Mar 23, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Next Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season-opener will mark the 10th anniversary of that series’ version of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (and the 11th St. Pete open-wheel race overall, counting Champ Car’s 2003 event there).
Over the last decade, we’ve seen some memorable moments as the event has evolved into one of the series’ signature races. One of those started in a time of uncertainty for one of the sport’s biggest stars but ultimately resulted in a new member of IndyCar’s core nucleus of drivers.
In the fall of 2008, Helio Castroneves and his sister were charged with tax evasion and were forced to face a trial in Miami, which would cause the then two-time Indianapolis 500 winner to miss the start of the 2009 season.
Before the trial began, Team Penske had made the decision to bring in Australian driver Will Power to replace Castroneves in the No. 3 machine in the interim.
Power had shown flashes of his ultimate potential with a pair of Champ Car victories in 2007 and a triumph in the series’ finale at Long Beach in 2008.
He had landed at KV Racing Technology following the reunification of the sport, but the chance to drive for the legendary Team Penske – even in a part-time role – was one he couldn’t turn down.
With Castroneves tending to his legal problems, Power drove his No. 3 in the ’09 season opener at St. Petersburg and overcame both a pit road miscue and late contact to finish in sixth place, while then-teammate Ryan Briscoe won the race.
“I think we were on par to have a pretty good strategy today, but just as we pulled in for our first pit stop we had some bad luck with that yellow,” Power said that day. “Plus, I sort of made it hard on our guys by pulling into the wrong pit, but I hung in there and made sure I stayed out of trouble and kept progressing throughout the day.
“I think considering everything that happened out there, bringing the Team Penske car home in sixth is great.”
Power’s efforts ultimately led to more races that year with Penske, including the next one at Long Beach, which saw Castroneves return to the team after being acquitted of his charges.
Despite being moved to a new car – the No. 12 – Power still won the pole and converted it to a runner-up finish at the Beach. Later that year, he pulled off a victory at Edmonton before he suffered season-ending injuries in a practice crash at Sonoma that August.
But he’d done enough. Power was added to the Penske ranks full-time for the 2010 season. And the rest was history.
Since that point, he’s earned 17 more Verizon IndyCar Series victories and has become one of the series’ regular title contenders.
NBCSN begins its coverage of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13. CLICK HERE for the full broadcast schedule.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT
Feature on Manpower to Horsepower to air during Red Bull GRC show this Sunday on NBC.
Jun 30, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT
A selection of images from the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Jun 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
SH Rallycross’ HAUS livery for Red Bull GRC this weekend screams red, white and blue.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:52 AM EDT
Given how well they’ve run this year, it was really only a matter of time until Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won a race.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Luca Filippi and Matthew Brabham set for oval tests this Wednesday at Iowa Speedway.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
This weekend’s miserable conditions at Watkins Glen offered a lot of young drivers a chance to shine.
Jun 29, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT
The 2015 season is the first time Roger Penske has captained four teams on the IndyCar circuit. And it appears it will be full steam ahead with four teams going forward.
Jun 29, 2015, 8:53 PM EDT
Comedian and former late-night talk show host Jay Leno has spent his career making millions laugh. But recently, the joke was on Leno, so to speak – but in a good way.
Jun 29, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT
If you’re a big fan of the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, put this on your bucket list for next year.
Jun 29, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT
With five races coming up in the next six weeks, Top Fuel driver Antron Brown knows how crucial this stretch of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season will be.
Jun 29, 2015, 5:47 PM EDT
Finishing 13th in her Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Pippa Mann enjoyed the best showing of her IndyCar career in Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Jun 29, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT
Jack Hawksworth enjoyed one of his better runs of 2015 in Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Jun 29, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
Although it’s been two days since the MAV TV 500, a number of IndyCar drivers are not going to soon forget one of the wildest races the series has seen in a long time.
Jun 28, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Brazilian driver ends the Formula E season with his best finish of fourth.
Jun 28, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT
Westbrook and Valiante take their second win of the year at Watkins Glen.
Jun 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
The IndyCar driver finished 11th and 12th in two races at the London ePrix this weekend.
Jun 28, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT
Graham Rahal back on Twitter on Sunday after win on Saturday.
Jun 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Brazilian driver remains upbeat despite losing out on the title to bitter rival Nelson Piquet Jr.
Jun 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Brazilian driver talks about his rise from the midfield to the title across the course of the inaugural Formula E season.
Jun 28, 2015, 1:36 PM EDT
Watch a replay of yesterday’s crazy MAVTV 500 from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana either online via NBC Sports Live Extra, or on NBCSN tonight.
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