Aussie Will Power has been selected by Roger Penske to replace Helio Castroneves in Team Penske’s two-car IRL team pending the outcome of Castroneves legal battle with the Internal Revenue Service. Power, 27, from Toowoomba, Australia, joins countryman Ryan Briscoe in Penske’s team. Power won two races in the 2007 Champ Car series and also won last year’s Long Beach GP, the final CART/Champ Car race at the California street track.
At this stage Penske says Power will drive in the pre-season test sessions prior to the IRL season-opener at St. Petersburg on April 5. Penske Racing’s president Tim Cindric says the team hopes Castroneves (below) will be able to successfully resolve his legal issues with the IRS and return to action with Penske. Castroneves’s court case begins in Miami on March 5.
“We remain hopeful that Helio’s situation will have a positive outcome and the team is fully behind him,” Cindric (below) said in a statement. “While Helio prepares for his court case, we’re excited to welcome Will Power to the team. Will has already proven that he’s a terrific racer and we think he’s going to be a good fit with Team Penske.”
Said Power: “It is a tremendous opportunity for me to join one of the best teams in all of racing. I’m looking forward to the start of the season and assisting Team Penske in its preparation for 2009.”
Power drove for Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser’s KV Racing team last year but the team needs sponsorship to stay in business this year. Earlier this week KV Racing announced that Brazilian Mario Moraes (above) has joined the team. A second, paying driver is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.
Among those appearing to be without rides in this year’s IndyCar series are Justin Wilson (below) and Ryan Hunter-Reay, both of whom won races last year, as well as Power’s KV Racing team-mate Oriol Servia and of course, Paul Tracy, who’s given up on Indy car racing. It would be terribly sad if Wilson is left without a ride. Newman/Haas/Lanigan didn’t renew its option with Justin because the team lacked sponsorship to run two cars and Penske’s seat was the only remaining paying job available in the IRL.
It’s been reported that Newman/Haas/Lanigan has done a deal with Dutchman Robert Doornbos to drive for the team this year beside Graham Rahal. Doornbos brings US $3 million to the table, but Haas this week refused to confirm the rumour.
“I’ve never been in this situation before,” Haas said. “We’ve never taken a paying driver. We pay our drivers to win. But these are different times.”
Haas admitted he’s been talking to Sebastien Bourdais about the four-time Champ Car champion returning to his team but lacks the sponsorship to pay Bourdais. “We’d love to have Sebastien back in the team, just like we would have loved to have kept Justin,” Haas remarked. “But we don’t have the sponsorship to run him or pay him. I’ve never seen it this bad before.”
Power is one of the few out-of-work Indy car drivers who’s landed on his feet. In these hard times, he’s a lucky man.