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Penske gives Castroneves' ride to Will Power -- for now

January 13, 2009 | 11:15 am

Roger Penske's IndyCar Series team hired IndyCar driver Will Power to drive Helio Castroneves' car in preseason testing -- a ride that possibly could last through the 2009 season.

Will PowerCastroneves, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was indicted in October on federal tax-evasion charges and his trial is scheduled to start March 2. The Brazilian has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Team Penske said Power, a 27-year-old Australian, would drive Castroneves' No. 3 car in preseason tests, but whether he stays in the car -- or Castroneves returns instead -- would "depend on the timing and outcome" of Castroneves' trial.

Castroneves' ride is considered one of the most coveted in motor sports in light of Penske's strong record in the IndyCar Series, including 14 Indy 500 victories alone. Penske's other IndyCar driver is Australian Ryan Briscoe.

Power could be a good choice for Penske. He formerly drove in the Champ Car World Series, which was absorbed into the IndyCar Series in the reunification of U.S. open-wheel racing a year ago.

Champ Car's races were mostly on curvy "road courses" and street layouts that are now combined with the oval tracks long favored by IndyCar. And the first two races of this year's IndyCar Series are April 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and April 19 on the streets of Long Beach, where Power won the final Champ Car race a year ago.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Australian driver Will Power celebrates winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times