With the Indy cars on hiatus for a week before heading to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200, the focus shifts to testing and mirror balls. Mirror balls? What does that have to do with Indy cars?
In November 2007 Team Penske driver and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was the winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" - which has the mirror ball as its winner's trophy. Working with professional partner Julianne Hough he was the winner of the trophy for outlasting the balance of the field. Just call him "twinkle toes"…
The cast for the upcoming "Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars" was announced July 27 at a presentation for the Television Critics Association. Castroneves was among the former winners and popular contestants interviewed live on "Good Morning America" about his newest competition.
The Season 15 premiere on ABC comes just nine days after the IZOD IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. With four races yet to run, the ebullient Brazilian lies second to Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay., trailing by 23 points.
"Winning the Mirror Ball trophy was an unbelievable experience and I'm honored that the show has asked me back to compete again this season," said Castroneves, who won the July 22 Edmonton Indy, INDYCAR's most recent race. "I'm super excited to be in this position, and when I told my team they also were excited for me to do it again.
"We're all pumped up for another opportunity to start dancing again. What a great thing to show my daughter (2½-year-old Mikaella) what Dad did five years ago and hopefully can do again."
To win another mirror ball, Castroneves will compete against 11 others: Apolo Ohno, who won the "Dancing" title the year before Castroneves, also with Hough; NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith; Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson; actresses Pamela Anderson, Kirstie Alley and Kelly Monaco; singer Drew Lachey; actors Gilles Marini and Joey Fatone, reality show star Melissa Rycroft; and Bristol Palin, the daughter of former U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Hough, who has gone on to a movie career isn't coming back for the "All-Star" competition and Castroneves said dance floor practice with his new partner would likely start in early September, "about the time of our Baltimore race and continue through Fontana," he explained. This scheduling will be similar to what he experienced in 2007, dancing with Hough after the race at Belle Isle on Labor Day weekend and continuing through the season-closer at Chicagoland Speedway the following week.
"Obviously, my main focus is racing at this point," Castroneves, who is tied with Johnny Rutherford for 13th on the all-time Indy car victory list with 27 but is seeking his first IZOD IndyCar Series title stressed. "Hopefully, we'll be celebrating two things."
And what about the bright yellow zoot suit with matching fedora that he initially wore for the Quickstep number in Season 5, which prompted one commentator to remark "you could power a fleet of buses on Helio's natural energy." Castroneves reprised the dance for his season's finale.
"I think that's going to be the key to me winning again," Castroneves laughed.