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Life in the Dad Lane

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DEC. 28, 2009

Helio Castroneves routinely drives 225 miles per hour on the racetrack without breaking a sweat. But when he took his newborn daughter Mikaella to her first doctor’s visit in January, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champ turned into a nervous wreck behind the wheel. “It was snowing, and some of the roads were icy,” says Castroneves, who is enjoying first-time parenthood with his girlfriend of two years, Atlanta restaurateur Adriana Henao, 34. “I was very cautious!”

One year ago Castroneves, 34, was on trial in Miami for tax evasion (he was acquitted in April). “It was like a Category 5 storm,” he says now. But it’s been all sunny skies since Mikaella arrived on Dec. 28. With the upcoming racing season just weeks away, the Dancing with the Stars winner is savoring every moment with his baby girl. “At night I put her on my chest, and I give her the bottle,” he says. “I can feel her breathing and hear her heartbeat. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

So far Mikaella isn’t following her dad’s tire tracks. “She doesn’t like to ride in the car!” he says. And that’s just fine with him: “There’s only one race-car driver in the family. Maybe she will play golf!”