Speaking Heresy

Posted by Iannucci | 11/14/2007 | 7 comments »
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They’re down to the last four contestants on That Dancing Show, and Helio Castroneves is not only one of them he’s still considered a favorite to win the freaking thing. He’s received far more domestic air time from this single venture than his entire racing career combined, he’s showing the non-racing world his indomitable charm, and more than anything he’s holding his own against “ringers” like the Cheater Girl (who’s already gone) and Old Spice who have both previously spent time in their careers dancing on stage.


Helio is on the cusp of besting his competitors and all I can think of this: Should we really want him to WIN?

Now hear me out before you start flaming me. I’m not saying he NEEDS to lose or that you should stop texting a million votes to secure his victory. It just seems that while getting all of this exposure has been fantastic for him and maybe even IndyCar racing as a whole it may be counter-productive for him to actually be crowned as a “Dancing Champion”.

Case in point: Chris Daughtry. Regardless of what you think of his music here’s a guy who benefited from being on “American Idol”, but had he actually won the thing would have probably sold a lot less records. There’s always talk about “credibility” in forms of entertainment, and a person who tends to rock a tad more than Celine Dion might have trouble selling to a rock audience as an “American Idol” champion. Just ask Kelly Clarkson how that career transition to “serious rock” is going. As a result of going home with a few rounds to go, Daughtry has sold more albums than all of his competitors combined.

Put more plainly, winning may hurt Helio’s chances of appealing to race audiences in general. Forgive me for playing the man-card here, but as a guy are you going to don the Spiderman shirt at races next year and have your buddies rib you endlessly with Saturday Night Fever jokes? Does a dancing victory make you an instant Ryan Briscoe or Tony Kanaan fan instead?

Even more of a problem is that it could open him up to relentless harassment from competitors, and not just because of jealousy. After inadvertently running into Tomas Scheckter during the Detroit Grand Prix this past season, Sheckter declared Helio “should focus more on driving and less on dancing”. Imagine hearing some variation of that every time he has an accident – regardless of fault. Heck, that kind of proclamation could be echoed over and over by competitors and fans alike every year if Helio wins the game show but manages to never win an IndyCar series championship.

Look, we all know Castroneves is a quality driver – someone doesn’t win not one but TWO Indianapolis 500s being a hack. And I’d love to see him in the finals so as to maximize his exposure. And I don’t NOT want the guy to win something to which he’s obviously dedicated so much time and effort. And if you think I’m full of it then by all means keep voting for the guy.

It’s just that after thinking about this it isn’t certain that if he has more to gain by winning. His sponsorship is all tied up with Kodak, Mobil, and the unseen hand of Marlboro, and I don’t think Roger Penske has any plans to let him go get his own sponsors anytime soon. Consequently a dancing championship isn’t exactly going to net him or Penske Racing a huge Bruno Magli or Kenneth Cole sponsorship, nor is the IRL likely to be staging the Florsheim 400 any time soon.

So doesn’t he have more to lose by winning? (OK, go ahead and flame me.)

7 comments

  1. Jahuti Rhys // November 14, 2007 8:50 AM  

    Whether or not what you say has validity, the damage has already been done just by being among the favorites to win. Winning the thing will scarcely change things.

  2. pressdog // November 14, 2007 10:36 AM  

    Props to Jahuti for using "scarcely" in a sentence above. I don't think it's a big thing for Helio given his bubbly personality. If you had to choose the most likely dance champion from among all the drivers, including Sarah and Danica, it'd be Helio. Besides, Julianne is hot, so you don't want to deprive millions of her.

  3. john clerk // November 14, 2007 10:39 AM  

    Jeff,

    To be honest, I don't see the big "bru haa haa" about this. He's a big boy and I'm sure he can take a little teasing...and he can give some too. Maybe we're over-analyzing all this?

    What's the best that can happen? Well, maybe some NEW people who've never seen a race on TV tune in to the IRL. What's the worst? They could change the channel to "N" word... =))

  4. carrie // November 14, 2007 7:14 PM  

    Helio winning this thing, or having even gotten this far, will hardly hurt his credibility as a driver because he's already earned that credibility on the track.

    Ask me about 95% of the rest of the IRL roster in the same context and you'd get a much different answer.

  5. Dale Nixon // November 15, 2007 6:52 AM  

    I've signed a petition to change the name of the IndyCar Series to Dancing with Helio.

  6. Bash // November 15, 2007 8:50 AM  

    I agree that any damage along those lines has already been done. I'm very happy for the exposure he's getting, and I think the only thing I'm NOT enjoying is the possibility of endless dance analogies during the race broadcasts next season...

  7. pressdog // November 15, 2007 10:26 AM  

    Agreed, Bash. It will be off the chain! Marty will think himself highly humorous, and I cringe to think of this in the hands of The Root. Although it will be great material. Also, I think Helio gets ribbed just as bad whether he wins or doesn't win, so he might as well win it.