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.
May 4, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
Road America invests millions into some track upgrades for 2015.
May 4, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT
Nastia Liukin named grand marshal for this year’s Indianapolis 500.
May 4, 2015, 1:33 PM EDT
Videos from the debut of the new Ligier JS P2 Hondas for Tequila Patron ESM at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
May 4, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Mann gets back to work behind the wheel and has a very good first day of running at IMS.
May 4, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT
Early days yet, but seems as though Andretti Autosport is starting the month of May out on the right foot.
May 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT
The No. 90 Corvette DP pairing ends on top in Monterey.
May 3, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT
Day one of the month of May is in the books at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
May 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Could we see the Iranian Grand Prix join the F1 calendar in years to come?
May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Lotus technical director Nick Chester expresses his confidence in the upcoming upgrade package for the E23 Hybrid car.
May 3, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT
A run through of new driver firesuits and liveries thus far on the first day of practice for the Indianapolis 500.
May 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Ex-Force India driver di Resta picks up his first podium finish since returning to DTM in 2014.
May 3, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Indianapolis 500 practice is officially underway.
May 3, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Spanish rider wins on home soil as Valentino Rossi scores his 200th podium finish.
May 3, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
Conor Daly’s “Fueled by Bacon” No. 43 Smithfield Foods Honda is revealed.
May 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
The no. 19 crew fights back at Spa to finish sixth overall after six hours of racing.
May 3, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Venezuelan driver returns to the site of his only grand prix victory next weekend.
May 2, 2015, 8:57 PM EDT
Last-lap pass by co-driver Andrew Carbonell allows Sgt. Liam Dwyer to celebrate win with Sgt. Aaron Denning, the man who saved his life.
May 2, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
Franzoni makes the leap into Pro Mazda.
May 2, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Red Bull driver speaks about the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which will play host to the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.
May 2, 2015, 3:31 PM EDT
Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer claim their second win of the WEC season at Spa.
- Montoya fastest on opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice 2
- Indy 500 refresher running, RoP gets underway today at IMS 0
- Chevrolet reveals its super speedway aero kit 2
- ARCA driver Brad Smith recovering from ankle surgery after Talladega wreck 0
- 21 years after his death, the legacy of Ayrton Senna burns as brightly as ever 2
- Honda reveals its super speedway aero kit Thursday at IMS (VIDEO) 9
- Ed Carpenter talks Newgarden’s win and preparing for superspeedway aero kit at Indy 7