Penske to replace Castroneves with Power

UPDATE #11 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now. After weeks of speculation and a wild day that appeared set to make sports-car ace Romain Dumas as an IndyCar Series driver in 2009, Team Penske officials confirmed that Australian driver Will Power, 27, will be on stand-by to replace Helio Castroneves as a driver this season.

Castroneves was indicted on federal tax evasion charges in October and is scheduled to go on trial March 2, five weeks before the IndyCar series season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. Team Penske will make the appointment official at a press conference scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Eastern at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Will Power

Power and fellow Australian Ryan Briscoe will team up for as long as two-time Indianapolis 500-winner Castroneves is busy answering his legal charges. Castroneves will be in Indy to support the team that supports him. He joined Penske in 2000 and will be retained through the outcome of the trial, at the least.

Power will drive the No. 3 car in the Indy Racing League's two preseason tests scheduled for late February at Homestead-Miami Speedway and late March at Barber Motorsports Park–assuming Castroneves does not return sooner. The season begins April 5. AutoWeek

01/12/09 In this article Robin Miller is predicting that Will Power will get Helio Castroneves' Penske ride making it an all-Australia team. All well and good but why would Penske have an all-Aussie team yet his team campaigned hardest against going back to Surfers Paradise. Go figure……unless Penske has something up his sleeve with regard to Australia.

01/12/09 Penske Racing has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to announce their 2009 IndyCar plans.

01/12/09 According to Robin Miller's latest article Team Penske has decided to replace Helio Castroneves and three drivers are in the running – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Justin Wilson. The announcement will be made this week according to Miller.

12/17/08 You can add Justin Wilson to the list of potential drivers who will replace Helio Castroneves at Team Penske. In his latest column Robin Miller says that what he hears.

12/01/08 Should Penske elect to replace Castroneves, who has been with the team since 2000, there would be no shortage of quality drivers to choose from.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is in sponsorship limbo over at Rahal-Letterman Racing while Justin Wilson has yet to confirm his return to Newman/Haas/Lanigan. The uncertain future of KV Racing Technology could see either or both of Oriol Servia and Will Power available. Alex Lloyd, Tomas Scheckter and Darren Manning are also looking for rides this winter.

And of course there is Sebastien Bourdais who could come back to the USA and race for Team Penske should he not get the nod by the Toro Rosso F1 team. Toro Rosso appears to be a dead-end street anyway with speculation Red Bull will sell the team and there is no guarantee the new owners will want to keep Bourdais beyond 2009.

11/29/08 Penske Racing might announce before Christmas whether it will replace two-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves on its IndyCar Series team for 2009.

''We are still in the middle of considering the alternatives," said Penske Racing spokesman Bud Denker this week of Castroneves' status. "We're probably two-three weeks away from a decision. We've had drivers calling us on the phone — it's been pretty lively, as you could expect. There are lots of drivers looking for work."

''We hoped this (case) could be resolved," Denker said. "But we certainly haven't pulled the trigger on (replacing) him as yet."

11/26/08 The scheduling of Indy Racing League driver Helio Castroneves' federal tax evasion trial for March 2 does not necessarily mean the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner will be released by Penske Racing, team president Tim Cindric said. Cindric added that the team continues to "try and get smarter every day" before deciding whether to sever ties with the popular and charismatic Brazilian, considering the possible negative reflection on the organization.

Last year Helio was Dancing with the Stars, next year he may be dancing with the inmates

"He's been indicted. He hasn't been found guilty of anything," Cindric said in a phone interview with the St. Petersburg Times. "Sometimes people get ahead of themselves. You have to be careful that way."

With the IRL season set to begin April 5 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Penske filed an affidavit in U.S. District court on Nov. 10 stating he "could likely not keep Castroneves should there be a March 2009 trial." Penske seemed to reiterate that last week to the Los Angeles Times before the request for a November trial was denied. But Cindric said, "(Owner) Roger (Penske) didn't say that anything was definite. He just said that it would be much more difficult at that point in time, which obviously it is."

A reprieve for Castroneves, if he is acquitted, could come via the IRL's offseason testing ban. That means Penske won't need a driver ready for its second car until league-wide spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway the third week of March.

Castroneves, 33, was indicted in October on six counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. He allegedly failed to report about $5.5-million of income for 1999 through 2004. St. Pete Times

11/12/08 Roger Penske says he will likely wait about a month before deciding whether or not to replace Helio Castroneves on his IndyCar team for the 2009 season. Castroneves has pleaded not guilty to U.S. federal tax evasion charges. The team were hoping that the trial would be held after next season but federal officials announced the case will go to trial March 2. The IndyCar season is scheduled to start early April in St. Pete, Florida

"We're going to make a decision here once we understand when there is a court date and when this process will begin," Penske tells the Los Angeles Times.

"It would be difficult for us to have him in the car during a period of time when he would have to be preparing himself for court."

Penske says there's been no shortage of phone calls from prospective drivers looking to fill Castroneves' seat. But Penske says they've made no decisions and offered no commitments to anyone who's called.

"We're standing by (Helio)," he said. "He's a young man who came to this country, had people that advised him. Whether that advice is right or wrong we're yet to see, but until he's not available to drive the car, we're going to stand behind him."

10/23/08 Penske President Tim Cindric told USA Today that Roger Penske hadn't determined Castroneves' 2009 status. "It's too early to speculate," Cindric said. "We'll see what the next couple of months hold and what the best options are."

10/04/08 "It's so delicate," Kanaan said Friday, when Castroneves, wearing leg irons and handcuffs, pleaded not guilty in a Miami courtroom. "What do you say?"

"I don't know what to say," said Roger Penske, who employs Castroneves at Penske Racing. "Obviously, I'm disappointed to hear of his situation. He's been a very loyal driver and really developed for us. "Unfortunately, the advice he got was not proper in setting up his offshore companies."

Castroneves, 33, and two others, including his sister and former business manager, Kati, are charged with funneling his wages through a Panamanian-based company they allegedly operated — Seven Promotions — and other foreign entities to avoid paying taxes on $5.5 million earned from 1999 to 2004.

The other companies are in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil.

Penske declined to predict Castroneves' future in driving the No. 3 car in the IndyCar Series. Like most employees, race car drivers generally have language in their contracts that allow for termination when laws are broken.

Castroneves was at the wheel of a Penske Porsche on Friday after being arraigned in court
Adriano Manocchia/

"It's not fair to discuss what our options are," Penske said from the American Le Mans Series race in Braselton, Ga. Castroneves was at the race site before going to Miami, and was expected to return Friday evening.

"We need to understand (the charges)," Penske said. "Obviously we'll talk with Helio in detail about this, but we need to let this play out." Indy Star

10/04/08 Friday the USA Government required Helio Castroneves to surrender his passport on charges of Tax Evasion using an offshore shell company to hide millions of dollars in income, which means that he will not be in Surfers Paradise for the Indy Car race because he cannot leave the country.

Waiting to hear who Penske will get to fill the seat.

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