LOS ANGELES – James Hinchcliffe is the first to admit he’s no dancer, even though he and professional partner Sharna Burgess provided the surprise standout performance on the Season 23 premiere of “Dancing with the Stars” on Sept. 12.
As the duo prepares for its second week on the hit ABC celebrity competition show, Hinchcliffe can fall back on lessons he’s learned as a popular Verizon IndyCar Series driver to help him be ready to shine again when the lights go up tonight. This week’s two episodes air live tonight at Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess tied for the highest judges’ scores a week ago with their foxtrot. Tonight they will perform the pasodoble.
As if the prospect of taking on a Latin dance wasn’t daunting enough, Hinchcliffe and Burgess have faced restricted practice time due to his “real job.” The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver spent the past four days competing in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, meaning he and his partner were limited to two days of rehearsals in Los Angeles before he left for race weekend in California’s wine country.
“I had like seven days of rehearsal before the first (performance a week ago),” Hinchcliffe said. “I get two before this one, so go easy on me this week. Might not be quite as pretty, but it certainly has been a challenge.”
Burgess did visit Hinchcliffe at Sonoma, where she was given a speedy INDYCAR Experience two-seat Indy car ride around the circuit on Friday. The 29-year-old Canadian finished 12th in Sunday’s race, the finale of the 2016 season, then boarded an evening flight that – after being delayed until late Sunday night – hustled him back to LA for final rehearsals and on-set blocking for the dance today.
Hinchcliffe knew going in that this week’s performance would be the most difficult to prepare for, but is counting on abilities learned as a multi-tasking racer to pull him through.
“There is a lot of time in an INDYCAR driver's career when we're pulled in a million different directions,” said Hinchcliffe, whose hectic 2016 alone has included appearances on “Celebrity Family Feud” and “Steve Harvey” in addition to “Dancing with the Stars.” And that doesn’t include a visit to the NBA All-Star Game in his hometown of Toronto and a trip to New York City as the pole sitter for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
“We have to be able to flip the switch, focus on one thing, flip the switch off, focus on something else, travel, whatever,” Hinchcliffe explained. “It kind of goes with the lifestyle. In a lot of ways, doing this for a living prepared me for taking on this extra responsibility and extra task.”
Hinchcliffe said he was “floored by the scores and the judges' comments” from Week 1. That total rating of 31 will be combined with viewers’ votes from last week to determine if he and Burgess remain on the show until next week. The first of the 13 competing couples to be eliminated will be announced on Tuesday’s live episode.
In typical Hinchcliffe fashion, he also joked that he wasn’t even sure the right name for tonight’s dance, calling it the “casa lupe,” “nacho libre” and “chalupa” instead of paso doble. He does know it is a dance that requires the performers to play the part.
“With paso, from the get-go, from the start of our routine, you kind of need to be in character. That is an element of it that I am definitely still learning. We'll see how that plays out.”
This week’s voting begins as soon as the show starts airing at 8 p.m. ET today. Fans may again vote for #TeamStopAndGo – Hinchcliffe and Burgess – both by phone (toll-free at (800) 868-3405) and online through ABC.com or the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page. Voting this week is open until 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.