The semifinals of “Dancing with the Stars” tonight – airing live on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET – will be a reunion in more ways than one for James Hinchcliffe.
Sharna Burgess, Hinchcliffe’s season-long professional dance partner, has recovered from a knee injury sustained three weeks ago and will compete with the Verizon IndyCar Series driver on the broadcast. In addition, Hinchcliffe’s Indy car will be on the dance floor and part of a routine when he and Burgess perform on Trios Night.
Actually, it will be a No. 5 Arrow Honda show car, but it does contain the same tub (now repaired) that Hinchcliffe was riding in when he had his near-fatal crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500 in May 2015.
Five celebrity-pro couples remain in the competition. One will be eliminated at the conclusion of tonight’s show based on their judges’ scores and fan vote total from last week. The four remaining couples advance to the final week of competition Nov. 21-22, when the prized mirror ball trophy will be awarded to the “Dancing with the Stars” Season 23 champion.
For Trios Night, each couple was permitted to select another pro to perform with them. For Hinchcliffe and Burgess, it was a no-brainer. They chose Jenna Johnson, who filled in while Burgess rested her knee the past two weeks. The trio will perform a jive to "Gimme Some Lovin" by the Spencer Davis Group. Hinchcliffe and Burgess will also dance an Argentine tango to "Santa Maria" by Gotan Project.
“We made it to the semifinals; I’m just as shocked as you all are, I’m sure,” Hinchcliffe told IndyCar.com in his typical self-deprecating style. “We’re looking forward to a very good week. Obviously the big news is Sharna’s knee is healed and she’s back in action, and everybody couldn’t be happier about that.
“On top of that it’s Trios week, which means we got to pick another dancer to join #TeamStopAndGo for a dance. Pretty obvious choice on our side: We got Jenna back as well, so we have essentially the whole band back together and are really excited about it.”
Burgess is just as thrilled to be competing again instead of choreographing for Hinchcliffe and Johnson. The Season 21 runner-up with Nick Carter is equally pumped to have Hinchcliffe’s Indy car as an integral part of the performance.
“It’s so exciting, I love it,” Burgess told KABC-TV in Los Angeles. “I think it plays into the story. Everything that this song means to James and to have his car out there is super cool.”
On top of the judges’ scores he receives tonight, Hinchcliffe is more reliant than ever on the all-important fan voting to advance to finals week. Voting opens when the show starts on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET. Phone voting – call toll-free to (800) 868-3405 to vote for Hinchcliffe – remains open until 60 minutes after the conclusion of the broadcast in each time zone. Online voting is available at ABC.com and on the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page until 8 p.m. ET Tuesday. Up to five votes are permitted at each of those locations.
Central Indiana fans can be part of the excitement as INDYCAR and RTV6, the Indianapolis ABC affiliate, are again sponsoring a “Dancing with the Stars” viewing party from 8-10 p.m. ET at Forty Five Degrees in downtown Indianapolis (765 Massachusetts Ave). Other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers are expected to attend and there will be giveaways and drink specials. INDYCAR staff will also be on hand to assist fans in voting for Hinchcliffe and footage from the viewing party may be used on “Dancing with the Stars” broadcasts next week. Admission is free to anyone ages 21 and older.
“We loved seeing all the pictures and reading all the tweets from everybody that went to the viewing party last Monday, and just are thrilled to hear that we’re doing it again.” Hinchcliffe said. “(We) can’t thank everybody in Indy and in the INDYCAR community enough for all the support.
“We need it now more than ever. Hopefully everybody shows up and has a great time. Thank you so much for all the votes and all the support. We hope to do you guys proud on Monday night.”