Indy 500 Notebook

All charges against Castroneves are cleared

Associated Press / May 23, 2009
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Federal prosecutors dropped the remaining tax evasion conspiracy charge against two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and his sister yesterday, clearing the Brazilian driver of all the charges that once threatened to derail his career.

Castroneves, 34, one of the favorites for tomorrow's Indy 500, and his 35-year-old sister Katiucia were acquitted of other tax evasion charges by a jury April 17 in Miami. His tax lawyer, Alan Miller of Michigan, also was cleared of all wrongdoing.

The jury failed to agree on the conspiracy charge, resulting in a mistrial on that count. Now prosecutors have decided not to pursue a retrial on that charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Castroneves described learning of the dismissal as "incredible" and "amazing." In addition to having the fastest practice time yesterday (223.920 miles per hour), Castroneves won the pit stop competition.

"Things are falling into place. I'm just so glad I had a fair trial and I'm here racing again," he said.

The Castroneves siblings and Miller had faced about six years in prison had they been convicted. The Internal Revenue Service claimed they plotted to evade some $2.3 million in taxes using a Panamanian shell corporation and supposedly crooked dealings with a former Castroneves sponsor, the Brazilian firm Coimex.

"My life is back," Castroneves said. "The only thing I can think about is to go and be in the race car again."

Roll model
Sarah Fisher doesn't sound all that excited about setting the record for most Indy 500 starts by a female driver. Fisher is smashing boundaries in a much bigger way than just getting behind the wheel for the eighth time at the Brickyard - she's the only female owner-driver in the IndyCar Series. "It's such a big thing to showcase for little girls growing up," said Fisher, 28. "It's not so much just being the athlete but being someone who can go and take a business and grow it." . . . New Zealand's Wade Cunningham won the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his second career victory in the Indy Lights Series race. Cunningham held off J.R. Hildebrand by 0.1 seconds.