This time, James Hinchcliffe didn’t need to rely on his alter ego to shine in a Latin dance.
The Verizon IndyCar Series star and professional partner Sharna Burgess sizzled Monday in the sixth week of competition on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” scoring 38 of a possible 40 points with judges for their rumba.
Hinchcliffe, whose real job is driver of the No. 5 Arrow Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, was again so impressive that judge Julianne Hough exclaimed, “I actually, hands down think that you are the best male dancer we’ve ever had on this show.”
To watch the Hinchcliffe and Burgess rumba, click here.
Considering this is the 23rd season of the hit celebrity dance competition show, that’s mighty high praise from Hough, who as a dancer teamed with Verizon IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves to win Season 5 in 2007.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess had the second-highest cumulative score of the night, bested only by actress/singer Jana Kramer and partner Gleb Savchenko, whose Argentine tango earned a perfect 40 from the judges. Hinchcliffe and Burgess, also known as #TeamStopAndGo, have never fallen below fourth in the judges’ scores and have been either first or second in four of the six weeks of competition thus far.
Judges’ scores make up only half the battle, however, as they are combined with fan votes to determine who advances each week. Online voting this week remains open until 8 p.m. ET today at abc.com and on the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page.
Kramer, in fact, learned she was in jeopardy of being eliminated based on last week’s judges’ scores and fan vote just prior to performing the tango that earned her a perfect score Monday. Model Amber Rose and partner Maks Chmerkovskiy were eliminated at the end of the two-hour live broadcast, leaving eight couples remaining in the competition.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess earned perfect 10s on Monday’s Latin night from judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli.
“I kind of feel like all night I’ve been eating chips and salsa, and you just brought the main entrée – gave me a whole enchilada!” Inaba raved. “That was incredible, the nuances, everything, the hip action, the extension of the arms, the chest undulations. My goodness, James!”
Despite calling him the best male celebrity dancer ever on the show, Hough gave Hinchcliffe a score of nine, saying she still wanted to see “more chemistry” with Burgess.
To which Tonioli quickly replied, “I saw it. I think you are going to get a Nobel prize for chemistry.”
In the third week of competition, Hinchcliffe and Burgess performed the cha cha. Struggling to get into Latin character, Hinchcliffe said that week he adopted an alter ego – “Ricardo” – to take on the role. This week, the 29-year-old Canadian opted to remain himself and even spoofed the idea by appearing as Ricardo in the pre-dance video package, complete with a yellow matador’s costume. In the video, James shows Ricardo his services are no longer needed.
Asked following his dance by host Tom Bergeron if he has surprised himself in the competition, Hinchcliffe didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t think there’s anybody more surprised than me at this point, but it’s been such an experience,” he said. “I’ve got such a great teacher. She deserves so much of the credit here. It’s been fun, I can’t wait for next week.”
Hinchcliffe will compete in Week 7 on Oct. 24 (8 p.m. ET). But remember, to remain on the show past that, he needs every vote possible. Visit abc.com or the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page before 8 p.m. ET today to cast your votes.