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.
"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 leaguewide 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.
NOT TESTY: Carl Edwards, runnerup in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series and a member of the successful Roush Fenway organization, said a contract is circulating among teams that would impose a self-ban on testing. The deal would go beyond NASCAR's one-year moratorium at venues that host races in the top three series.
"I've seen a contract that was written that (owner Jack Roush) said he's willing to sign, I'm willing to sign, that says if everyone will agree to this, then we won't test at all," Edwards said. "I think that's fine. That's great."
Edwards favors two-day race weekends, though he knows it would cost tracks a day of gate receipts even as it saves teams travel expenses. His ideal weekend, apparently conjured by his inner Allen Iverson, is "showing up and throwing the green flag."
"As long as everyone does the same thing, I mean, hell, what does everyone need all this practice for?" he asked. "…This is NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. We all know how to race. We've all been to these tracks before. Maybe you do a deal where guys who haven't been there before, they get a few hours of practice."
HALF FULL: Zephyrhills' David Reutimann, who finished 22nd in points in his second full Sprint Cup season and won the pole in the finale at Homestead, is short a crew chief and a half-season's worth of sponsorship on his No. 44 Toyota for next season. He also is unlikely to run a third straight full Nationwide season because of sponsorship issues.
Reutimann said a replacement for Ryan Pemberton, who said late in the season he was leaving for Red Bull, could be announced next week.
"You would like to get somebody in there because Ryan decided to do his deal so late in the season it doesn't give you much opportunity to talk with people," Reutimann said. "You know your crew chief is leaving halfway through the year, you can start talking to people who are interested in doing something different. He just didn't give us that option."