HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Helio Castroneves finished in a three-way tie for sixth on the first night of "Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars," but the charismatic Indianapolis 500 champ is quickly charming his fellow contestants.
The IndyCar standout, who won "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007, was first recruited to take part in the reality show by fellow all-star competitor Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno when the athletes met at the 2007 Indianapolis 500.
"I said was, 'Listen, if you're going to do this show, you really have to commit to it, because it's so grueling and so much time and hours you have to put into it,'" Ohno remembers. "Obviously, he did so well he won, and now he's back at it again. I think it's going to be a good competition."
Castroneves won over fans with his smile and magnetic chemistry with former partner Julianne Hough, who has since left the show to pursue acting.
But Hough's brother, fellow professional dancer Derek Hough, who is dancing with gymnast Shawn Johnson for the all-stars edition, doesn't think chemistry will be a problem for the racer.
"I think Helio can have chemistry with a tree," he laughed. "He is such a loving, charismatic guy that he can create chemistry with anybody. That's one of his strongest assets in this show."
Castroneves has also maintained a long-distance friendship with professional dancer Tony Dovolani, who is dancing this season with former "Bachelor" star Melissa Rycroft, since their original season together.
"It's such a 'bromance.' Literally, the show is starting, we hear people around us saying, '10 seconds,' we're up on stage, the music is going, he an Helio are talking about (taking) corners and this, and I was like, 'What are you boys doing?'" Rycroft laughed.
"I've been grilling Helio about different tricks about how to race because he's going to take me to a go-cart racing place," said Dovolani, who has visited Castroneves at his home in Florida. "I've been racing a little bit myself with my cars, but now he's going to teach me how to actually go around."
Still, with competition expected to be fierce among some of "Dancing's" best competitors, friendship will only go so far.
"Helio, I love you and you are a great champion. I think you deserve to be a great champion in every aspect, you but already got a trophy, so maybe his fans could vote for us now," Dovolani said, laughing.
Castroneves told RTV6's Dave Furst he's happy to be back on the dance floor.
"The warm welcome from the fans and the crowd were absolutely awesome. I was actually overwhelmed. It was like, 'This is unbelievable,'" he said after Monday's performance. "That part throw me a little bit off, but at the end of the day, we had a great time."