Bruce Martin
Friday October 3rd, 2008

TALLADEGA, Alabama -- NASCAR and IRL drivers are keeping a close eye on the Helio Castroneves/Alan Miller tax evasion case, some because Miller is also their agent and others because Team Penske could be in need of a new driver as early as late October.

Miller, who couldn't be reached for comment on Friday, is involved with some of the top drivers in Sprint Cup, including two-time champion and current points leader Jimmie Johnson, as well as Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears. Miller previously represented Kyle Busch, but he and Busch had a well-publicized split in June 2007 when Hendrick Motorsports decided not to retain Busch as one of its drivers.

"It is certainly shocking," Johnson said Friday. "Alan has been my attorney since I was 15. He has been a great friend and has helped me with a lot of great things. I have an outside tax group that helps me, so right now, everything is still the same. I'm learning a lot as time goes on here and there is still a lot to be investigated and uncovered moving forward. I'm interested in what we learn.

"I've got a business to run and need to protect myself and my family. With everything I've done with Alan, he has respected my thoughts as a driver almost like a parent would. I have never seen anything out of character with him. I'm shocked, but I'm holding tight to when I decide to make a decision on what is going to happen."

Said Bowyer, "Alan does me a good job. He's always been there and somebody I look up to and has taken care of me as far as anything goes. He does most of my work with contracts and that. As for Helio, I don't know much about that. I know as much as I've read. I know it has to do with being a foreign driver and things like that. It's unfortunate that came up. But Alan does a good job for me, which is under a contract basis."

Johnson's teammate, Jeff Gordon, has his business affairs handled by his stepfather, John Bickford, and voiced some strong opinions about agents on Friday.

"No. 1, a driver shouldn't have an agent," Gordon said. "That is your first mistake. Agents do nothing but get you in trouble. A lot of times they think they have the pulse of the garage and they don't. You need some advice on negotiations, but in the end the driver should be in that meeting with the car owner and the people that are involved with coming up with the terms of the contract. I just do it different. Some guys do it their way and others do it differently."

Gordon admitted he is shocked with the news involving Castroneves.

"It's unfortunate for Helio," Gordon said. "I'm a huge fan of Helio's and he is a great friend of mine. He is going to go through some tough times, but that comes along with the good times. When you are on top, people want to tear you down and sometimes you have to deal with that. Let's see how it all plays out."

Castroneves' future as a driver is unknown. He is scheduled to compete in his No. 3 IndyCar at Surfer's Paradise, Australia, on Oct. 26, but a federal judge has ordered that the Brazilian driver is not allowed to leave the United States. Team sources indicated that if Castroneves does not continue with the team, they will likely hire another driver to fill his place rather than bring Sam Hornish, Jr. back to IndyCar from NASCAR. Hornish is a rookie in NASCAR this season but enters Sunday's AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway 35th in points.

"I've always said I'll do whatever 'The Captain' needs me to do, but I don't think that question is going to be asked of me," Hornish told SI.com Friday in the garage area at Talladega. "If it is between having a job and not having a job, I'll do whatever I need to do to have a job.

"As far as street and road course stuff in IndyCar, I thought I was getting pretty decent with it in 2007. If I had to go back, I feel that I can do it, but I'm treating running in NASCAR like I do running on road courses -- I'm going to keep at it until I get it right."

If Castroneves' seat becomes available, there are several drivers in the IndyCar Series who are probably regretting the decisions they have made in the offseason. Dan Wheldon would love to race for Team Penske, but when he was told he would not be retained at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing in August, he struck a deal to return to Panther Racing, beginning with the Australia race at the end of month.

The driver he is replacing at Panther is Vitor Meira, another driver capable of filling Castroneves' seat, but he signed a contract with team owner A.J. Foyt last week.

A short-term solution could be Tomas Scheckter, who raced for Roger Penske's son, Jay, in a limited schedule on the IndyCar Series this season. However, Scheckter was a disappointment, dropping out of several races because of broken half-shafts.

His status with Jay Penske's Luczo-Dragon Racing is uncertain for next season, but with Castroneves prohibited from leaving the United States, another driver will have to take over that car at Australia.

Penske could also elevate one of his drivers in the American Le Mans Series -- Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas or Patrick Long. All three are talented, if not exactly household names.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.