Helio Castroneves must feel like dancing.
Friday morning in Miami he was acquitted of tax evasion charges, following a six-week trial. Come Saturday morning in Long Beach, Castroneves — the popular Dancing With The Stars winner — will be in Long Beach ready to race.
"Instead of going to Disneyland, I want to go to Long Beach and race," Castroneves said outside the courtroom.
And he will be racing in a fast car — the Team Penske number 3 car that turned the fastest lap in practice Friday afternoon around the Long Beach streets has been given to Castroneves. Of course, when it set that time it was being driven by Will Power, the winner of last year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Now Power is being bumped to the number 12 car. The setup will be identical in the two cars heading into the morning practice session, team officials said.
“(The cars) ready for Helio to drive and are in very good shape,” Power said after his practice session. “I look forward to a good weekend, and I’m happy the way everything has turned out for Helio. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through that considering what a good career he’s had.”
The return of Castroneves brings another big star to Long Beach. He is one of the biggest names on the Indy Racing League circuit, having twice won the Indianapolis 500. He also knows the Long Beach track, having won the 2001 race here.
Castroneves’ legal troubles may not totally be behind him. The jury did not reach a verdict on conspiracy charges against Castroneves and his sister and business manager Katiucia, so the US Attorney could get another chance at those charges.
For many, Castroneves is better known for his moves off the race track. The Brazilian is light on his feet and is a past winner of Dancing With The Stars. He says to this day he gets recognized on the street more for that than his racing prowess.
But that will not be the case this weekend. This weekend is about what made him famous in the first place.