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Dancing's Final Lap Goes to Helio

In the end, it was horsepower rather than girl power that lit up the ballroom.

IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves was declared the winner of Dancing with the Stars Tuesday, becoming the fourth male celebrity in a row to toe-heel his way to the disco ball trophy.

"This is an incredible moment right now," the 32-year-old Brazilian said, his ever-present smile shining bright. "I can't thank enough. It's awesome. I want to thank first of all my team to let me do this, my family, the fans—and this special person right here."

He meant, of course, 19-year-old professional dancer and choreographer extraordinaire Julianne Hough, who also won the competition last year with speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno.

Runner-up Melanie Brown, aka Scary Spice, admitted that losing was "a horrible feeling" but that competing had been "an amazing experience." Meanwhile, it was another near-miss for her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who took Laila Ali to the finals last year but was the first to be eliminated.

But by crowning Helio, this season—which, as Tom Bergeron put it mildly, was fraught with "strange goings-on"—righted itself just in time.

Although many will argue Mel B was the best dancer of the season, minus a certain Cheetah Girl, Helio's win exemplified what the hit ABC show is supposed to be about—turning a celeb who has never danced before into a smooth-groovin' machine, à la Emmitt Smith in season three.

So, while Mel B—who scored five perfect 30s this season to Helio's four—may have outdanced him in the technical sense, the two-time Indy 500 champ tipped the scales in his favor with his sheer likability.

His win caps a drama-packed three months that had the judges, audiences, at-home viewers and bloggers shaking their heads in wonderment, disbelief or disappointment nearly every week, be it from fainting spells, falls, feuds, illnesses, injuries or, sadly, deaths in the family.

Marie Osmond's score-defying run came to an end toward the beginning of ABC's two-hour finale—too early for some, too late for others—when the legions of fans who kept her safe every week finally couldn't outweigh a technically sloppy samba and a downright weird freestyle that landed her way off the mark with a 46.

When Bruno Tonioli said the singer's freestyle defied criticism, he didn't mean it in a good way. While it was obvious that her red cheeks, hairbow and pink baby-doll dress was an ode to Osmond's second career as QVC doll peddler, the simile-spewing judge hit the nail on the head when he called it a cross between [Whatever Happened to] Baby Jane and The Bride of Chucky.

While at its best, the dance also featured shades of The Nutcracker, it was ultimately more dealbreaker than inspired routine.

"I'm a doll designer, come on!" Osmond exclaimed, after the judges politely trashed the number. However, it still didn't justify the creepiness that occurs when an already fresh-faced 48-year-old dresses up to look like a baby and is then tossed around the floor by the even fresher-faced Jonathan Roberts, who's young enough to be Osmond's son.

We could go on, but the Internet only has so much space.

"I'm so pleased to be here at my age," Osmond opined after her elimination. "I was telling Jonathan, with everything I've been through in the past 10 weeks, he really pulled me through."

In a pretaped segment, she said: "It's been one of the best experiences of my life."

And that left Helio and Mel B, who were neck-and-neck with a respective 54 and 55, in the final face-off.

Both danced one more time, a welcome treat considering neither was at the top of his or her game during Monday's final, which featured no 30s for the first time in series history.

But everyone—judges, dancers, pros—seemed to be in better spirits.

Mel B and Maks turned in a sharp mambo that was far more exciting than last night's freestyle, which except for some awesome-looking lifts was actually a little boring.

"You're an absolute revelation," Len Goodman praised. "Truly magnificent," Tonioli joined in, while Carrie Ann Inaba jumped out of her seat and shouted something adulatory.

No surprise, then, that Helio, who danced circles around the others in the ballroom rounds but sometimes sputtered when hoofing it out Latin-style, chose a quickstep—the dance that earned him his first 30 a couple weeks ago—for his final performance.

He nailed the quickstep once again, but, interestingly, you would think by the way the judges praised his sportsmanship, attitude and hard work (while awarding him a 30) that it was almost lights out.

But it turns out they were just naming all of the traits that landed him in the winner's circle.

The rest of the finale was filled with performances from Celine Dion, who trotted out Titanic tearjerker "My Heart Will Go On" and her new single "Taking Chances" in anticipation of her first world tour in more than five years, plus video montages and the return of the other nine celebs who competed this season.

It's always nice to see what the stars look like dancing sans those performance-night jitters.

The only two who didn't retrace their steps were Wayne Newton, who's recovering from a virus in his heart that has sidelined him for the past month, and Floyd Mayweather, who, if you remember the various plugs, is in the final stages of training for his upcoming championship bout.

And the boxer couldn't have found a better forum to get the word out. Dancing with the Stars is once again the undisputed heavyweight ratings champion. Monday's performance shows have been averaging more than 21 million viewers this season, not including last night's season high of 24.7 million, to make it the most watched show on TV right now.