EDITOR'S NOTE: Join us at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 29 for SpeedJam 2008, as two-time Indy 500 winner-turned-“Dancing with the Stars” champion Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick and a field of world-class drivers race under the lights at more than 200 mph. Tickets are now available for the IndyCar Series ’08 kickoff, featuring the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami and the IndyPro Series Miami 100. SpeedJam at Homestead-Miami also includes a full-day festival of car shows, Memphis Barbeque, kids activities and live music. For tickets, call (866) 409-RACE or CLICK HERE.
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Hola, again. It’s Helio—and it’s race time. The latest update on my preparations for SpeedJam 2008 THIS SATURDAY at Homestead-Miami Speedway….
It’s Monday, and the team and I are getting set up for practice. There are many different areas that I will need to prepare myself in order to be set for the race.
I like to prepare myself both physically and mentally. Physically, I have exercised regularly over the past few months. Mental preparation takes a lot more patience and practice. I mean, it’s hard not to think about so many things.
The closer I get to the race, the more I ask myself, “Did I do everything right [to prepare]?” But I believe that our team has done everything that we could over the winter to come prepared. I also think “Dancing with the Stars” has helped to keep me in better physical condition than I would have been otherwise.
Speaking of, I'm so glad that the race is around the corner because life is going to slow down a little bit. Well, it’s not really slowing down by traveling all over the place, but it will be more of a routine. I'm going to be more comfortable.
I’m also a lot less nervous for this race than I have been in the past. There is much less anxiety now that I have become more experienced with this track, my hometown track. There are many more things that I know now about the track that I didn’t in the past.
And I will have about 100 friends at Homestead-Miami on Saturday, so it’s always been the biggest race for me. That’s why I take everyone there and get everyone very excited to watch. My mom and dad could not make it this year—they have another commitment—but I think that have enough friends to support me and make me feel calm.
There has been a lot of talk that the larger field of 26 cars [due to IndyCar/Champ Car unification] will lead to more trouble with accidents and crashes. I believe that the people that make those comments are the ones that are not really comfortable with their car. I think that a larger field will lead to more
competition in between groups. You may see one race between the top six drivers [and another between] the 8th
The closer the race gets, the harder it is to focus because of all the excitement. I hope I can just relax. I just can’t think too much into it. Whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. Our team has already done all the preparation over the winter and with spring training. All the car needs is some tweaking and massaging. So I’ve just got to go to it, that’s it.
One of the last things I do before the race is to have a meeting with the team. We go through a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, according to what’s expected. Hopefully the plan that we are expecting is the right one. And if things do go wrong, we can be prepared.
I’ve been so close in to winning in the past. I can smell it. I can taste it. The plan is to win at Homestead-Miami at SpeedJam this Saturday. And I hope to see all my fans there on Saturday for the victory.
I was in Fort Lauderdale last week to dance live on the “Dancing with the Stars” Tour. They asked me to perform at some tour stops, and it’s a way of saying thank you to the fans for supporting me and voting for me. It is so rewarding because I know the fans came here to see Julianne [Hough, dance partner] and me, the reigning champions, and I feel so grateful for your support.
I actually found myself a little more nervous performing on the live “Dancing” tour than I was on set of the television show itself. When you walk into one of those arenas and you look at how many seats they have out there, you realize how many people are watching you dance. When I was on the show, there were 200-300 people maximum in the [live] audience. It was still a lot of people, but on the tour you could hardly hear the music because the fans were screaming so loud!
Speaking of the fans and noise levels, I get a lot of questions about the differences between dancing and racing. Well, behind the wheel you have separation from your fans; you have a helmet and you don’t make eye contact with them. You’re just [focused on], “I’m going to pass this guy in front of me!”
But in dancing, there’s nothing to separate you while performing—you’re right there [with the live audience]. You connect with the fans, they’re looking at you and you’re looking straight back at them.
All this dancing stuff really has been kind of surreal. For those of you who don’t know, my initial goal heading into “Dancing with the Stars” was simply to not get voted off first! In fact, it wasn’t until the last week of the show that I really realized we had a chance to win the whole competition. That was when I said to Julianne: “You know what? The worst we can do is finish second or third. Let’s go for it!”
That’s where my competitive side kicked in, and we practiced for 10 hours a day the final week to make sure our freestyle routine was perfect—and it was.
A lot of people have asked me how I have handled all the media attention after winning “Dancing with the Stars.” I definitely enjoy it, and having been in similar situations before when I won the Indy 500 [2001, 2002], I know that when the next season of “Dancing” starts, whoever wins that one is going to be the center of attention and I’m going to be yesterday’s news.
I am the same person I was six months ago when this all started, and I’ve learned that when you’re on top, you have a lot of friends; when you’re not on top, you don’t have nearly as many. So my though is to just be yourself—don’t step on other people to achieve your goals—and hopefully my dancing fans will join me at Homestead-Miami on March 29 to watch me start my 2008 IndyCar Series season.
Homestead-Miami Speedway plays host to SpeedJam 2008 on March 29, as the IndyCar Series kicks off the ’08 campaign with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami and the IndyPro Series Miami 100. SpeedJam also includes a full-day festival of car shows, Memphis Barbeque, kids activities and live music. For tickets, call (866) 409-RACE or visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com.