Will Power will assume Helio Castroneves' IndyCar seat at Penske Racing until the two-time Indianapolis 500 and Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner is tried on seven counts of federal tax evasion beginning March 2. Castroneves plans to take the seat back soon after.
Sounding confident and bolstered by his team's public show of support at Tuesday's news conference announcing the contingency plan, the 33-year-old Castroneves — who faces up to 35 years in prison — predicted an acquittal and the possibility of beginning the season April 5 in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"(Penske) knows what's going on, (that) it's not true," the popular Dancing with the Stars winner said in a phone interview with the Times. "We all believe it and I believe it. I know I didn't do anything."
A trial is expected to last at least three weeks. Power, who won the final Champ Car race last season at Long Beach, will team with fellow Australian Ryan Briscoe until Castroneves is free to concentrate on racing, team president Tim Cindric said.
Castroneves is accused of not reporting more than $5-million in revenue, but called the situation a misunderstanding stemming from contract language.
"I'm reading stuff with that type of language, I have no idea what it is. Even if it was in Portuguese, it would still be confusing to me," said Castroneves, a Brazilian who finished second in the series in 2008.
Cindric said Penske felt bound by a nine-year relationship with Castroneves not to cut ties before his trial, whatever the defense.
"There is definitely a risk in doing that (but) you have to look at everything. You can't focus on one bad situation," Cindric said. "You can point out a hundred good things that have happened over the years. You just try to look at it and say it's a tragedy he's in that situation, but at the same time it would be a bigger tragedy if he was ready to go in St. Pete and we weren't there for him."