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Castroneves revs up for Long Beach Grand Prix

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Castroneves revs up for Long Beach Grand Prix

Team Penske's Will Power and his crew are gearing up for Sunday's Long Beach Grand Prix. Sunday will mark the first time the Indy Racing League will be featured at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Bea...

Photo by Ken Bosowski/


POSTED April 18, 2009 3:04 a.m.
LONG BEACH — For the first time in its 35-year history, the Indy Racing League will be the featured event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

But even IRL celebrity Danica Patrick took a back seat to the of- track news from Miami that Brazilian Helio Castroneves had been acquitted of the tax evasion charges he and his sister Katiucia faced.

The former two-time Indy 500 champion and 2007 “Dancing With the Stars” title holder could have received a possible 6-year prison term if he had been convicted of evading more than $2.3 million in U.S. income taxes. A federal jury acquitted Castroneves on six counts of tax evasion but was hung on one count of conspiracy.

The trial had put Castroneves racing career in limbo and forced his employer, Penske Racing, to hire Australia’s Will Power as a temporary replacement.

Almost immediately following the verdict it was announced that Castroneves would be heading to Long Beach to take over the No. 3 car from Power for Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race on the famed 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit

“We couldn’t be happier for Penske Racing, Helio Castroneves and his family and look forward to having him back on the race grid at Long Beach,” Team Penske said in a statement on Friday from Long Beach.

“Instead of going to Disneyland, I want to go to Long Beach to race,” said a joyful Castroneves. “I’m going back to racing.”

Despite the loss of the ride in the No. 3 Team Penske car, Power was not left out in the cold. The team also announced that it was preparing third team car, the #12 with sponsorship from Verizon Wireless, for Power to compete in for the rest of this weekend at Long Beach and the upcoming Indy 500 in May.

“I am grateful to Penske for this opportunity,” said Power, who ironically was the winner of last year’s Long Beach Grand Prix for Team Aussie Vineyards. “They are a great group to be associated with. They have been straight with me on their plans throughout this ordeal.”

Despite his obvious disappoint and the awkwardness of the timing of Castroneves’ return, Power showed his fortitude by pealing off the fastest lap in Friday’s final practice with a time of 2 minutes, 10.5486 seconds/100.424 mph to lead the 22-car field.

“He (Castroneves) should be pretty happy with his car. I hope he likes my setup,” joked Power.
 
To contact Dale Bosowski, e-mail dalebosowski@yahoo.com.
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