The Indy Racing League opened it's 2009 season with one of its stars sidelined.
While his Penske Racing compatriots were firing up their engines in St. Petersburg, Helio Castroneves was stuck further south in Florida. He's been in a Miami federal courtroom for the last four weeks where he, his sister Katiucia and his financial adviser Alan Miller are all facing tax evasion charges.
Roger Penske has put Will Power behind the wheel of Helio's car temporarily, but the racing boss says Castroneves, who has won two Indy 500s, has a Team Penske IndyCar waiting for him whenever his tax troubles are resolved.
Last week, the court case crossed racing series lines, with three-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson taking the witness stand as the opening witness in Castroneves' defense. Both drivers are represented by Miller.
At issue is $5 million sitting in an offshore account.
Castroneves' defense team says the Brazilian-born driver does not owe the IRS any taxes on the money on because he has not yet received it.
Prosecutors disagree. They say taxes were owed because Penske was ready and able to pay Castroneves, who cannot avoid tax just because he didn't accept the money.
The IRS figures that Castroneves owes more than $2.3 million in taxes on the money. During testimony in the trial, an IRS agent the total due includes unreported income and improper deductions from 1999 to 2004.
Either way, contend Castroneves attorneys, the driver relied on advice from experts in connection with financial dealings. Ah yes, the Wesley Snipes defense. We'll see if it works again.
Crazy Woman Driver now on two tracks: As you might recall, my racing column moved in March to the flagship magazine for Randall-Reilly Publishing's vast array of transportation publications. It now appears monthly in Truckers News under the Views from the Grandstands banner.
In April, however, the Crazy Woman Driver got back on track, too. The column is now in both Truckers News and Owner Operator magazines. I am pleased the editors of both publications have decided to share. And I am even happier to hang onto my slightly un-PC "crazy" moniker in the Owner Operator version.
The only downside is that since it's the same column for the same publisher, I only get one paycheck a month! But, hey, like racers who race for the thrill, I write because I enjoy it.
This month my topic is Kyle Petty. Specifically, I suggest that NASCAR get with it and take advantage of Kyle's availability now that he no longer has a full-time ride and hire him as the racing series' goodwill ambassador.
You can find links to all my racing columns in this post.
Checkered Flag: Yeeeeessssss!!!! The 24 makes it to Victory Lane!
The reason this post is a bit late is I was writing and watching the TV broadcast of the Cup race up the road at Texas Motor Speedway. We went to the track's fall race, where Jeff had his best finish of last season, a second.
With tax season in its final laps, I couldn't justify scooting up I35 right now. But that's OK. It was a fun race to watch from the comfort of my couch.
It's been way too long since Jeff Gordon has won a race. It's very nice to be done with that horrid streak, and to do so at a track where he's never won before.
Maybe Jeff will get his first Cup win at Homestead this fall to wrap up his fifth NASCAR championship!