Helio Castroneves Acquited! Paul Tracy Coming Back!

Richard DeveauCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

SONOMA, CA - AUGUST 24:  Helio Castroneves driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Honda celebrates winning the IRL IndyCar Series PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County on August 24, 2008 at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

Helio Castroneves, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was found not guilty on tax-evasion charges today along with sister Kati and agent Alan Miller; this means he's back on track this weekend at Long Beach.

Castroneves was indicted last November for tax evasion, allegedly not paying taxes on salary earned from Penske Racing from 1999 to 2003.

The jury found the three not guilty on six of seven counts. Count one, conspiracy to deadlock the government, was deadlocked for all parties, and a mistrial was declared. The three are now free and Helio is prepared to jump in the familiar Penske Racing No. 3 car in this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"It's a great outcome, it was a long race, and it was unfortunate his family had to go through it all, but we're moving ahead with Helio in No. 3 car on Saturday morning," said Roger Penske, owner of Penske Racing.

Will Power, who was hired to replace Castroneves, will be moved to a third Penske entry.

"Obviously, this has been the longest seven weeks of my life, but I have to thank God, the judge, and the jury for treating me fairly," said an ecstatic Castroneves. "I love this country, I love making a living driving race cars, and I love the fact I'm going to continue to make my living this way. I'm so thankful for my lawyers and my family and all the fans who've been rooting for me the last seven weeks."

"I can't wait to get to Long Beach and get back to my job."

Will Power is now in a rough situation where he won't be racing in Kansas on April 25th. Power will be at Indy in a third car and nothing is confirmed on whether he will continue the season in a third entry.

Penkse says he is seriously considering it though.

Paul Tracy is back!

Today had plenty of good news for the Indycar Series, as KV Racing Technologies announced that Canadian Paul Tracy will be racing at Indy, teaming up with regular KV driver, Mario Moraes.

Major insurance compay, GEICO, will be jumping on board as sponsor, thanks to agent Doug Barnette.

Barnette already had a partnership with GEICO, initially introducing the sponsor to NASCAR drivers Mike Wallace and Max Papis.

Tracy is back and looking for revenge after thinking he had won the event in 2002, but a late caution caused major confusion between drivers and officials. Helio Castroneves was declared the winner.

"I got cheated out of that victory at Indy in '02 because I know where my car was in relationship to [Helio] Castroneves' when the caution came out," said the 2003 CART champion.

"Indy is the one thing missing from the top shelf of my trophy room and I'm going there to win the race, not to just make the field or drive around all day. If we don't win, I'll be disappointed."

The 40-year-old Toronto, Ontario native was a regular in the now defunct Champcar World Series, but lost his ride when team owner Gerry Forsythe shut down operations of his race team after open wheel unification.

Tracy ran one race in 2008 at Edmonton, driving a Derrick Walker entry fielded by Vision Racing. The Canadian veteran proved to everyone that day he could still run a car up front, finishing fourth in his home country.

"I've been working on this for a long time and I'm glad to see everything come together," said Vasser, who co-owns KV Racing with Kevin Kalkhoven. "Having GEICO with us is huge and I can't thank Doug enough for putting this deal together.

"What's kind of cool is that I introduced Doug to [Paul Tracy] a few years ago when Doug helped me get a sponsor for my Busch ride."

His big popularity and exciting style of driving is exactly what the Indycar Series needs to sell tickets, but yet he is having a very tough time finding a full-time ride.

After losing sponsorship, KV Racing Technologies were forced to minimize to a one-car operation with Mario Moraes as driver. Last year's drivers, Oriol Servia and Will Power, were released from the team. Power has since been picked up by Penske, but nothing for Servia.

"We're still working on stuff for Oriol and we want to run three cars at Indy if possible," said 1996 CART champion, Jimmy Vasser. "But we're running out of time."

Asked if Tracy's deal could blossom into a full-time deal, Vasser replied: "We hope so if we can do a good job and we plan to do just that. Just getting GEICO involved in Indy-car racing is a good deal and we want to put on a good show for them."

Thanks to speedtv.com for info.