- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Fresh off the announcement of a new title sponsor, the IZOD IndyCar Series got another boost Thursday when Penske Racing revealed plans to run a third full-time entry in 2010 for Australian driver Will Power.
Power, 28, joined the Penske organization prior to the '09 IndyCar season as a stand-in for Helio Castroneves, who at the time was standing trial for tax evasion. Castroneves was cleared of the federal charges and returned to his No. 3 car for the second race of the season, but the Penske team was impressed enough by Power to keep him under contract and run a third car for him on a part-time basis.
In six starts for Penske, Power scored one race win, two pole positions and four top-five finishes prior to a season-ending crash at Infineon Raceway on Aug. 22.
Power will drive the No. 12 Verizon Wireless car, alongside the Team Penske-branded cars of Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.
"Will did a terrific job for Penske Racing this past season and we are excited that he will be able to drive full-time with the team in 2010 in the Verizon Wireless car," team owner Roger Penske said in a statement. "Will proved that he could consistently compete for wins and poles in 2009, despite his limited time on track. We believe he can be a legitimate championship contender next season for our team, along with Helio and Ryan."
Power's North American career began in late 2005 when he joined the Champ Car World Series. He won three races in Champ Car with KV Racing and moved with the team to the IndyCar Series in early 2008.
KV downsized to one car in '09, leaving Power without a ride until he gambled on the part-time role at Penske. He claimed his first race win in the IndyCar Series at Edmonton, Alberta, in late July.
"To be able to compete for a full season with Penske Racing is really a dream come true for me," Power said. "Working with the team this past season was the best experience of my career and I can't wait to race for the IndyCar Series championship in 2010. I really have to thank everyone at Verizon Wireless and the Penske Racing team for this opportunity. I intend to make the most of it."
Power, who suffered a concussion and four fractured vertebra when he slammed into a stalled car in the accident at Infineon, expects to return to the cockpit before Christmas.
"I've had a lot of time to think and prepare myself for next season as I've been recovering over the last few weeks," he said. "I'm healing well ahead of schedule and I hope to be able to get back in a car by December."
The IndyCar Series sponsorship is the latest element in a multi-year program between Penske Racing and Verizon Wireless that began in 2009. Verizon serves as a primary sponsor for two of Penske's NASCAR entries driven by Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski.
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com.