The Washington Times - April 17, 2009, 04:58PM

The Indy Racing League likely breathed a big sigh of relief today as popular Brazilian driver Helio Castroneves was acquitted of tax evasion charges that could have led to jail time. A jury found him not guilty of six of the charges relating to the taxation of sponsorship deal with Brazilian firm Coimex and a licensing deal with Penske Racing. The jury could not decide on another count of conspiracy.

From the Associated Press:


“I just want to thank God and my fans, and all of the people who prayed for me,” he said outside the courtroom, still fingering a rosary.

A few moments later, Castroneves said that he can’t wait to suit up for this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“Instead of going to Disneyland, I want to go to Long Beach to race,” he said. “I’m going back to racing.”

This is a big deal for the IRL, as Castroneves was arguably the most charistmatic driver on circuit, and one who had crossed over into mainstream popularity with his victory on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He’s also been hugely successful, winning two Indianapolis 500s and finishing in the top 6 of the IRL standing each of the last 7 years.

The IRL today issued the following statement:

“We couldn’t be happier for Penske Racing, Helio Castroneves and his family and look forward to having him back on the race grid at Long Beach. Helio has played an integral part in the growth of the IndyCar Series on and off the race track the past few years and has an incredible legion of fans. He is a true star in every sense of the word and his infectious personality, popularity and success on the race track is welcomed back.”