IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves has won the Indianapolis 500 three times — quite an accomplishment! And in 2007, he also won Dancing With the Stars Season 5 with Julianne Hough.
Now he’s back, trying to win DWTS Season 15 All-Stars, this time with pro partner Chelsie Hightower. We all know he can rock a bright yellow zoot suit, but here are a few more details about the Brazilian race car champion.
1. He’s big on family, fatherhood and faith — and really loves the Pope!
Helio, 37, was born May 10, 1975 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He told Racin’ Today he was raised Catholic and his family has always been religious. According to his website, he got into racing because of his father, Helio Sr., who loved the sport. His older sister, Kati, is his business manager and best friend. His mom, "Dona Sandra," keeps his feet on the ground.
Helio's girlfriend, Adriana, gave birth to Helio's daughter, Mikaella, on December 28, 2009. He said he wants to win DWTS All-Stars for her. In 2011, he told Inside IZOD (via Helio-Castroneves.com) that fatherhood, is “awesome, because every time I come home after a race it doesn’t matter what result, Mikaella has a big smile on her face and tries to show her latest tricks.” Helio was also named godfather to his nephew, Eduardo, in 2008. In his ABC bio he said his celeb status has given him many opportunities, the highlight being in 2004 when he had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a private audience with Pope John Paul II while visiting Vatican City.
2. His other great love is his dog, Tuggy.
Add Helio to the list of hot DWTS guys with adorable doggies! Helio told Inside IZOD, “I have one pet named Tuggy (pronounced, Toog-y), which is a Beagle … He’s hilarious. He has anxiety separation — he can’t stay away from anybody.” Aww! Helio currently lives in Ft. Lauderdale, but back in 2009 People said Helio lived in a "stunning art-filled Coral Gables mansion with his Beagle Tuggy."
3. He was acquitted of tax evasion.
In his 2010 book, Victory Road, Helio wrote about happy things like being a new father and his signature fence-climbing victory move. But he also wrote about a dark time in his life when he and his sister faced serious jail time. In 2008, Helio was charged with conspiracy and six counts of tax evasion for allegedly failing to report to the IRS around $5.5 million in income between 1999 and 2004. His sister/business manager, Kati, and his lawyer Alan Miller were charged with assisting him. Helio pleaded not guilty and in the spring of 2009 a federal jury in Miami found him not guilty of tax evasion. "I am speechless and so thankful to my fans who have stood by me and kept me strong," a “tearful” Helio told People afterward.
4. He doesn't eat red meat, but he's a Cookie Monster
Somebody has a sweet tooth! Asked about his favorite foods, Helio told Inside IZOD, “I enjoy a lot but I don’t eat red meat. I haven’t had red meat since 1990 – 21 years ago. I don’t drink soft drinks or things like that. What I do enjoy is a great cookie. I’m a ‘Cookie Monster.’” He said he prefers eating out to cooking, telling Racin’ Today, “The only thing I am good at making at a restaurant is reservations.” But the 5’8” driver balances it out by working out every day when he isn't traveling. And of course, you can almost eat anything while competing on DWTS and not gain weight.
5. He loves disco music — and Selena Gomez!
Helio seems like a happy-go-lucky guy, so maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that he likes bubble gum music. Inside IZOD asked what kind of music he likes and he answered, “I like pop music. I don’t like slow songs to be honest. Disco music is what I enjoy most.” When asked what was the last thing he put on his iPod, he answered (last year), “I can’t tell you what it was. It’s Selena Gomez. That is more a teenager song. But I still feel like a teenager.” Ha! So maybe Chelsie will have to be the mature one on Team Chelio.
Dancing With the Stars Season 15: All-Stars will premiere on Monday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Check out the full All-Stars cast list here.
Sources: Racin’ Today, Heliocastroneves.com, Inside IZOD (via Helio-Castroneves.com), ABC, People, Amazon
Gina Carbone is a contributing writer at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @ginacarbone.
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