He can drive an Indy car with the best of them. He can crack a good joke, he can host a hilarious and insightful podcast. But can James Hinchcliffe dance?
The world will get a better idea of the answer to that question tonight, when the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver debuts with the rest of the celebrity cast on Season 23 of “Dancing with the Stars.” The live broadcast airs from Los Angeles at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, one of INDYCAR’s television partners.
Hinchcliffe is paired with professional dancer Sharna Burgess, appearing in her eighth DWTS season. Burgess’ best previous DWTS finish was runner-up with Nick Carter last fall in Season 21. Hinchcliffe, the sixth-year Verizon IndyCar Series veteran with four career wins, is competing against 12 other celebrities, ranging from Olympic gold-medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez to rapper Vanilla Ice to actress Marilu Henner.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess have dubbed themselves #TeamStopAndGo, in reference to how Hinchcliffe labels his shoes in the race car (left for stop and right for go). The team name was posted proudly on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pylon this afternoon in support of the dancing couple.
“I’m coming into this with no (dancing) experience and, I’m pretty sure, no talent,” Hinchcliffe said in a promotional video released by ABC (watch it below). “I understand that I’m not a professional dancer. I know it’s not going to look like something that you’d see on Broadway.
“I get that, I’m OK with that. As a competitive person, that was a big hurdle to get over because I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”
Hinchcliffe admitted that the thought of performing tonight in front of live studio and television audiences “is terrifying,” but that he is known as an overachiever who hopes to live up to that billing on the dance floor.
And in true “Mayor of Hinchtown” form, the 29-year-old Canadian said, tongue in cheek, that he will do whatever it takes to win – including schmoozing the three-judge panel.
“I’ll smooth talk, I’ll kiss up to the judges,” he said. “I mean, is bribery against the rules?”
The combined scores of the judges and fan voting determine which celebrity-professional couples advance in the competition. The first couple to be eliminated will be announced next week.
There are two ways for fans to vote: by phone or online. To vote for Hinchcliffe by phone, call toll-free to (800) 868-3405 starting when the show begins at 8 p.m. ET and within 60 minutes of the conclusion of the show in each time zone.
To vote online, visit ABC.com and log in with (or create) a OneID account, or visit the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page. Online voting this week runs through 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.
DWTS also offers an online show, "Dancing with the Stars All Access," as a second-screen companion with the over-the-air broadcast. #DWTSAllAccess includes additional interviews and content not seen on the ABC broadcast. Hinchcliffe and Burgess are scheduled to be interviewed on the companion show at 9:12 p.m. ET. To watch, visit http://abc.go.com/shows/dancing-with-the-stars/all-access and follow it on Twitter at @DWTSAllAccess.
Indianapolis-area fans are invited to attend a “Dancing with the Stars” viewing party starting at 7 p.m. ET today at the 1911 Grill at Speedway Indoor Karting, 1067 Main St., Speedway, Ind. The karting facility is owned by former Indy car driver Sarah Fisher and husband Andy O’Gara.
To show your full support for Hinchcliffe and Burgess, order #TeamStopAndGo gear here.