As soon as Jimmie Johnson heard the news of Friday's acquittal, on tax charges, of IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves, the Brazilian's sister and business manager Katuicia and Michigan motorsports attorney Alan Miller, he and crew chief Chad Knaus tried to call the 71-year old, who has also served as Johnson's adviser for 13 years.

"Chad and I left him a voicemail when we caught wind of it, and then I had a text message from him on my phone, and I responded back "Hell, yes!'," Johnson said after Friday's second Cup practice at Phoenix International Raceway.

Johnson appeared as a character witness on Miller's behalf at the Miami trial. After six days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Miller of tax evasion and conspiracy. Castroneves and his sister were found not guilty on six tax evasion counts, but each got a hung jury on a single conspiracy count.

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Johnson was elated that his faith in Miller had been vindicated.

"I'm just happy for everybody involved," said the three-time defending Cup champion, "I know it's been extremely tough on all of them, and I know more about Alan and what Alan and his family have been experiencing. Hopefully, he'll take a nice long vacation and let that stress find its way out of his body, because it's been very, very difficult on all of them."

Castroneves, meanwhile, flew direct from Miami to California for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and qualified eighth fastest despite having no testing at all this season other than Saturday's practice sessions at the event.

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service