Woody: Say It Ain’t So, Helio

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 10 2009
Helio Castronevas during happier times  (Photo courtesy IndyCar)   

Helio Castronevas during happier times (Photo courtesy IndyCar)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer  RacinToday.com 

Could Helio Castroneves go from Dancing With the Stars to Dancing Behind the Bars?

The two-time Indy 500 champion knows how to cut a rug. But he also took some short cuts with his income taxes, according to a criminal complaint that is currently playing out in the courts.

Both sides have made their final arguments.

Prosecutors claim Castroneves engaged in “an intricate pattern of deception” to avoid paying millions in U.S. income taxes over five years.

Castroneves’ attorney claims he just “signed anything in front of him,” and that he is guilty of nothing more than ignorance of the tax codes.

Didn’t anybody learn anything from Willie Nelson?

For months, as the case has wound its way through legal channels, Castroneves has remained part of Team Penske. But in name only. He has been replaced on the track by Will Power.

This is no knock on Will Power, but he’s no Helio Castroneves.

Helio was the best thing the IndyCar Series had going for it – well, along with Danica Patrick’s swimsuit poses.

But Helio, unlike Danica, wasn’t just another pretty face in the race. He was a serious driver. You don’t charm your way to two Indy 500 victories.

You can bet that the powers at IRL headquarters have been following the Castroneves case with bated breath. If Helio has to go away for awhile, a huge chunk of Indy interest will go with him.

Even if he beats the rap, will he come back and race again? Can he? Will he? Would he?

And if he does, will it ever be the same or will the dazzle be diminished?

Let me confess right here: I like Castroneves.

From the first time I met him when he came to Nashville for the area’s first IRL race, I was amazed at his easy rapport with the fans and media. He was charming and gracious, the IRL’s greatest good-will ambassador.

During one visit Helio and then-teammate Sam Hornish Jr. hammed it up in Music City. They goofed around in a recording studio and checked out the honky tonks on Lower Broad. They posed in the doorway of Tootsie’s, the world-famous saloon frequented by Grand Ole Opry stars and aspiring song writers.

Helio and Sam were great sports. They were also great race drivers, the best Indy had to offer.

Now Hornish is in NASCAR and Castroneves is in trouble.

I hope things turn out OK for Helio. I hope that he’s found guilty of nothing worse than failing to understand a tax form. I hope he is able to resume his racing career. I hope he’s able to still be able to clown around, dazzle us with his smile, make us laugh.

That’s what I hope. The jury is out – literally and figuratively. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 10 2009
One Comment

One Comment »

  • dawg says:

    If the worst were to happen. Maybe he could wind up in with Haas, & Mc Clure, & they can entertain each other with racing stories.
    I always heard that ” If you dance, you have to pay the fiddler.”