With two of his eventual three Indianapolis 500 victories in hand, Helio Castroneves was already popular within the racing world when he decided to take part in the fifth season of ABC's 'Dancing With The Stars.'
But by the time he and his professional dance partner Julianne Hough won that season's title, Castroneves had officially broken into the mainstream thanks to his gregarious personality and his flashy moves in the competition.
"Motor racing, it's a huge community, but it's still a very small community compared to when you're going to national TV and have 25 million to 30 million people watching you every Monday and Tuesday," said Castroneves, who reckons that "80 percent" of the recognition he gets is thanks to his star turn on 'DWTS.'
On Monday night, he'll embark on another quest to claim the Mirrorball Trophy as part of a special All-Star edition of the series (8 p.m. ET, ABC). But the Team Penske pilot won't be re-teaming with Hough, who has been focusing lately on music and movies.
For this effort, Castroneves will be paired with professional Chelsie Hightower, who has competed in six DWTS competitions. Fortunately for the pair, chemistry has been quick to emerge on the dancefloor.
"She is definitely an incredible talent," said Castroneves. "I'm extremely happy to have her as my partner...We're really connecting well. So I guess this is what we need to start the season good."
"One of the keys to 'Dancing With the Stars' is keeping it simple," Hightower said. "Another is truly enjoying yourself, and Helio attacks things like his racing with a lot of ambition and a lot of hard work. But he also knows how to have fun and that's a great combination for 'Dancing With the Stars,' and a great combination for success."
If you want to help Castroneves and Hightower through the competition, you can vote for the duo either online, through texting, or by phone at 800-868-3404 during Monday and Tuesday night broadcasts of the show. They'll be the fourth couple to dance on Monday night's season opener, and are slated to perform the Foxtrot.
Quotes used in this article were taken from INDYCAR press releases.