Hinchcliffe breathing easier after surviving first 'Dancing with the Stars' elimination

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LOS ANGELES – That big sigh of relief you may have heard Tuesday night came from INDYCAR driver James Hinchcliffe, after learning that he and professional partner Sharna Burgess made it through the first elimination of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Even though the couple had totaled the second-best combined score from the hit ABC show’s judges through their first two dances, they had to nervously wait out much of Tuesday’s live two-hour results show that adds in fan voting before being told they were “safe” and will compete again next week.

Jake T. Austin, voice of the lead character in the Nickelodeon cartoon “Go, Diego, Go,” and partner Jenna Johnson were the first couple eliminated. Twelve couples remain for Week 3 competition of Season 23.

“Obviously it’s such a relief to get through the first elimination,” Hinchcliffe said after the show. “Didn’t know what to expect heading into tonight with (Monday) night’s dance only having a day and a half to prep for. We weren’t really sure where we were going to stack up and there was a lot of good competition and a lot of people that have a lot of supporters.

“Big thanks to the racing community and everybody at INDYCAR for all the votes, and keeping Sharna and me on the show.”

Hinchcliffe and Burgess faced limited practice time last week as the Verizon IndyCar Series driver was also competing in the 2016 season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, from Sept. 16-18. Now that the INDYCAR schedule is complete, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver and his partner can turn their full attention to rehearing for their next performance.

“We’re very excited about moving forward and what we can accomplish together with more than a day and a half of practice,” Hinchcliffe said. “With the (racing) season over, it’s now full focus on dancing and hopefully we can take this thing all the way to the finals.”

And in true “Mayor of Hinchtown” form, the Canadian urged his followers to get out the vote.

“We’re going to need your help, so remember to watch and remember to vote! #TeamStopAndGo!”

Week 3 competition takes place live starting at 8 p.m. ET Sept. Monday, Sept. 26 on ABC. The next couple to be eliminated – again determined by the combination of judges’ scores and the all-important fan voting – will be announced in the live results show starting at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, Sept. 27.

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