LOS ANGELES – James Hinchcliffe finished second only to gymnast Laurie Hernandez on Monday night's "Dancing with the Stars" tribute to Cirque du Soleil.
The Verizon IndyCar Series driver's incredible score of 28, including a perfect 10 from judge Bruno Tonioli, was bested by Hernandez's perfect 30 on Week 4 of the ABC hit dance competition show. Hinchcliffe is not guaranteed to advance to next week’s competition just yet, however, as two of the 11 remaining celebrity-professional partner couples will be eliminated in tonight’s results show (8 p.m. ET, ABC) when judges’ scores are paired with fan voting.
If you haven’t already, you can still vote for Hinchcliffe and professional dance partner Sharna Burgess (#TeamStopAndGo) online until 11 a.m. ET today at abc.com or on the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess made a huge statement when they ended Monday’s show with a spectacular quick step based on Cirque du Soleil's Broadway show "Paramour" that brought judges’ comparisons to legendary dancer/actors Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. While Tonioli rated the dance a perfect 10, fellow judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Julianne Hough each said they noticed a small mistake in Hinchcliffe’s routine and gave the performance a “9.” (Watch the routine below.)
"To get our first 10 for a dance was incredible," Hinchcliffe told IndyCar.com after the show. "Laurie's score was well deserved. To even be on the coattails of her and Val (Chmervkovskiy) was a testament to the piece that Sharna put together.
"I felt great,” the six-year Verizon IndyCar Series veteran and four-time race winner added. “I made one little misstep out there, which when the thing first ended I was focusing on too much, but we've already watched the replay and you can't even really see it. It was such a fun number.
“I had a lot of fun learning it. I had a ton of fun performing it because it was such a theatrical bit and it was part dance, part Cirque."
Hough told Hinchcliffe during her on-air assessment that he could perform on Broadway, but Hinchcliffe demurred backstage. "I think that's a bit of a stretch, but for a minute and 10 seconds I can at least play enough of a character to get through this number."
Hinchcliffe thought it was fair of Inaba and Hough to point out his mistake during the routine.
"They should have mentioned it,” he said. “I deserved to hear it because I knew it happened. But it's harder when I think you get critiqued on technique a little bit that you think you did well. I think maybe that's a little bit more challenging.
“I knew there was a mistake in there, so I've got no problem hearing about it. That's fine. It was small enough that one of the judges didn't even see it, so it's a win across the board and (Burgess) put together such a cool number with all those different elements. It was a blast to do it."
Hinchcliffe wore a sparkly red suit and top hat plus dark eye makeup for the quick step routine that included two acrobats from the “Paramour” Broadway show. It was yet another new experience for the 29-year-old Canadian.
"I like it!” he said. “I got introduced to rhinestones (for the dance) last week, so I got those back and got 'guyliner' for the first time, so we're kind of taking new fashion risks every week."
Burgess laughed, "I feel like Jessica Rabbit," as she twirled backstage in her long, low-cut red gown.
"Paramour" is Cirque du Soleil's ongoing Broadway show. Hinchcliffe and Burgess traveled to New York last week for research as they devised their routine.
"It was a long way to go and led to a couple of low-sleep, short nights,” Hinchcliffe admitted. “It was a lot of travel. We had to go and see it and that had a big effect on the number and learning the character for me. That's kind of what I have to do now to get into it.”
Added Burgess, "It was two red-eyes (overnight cross-country flights) in 24 hours. It took us a day to recover from that."
Hinchcliffe is pleased with the support he is receiving from the INDYCAR community, including fellow drivers.
"I get text messages every week from Marco (Andretti) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay). Simon (Pagenaud) and T.K. (Tony Kanaan) were giving me ‘the gears’ yesterday, saying I'd gotten too big to talk to them. It's great. The support from all my buddies back in the paddock has been incredible and the INDYCAR community — the fans have just been out of control, the support that we've gotten from them. Keep it up!"
Unfortunately, his "Dancing with the Stars" duties will force Hinchcliffe to miss tonight’s 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration in Indianapolis, where Pagenaud will be honored as the season champion. The celebration will be wrapping up in Indy about the same time that the live results show will be starting.
"It's tough (missing the season-ending celebration),” Hinchcliffe said. “It's always a fun night, end of the season, last time you see everybody before everyone takes off for the winter. I'll be sad to not be there and celebrate with Simon and everybody that had a strong season, but I think they understand why I had to miss it.”
Watch Hinchcliffe and Burgess' quick step here: