Hinchcliffe has new partner for tonight's 'Dancing' competition


As if the challenge of preparing multiple performances wasn’t enough, Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe will be without his professional partner Sharna Burgess tonight for the eighth week of “Dancing with the Stars” competition.

Hinchcliffe and Burgess have consistently rated among the top scorers from judges, including three weeks when they had the highest score of the night. But in rehearsal for competition a week ago, Burgess injured her right knee when she stepped on her costume and slipped.

Burgess was able to complete the dances on the Oct. 24 live broadcast – when she and Hinchcliffe tied for the top individual dance score and they led the team that won the group dance. Burgess was unable to participate in training for this week’s competition, however, turning over the partner’s role to Jenna Johnson.

Watch the emotional video below when Burgess informed Hinchcliffe that she has been instructed by doctors to rest her knee for three to six weeks. Four weeks of the competition remain on ABC, including tonight’s live broadcast (8 p.m. ET).

“We all obviously wish Sharna a speedy recovery and hope to get her back on the dance floor soon,” Hinchcliffe told IndyCar.com this afternoon. “In the meantime, I’ve been rehearsing with Jenna Johnson, who’s been a huge asset to jump in and take over for Sharna.

“It’s been a week of challenges but hopefully we can make it all come together.”

Johnson was a troupe member on “Dancing with the Stars” for five seasons before becoming a professional partner this fall with Jake T. Austin, who was the first celebrity eliminated from Season 23 competition.

This week’s theme is Halloween Night. Each of the seven couples remaining will perform a dance, with the couple receiving the highest judges’ combined score earning immunity from elimination tonight. Hinchcliffe and Johnson will perform a routine inspired by the hit film “Suicide Squad.” They will dance the Viennese waltz to “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace featuring G-Easy.

Those not receiving immunity must return to perform another routine tonight in a dance-off against another couple. The curveball thrown in is that the couples do not know in advance what style they will have to perform in the dance-off. Hinchcliffe and Johnson prepared cha cha, jive and salsa routines and will be told during the broadcast which they will perform if they don’t receive immunity.

“Big week for the show because, along with our individual Halloween dances, we have something called the LED Challenge which forced every couple to learn three different styles of dance,” Hinchcliffe said. “And you’re not going to know which one of those you’re performing until show night. So learning essentially four routines over the week was a huge challenge, especially considering I was missing my partner Sharna.”

One couple will be eliminated tonight based on last week’s combination of judges’ scores and fan voting.

This week’s scoring will count the individual dance scores, with the top-scoring couple getting a five-point bonus and those winning the dance-offs having three points added to their individual dance scores. Those scores will be combined with this week’s fan vote to determine who is eliminated on the Nov. 7 broadcast.

Hinchcliffe and new partner Johnson need fans’ votes more than ever. Phone voting opens at 8 p.m. ET today and concludes an hour after the conclusion of the broadcast in each time zone. To vote for Hinchcliffe and Johnson up to seven times, call toll-free to (800) 868-3405.

Online votes, open from 8 p.m. ET today through 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, can be cast at abc.com and on the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page.

From the fans