Power to drive Penske's No. 3 car

INDIANAPOLIS -- Penske Racing, the 14-time Indianapolis 500 champion, announced Tuesday morning that Will Power will serve as Helio Castroneves' temporary replacement in Team Penske's No. 3 entry in the IndyCar Series.

Castroneves was indicted in October by the federal government on charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to commit fraud. His trial is scheduled to begin in Miami on March 2, less than five weeks before the start of the IndyCar season.

If the trial is speedy and results in a favorable verdict for Castroneves, the popular Brazilian racer will be on the grid for the IndyCar opener -- the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5.

"No question, it's a little bit strange to be in this situation," Castroneves said Tuesday at a news conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce Power.

"My life is about racing. I feel very confident this thing is going to be over and I'll be back in the race car doing what I love most."

However, with Castroneves facing up to 35 years in jail if convicted on all seven counts, Team Penske couldn't take a chance on going into the 2009 season unprepared. That problem was solved when Power, a 27-year-old Australian who drove for KV Racing in 2008, agreed to handle preseason testing duties for the team.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of questions about, 'What if this? What if that?'" Penske president Tim Cindric said. "But time will determine a lot of those things, and we probably won't really know those answers until we know more about it.

"The way I look at it is we have three drivers. We'll determine who drives which one of those two cars depending on how everything sorts out."

Power raced open-wheel formula cars in Europe before moving to America to compete in the Champ Car World Series in 2006. He won three Champ Car races, including the series grand finale at Long Beach in 2008, before making the transition with KV Racing into the IndyCar Series.

Power was one of the savviest drivers in IndyCar road racing events, but he sometimes struggled on oval tracks. He was available to Penske because his sponsor, Team Australia, pulled out of IndyCar racing when the series decided to drop its race in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

"It's a team that has won a lot of championships, a lot of races, so I'm really looking forward to helping these guys out. I feel very privileged that they chose me," Power said. "No matter what the outcome is, I'm very happy to be here. ... No matter what happens, I'll come out of it a better driver."

The IndyCar Series' preseason tests are scheduled to start Feb. 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.