you can do before that (race)  is really beneficial. We had a great month. That was definitely by far the highlight of the year. No matter what happens the rest of the year, having the good run at Indy and running better than expected will be a big day for all of us.

Q. What would winning the Rookie title mean to your career?

ALEX LLOYD: It would be big. It's a good crowd this year. We have some good rookies, who have been competing for the title and it would be a big thing to be the top rookie. In any rookie season, your goal is to be the top rookie. It would be great and a nice way to end the year. I knew going into the season that my experience on ovals would help us over the others and that's been the case. It's where we got in the lead and kept it.

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