DANCING WITH THE STARS: PANTHER ADMITS IT'S JULIANNE, NOT HELIO, THAT THEY'RE WATCHING


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s not a common practice that drivers and crewmen of Panther Racing would be cheering for a driver from Team Penske, even if it is likeable Brazilian Helio Castroneves.

But, with the former two-time Indy 500 champion making a name for himself on ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars” as dancer – not a racer – it’s a bit easier for a rival team and driver to admit they are, in fact, cheering for one of the IndyCar Series best drivers.

Or, are they?

In a quick poll of Panther staff members, a majority admitted that it’s not really Helio that they’re watching at all.

“I like Helio,” one crewman said. “But let’s be honest, I’m watching the show for Julianne Hough.”

Several other crewmen within earshot nodded quickly in approval.

Panther driver Vitor Meira, who is friends with Castroneves, didn’t seem to even realize his fellow Brazilian countryman was on the show.

 “Julianne is doing such a great job on the show and it’s been fun to watch,” Meira said Wednesday. “She’s such a great dancer, she’s beautiful and I think she’s brings a lot of skill and elegance to the program. I can’t wait until the show comes on next week and I can watch her again.”

And when asked about Hough’s partner Castroneves, Meira seemed confused.

“I forgot she had a partner,” Vitor admitted. “But I guess that Julio guy is doing a good job too.”

So, there it is – one of the league’s dirtiest secrets comes to light.

It’s not Castroneves, or his smooth talking, Brazilian walkin’, smiling-a-little-too much Waltz, Cha-Cha-Cha, Waltz or Mambo Wambo that has those of us in the IndyCar Series transfixed on ABC every Monday and Tuesday.

It’s his drop-dead-gorgeous, 19-year-old dance partner Julianne that has some of Indy-cars veterans coming back for more.

“Is this a surprise?” asked another of Panther’s veterans, who refused to be named for fear of his own wife discovering the truth. “Like most of us, I’m sure my wife thinks I’m watching to support Helio, and that’s a good thing. But, yeah, if you really want to know what keeps me coming back – it’s Julianne Hough and Jane Seymour. I see Helio enough all summer.”

While Seymour didn’t make it through Week 8 of “Dancing with the Stars”, Castroneves and Hough – who won the competition with Olympian Apolo Ohno last season – will move on to the next round. That leaves them amongst five competitors who remain in contention for the overall crown.

Helio's success in the program has forced him to postpone his schedule wedding, something that made some of Panther's crew even more jealous.

"These racecar drivers really have it made," one first-year crewman said. "He makes all this money, gets engaged to a beautiful woman, and then gets to postpone his wedding to spend more time with a different beautiful woman? My wife would drag my butt off that show in a heartbeat. If I got within five feet of a young girl as attractive as Julianne she'd file for divorce."

And as the eliminations continue, Panther’s drivers and crew will be cheering every week wishing for the best for Julianne ….. and the guy from Penske.