December 10, 2007 12:00 PM

Winning the fifth season of Dancing with the Stars has made IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves a household name to nearly 25 million viewers. Even if many of them still can’t pronounce it. “They don’t say it right!” says Castroneves. Once and for all, that’s “EL-ee-oh,” people. But nothing could diminish his Nov. 27 victory alongside pro partner Julianne Hough (a repeat champ after taking the gold with Apolo Ohno). “This is,” he told PEOPLE, “beyond my wildest dreams.”

Before his 10 weeks of sizzling sambas and intricate quicksteps began, the Brazilian-born Castroneves, 32, joked that “only when I have some shots of tequila can I dance really well.” But his fleet footwork, daring lifts and goofy-grinned charm won over voters and the judges—edging out the runner-up, Spice Girl Mel B, 32, and third-place winner Marie Osmond, 48, in an eventful season. Osmond, who fainted on-air and lost her father during the show’s run, calls her Dancing experience “a gift. It’s helped me through some tough stuff.”

So what’s next for the newest disco ball winner? “I am going to throw the biggest party when I get home to Miami,” says Castroneves, who plans to display his prize in between his pair of Indy 500 trophies. “And Julianne is coming because I need a dance partner!”

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