Penske Racing has confirmed speculation that it had chosen former KV Racing Technology driver Will Power as its replacement for Helio Castroneves, at least in preparation for the forthcoming season.

The 27-year old Australian emerged from a crowded field to be touted as the most likely candidate to fill in for Castroneves while the Brazilian fights tax evasion charges, and will now drive the #3 Team Penske Dallara-Honda during pre-season testing.

The balance of the year's responsibilities, including the first IndyCar Series race of the season at St Petersburg on 5 April, will depend on the timing and outcome of Castroneves' pending court case. The Brazilian is scheduled to make an appearance at a district court in Miami on 2 March, and could potentially face a jail term if found guilty.

"We wanted to come and welcome Will Power to Team Penske for 2009," team president Tim Cindric told a press conference, "[but] obviously, it's under difficult circumstances.

"The most important thing for us in 2009, not only is he our driver, but our friend, is to do everything we can to support Helio going forward with what he's going through. It's a difficult thing for me to sit up here today and even talk about it. I'm sure it's a lot more difficult for him than it is for me but, under these circumstances, our job is to make sure that, in racing, you're as prepared as you can possibly be. That's what Roger [Penske] has always set a precedence for; it's what our organisation is known for.

"We need to be sure, in 2009, that we're ready to go and we're ready to win as many races as we can, not only for our sponsors and for our organisation, but also all those that work for us.

"We looked at it very methodically. We didn't feel we really had to make a decision at any certain point in time. Again, it comes down to preparation. The longer you go, the more you know. The more you know, usually the better decisions you make.

"Along that line, when we looked at it, the best thing for us was to be in a situation where maybe this [legal process] could happen at the end of 2009, and we could go through 2009 and do everything as planned. When it became obvious that there really wasn't anything different, other than this 2 March date, at that point in time we felt, even if everything's over at that point in time, everything's good, [Castroneves] has to be able to focus on what he needs to do. The race he needs to win is the race he's going to be in March. That's more important to him than anything we've got going on. We felt like the only way for him to focus on all those things, and for us as an organisation to be prepared in the right way, is to find the best available guy out there [as replacement].

"Obviously, we've chosen Will as that guy. I thought back to some other years. If we'd have been in this situation in other years, we wouldn't have been as fortunate to bring someone on board that can compete at the high level that we're going to obviously expect. We hoped to make a decision before the holidays, but there were a lot of guys out there that had very good credentials.

"If you asked me any one thing that separated Will from any of them, it's very difficult to say. It's one of those things where you look at it and, you know, you say you need to make sure that we, as an organisation, can go out and test and we can go out and do all the things we normally do, let [Castroneves] remain focused. There really wasn't any definite timeline. It's always been something we've kind of taken day to day.

"We're very fortunate to have someone like Will available to join the team [but] the way I look at it is, we have three drivers. There's three drivers for Team Penske in 2009. We'll determine who drives which one of those two cars depending on how everything sorts out. We'll kind of take it a day at a time. That's what we've been doing to this point."

Power will now work closely with fellow countryman Ryan Briscoe as Penske begins its preparations for the 2009 season, and admits that he was delighted to be picked up by the team, especially after his future with KVRT looked bleak following the loss of Craig Gore's Aussie Vineyards backing.

"I'd like to thank Roger and Tim for giving me this fantastic opportunity," the 2008 Long Beach race winner admitted, "Penske is a team that's won a lot of championships, Indy 500s, races, [so] I'm really looking forward to helping these guys out for the 2009 season.

"I know there [was] a handful of drivers in the mix [and] I feel very privileged that they chose me. I'm really going to give this a hundred per cent. No matter what the outcome is, I'm very happy to be here."

Although the deal may only be for pre-season development work, Power is determined to make the most of it as he looks to cement his future in the IndyCar Series.

"To drive for Penske, it's a real honour," he repeated, "When you come to the US and race open-wheel, it's the sort of team you want to sign up for. When I was given this offer, I didn't give it much thought. I really wanted to go. Honestly, I didn't have anything solid at the time anyway. I just thought it was the best direction for me. I can learn a lot in this team. These guys have got a lot of experience. I think no matter what happens I'll come out of it a better driver."

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