When the competition began, Helio Castroneves seemed a long shot, perhaps even an afterthought the various entertainment industry celebrities comprising his competition on the hit ABC television show “Dancing with the Stars.” Mark Cuban, loner owner of the Chicago Bulls, was another contestant, but didn’t last too long.
But, in the end, Castroneves collected the winner’s trophy, which he says will get shelf space between his two Indy 500 winners trophy’s. Helio edged out Melanie Brown, an athletic former Spice Girl, in the finals.
Castroneves played to an audience likely far more aware of him at a personal level than those in attendance at IRL races, and that paid off for him in the end. Though edged by Brown by one point – 85 to 84 – in cumulative scoring by the judges, fan votes gave Castroneves the win. The show uses a formula that includes both judges votes and fan votes to determine who is eliminated from the competition and who wins. 
In all of his performances, Castroneves exhibited a charismatic personality and enthusiasm – the same spirit that led him to climb the fence at the start finish line after winning the Indianapolis 500. But, his ability as a dancer was unquestionable, too. In his final performance, the judges awarded a perfect score to Castroneves and his partner, as they had on multiple prior occasions.
The victory gives Castroneves a celebrity status that even his wins at the 500 haven’t achieved, and a popularity that extends beyond open-wheel racing. It also says something about the extent to which safety considerations have become a fixed part of auto racing. Neither A. J. Foyt nor Rick Mears could have accomplished it. Both suffered racing injuries to their feet in their careers.

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