It’s the stretch run for James Hinchcliffe on “Dancing with the Stars” and the Verizon IndyCar Series driver admits that all of the remaining competitors are feeling the strain physically and emotionally.
But just as when he has the checkered flag in sight, Hinchcliffe is focused on doing whatever it takes to reach the finish line first.
The theme tonight (8 p.m. ET) for the ninth week of the hit ABC dance competition show is “Showstoppers.” Each of the six couples will perform a style of dance they have yet to do this season to a tune from a famous Broadway show. A second dance will follow in the “Team-Up Challenge,” where two couples are paired for a dance – a portion of which will have the two celebrities dance together without the assistance of their pro partners.
Hinchcliffe will perform a jazz routine to “A Brand New Day” from the Broadway hit “The Wiz” for his individual dance. He will then pair with retired NFL star Calvin Johnson Jr. to do a paso doble to “No Good” by Kaleo in the Team-Up Challenge. As of Sunday night when he spoke with IndyCar.com, it was uncertain whether Hinchcliffe would be dancing with his regular professional partner, Sharna Burgess, or substitute partner Jenna Johnson, who stepped in last week after Burgess suffered a right knee injury.
“We’re heading into the ninth show of the season,” Hinchcliffe said. “I think everybody on the cast is starting to feel the effects of the last two months. We have two dances a week, everybody’s been on their feet almost every day for the last two months. It’s taken a toll on the body, taken a toll on the mind. But that’s when you’ve got to push the hardest.
“Obviously on #TeamStopAndGo we’re still dealing with the injury that Sharna’s got to her knee and deciding who we’re going to dance with and how that’s going to go,” Hinchcliffe continued. “Ultimately we’re still working together as a team and we’re hoping that we can pull together and put together a good performance on Monday.”
Hinchcliffe and Jenna Johnson tied for the high judges’ score a week ago with a perfect 30 for their Viennese waltz on Halloween night. It allowed them to receive immunity from being eliminated last week and a bonus of five points to put them atop the leaderboard. Those judges’ scores will be combined with last week’s fan voting to determine which celebrity is eliminated tonight.
The scores tonight from both the individual dance and Team-Up Challenge will count along with this week’s fan voting to determine who is eliminated on the Nov. 14 broadcast. At that point, only four couples will remain. The 23rd season of “Dancing with the Stars” concludes with live shows on Nov. 21 and 22.
As usual, Hinchcliffe needs a strong fan vote to remain in the competition. Voting opens tonight when the live broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET. Phone voting for Hinchcliffe – toll-free at (800) 868-3405 – remains open until 60 minutes after the conclusion of the broadcast in each time zone. Online voting is open from 8 p.m. ET today through 8 p.m. ET Tuesday at abc.com and the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess will also appear live on the "Dancing with the Stars All Access" companion show at 8:45 p.m. ET. To watch the second-screen show, click here.
Central Indiana fans can attend a watch party tonight – co-sponsored by INDYCAR and RTV6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis – at Forty-Five Degrees, 765 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis, Ind. 46204. The election-themed event will feature other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers in attendance to show their support of Hinchcliffe, giveaways and a polling area where INDYCAR campaign managers will assist fans in voting for Hinchcliffe and #TeamStopAndGo. Admission is free to anyone ages 21 and older.
“I know that everybody in Indy is getting together for a viewing party, which is pretty cool,” Hinchcliffe said. “I can’t thank everyone in the INDYCAR community and everyone back in Indianapolis for all the support. Hopefully we can do you guys proud.”