James Hinchcliffe is in the closing laps of the race to secure the champion’s spoils. Only this time it’s on the dance floor and not the racetrack.
The Verizon IndyCar Series driver is one of four remaining celebrity contestants for finals week of “Dancing with the Stars.” The finale is split into two broadcasts – tonight and Tuesday – that will determine the Season 23 champion who will take home the prized Mirror Ball Trophy.
“I can’t believe that we’ve made it this far in the competition and that it’s coming to an end,” Hinchcliffe told IndyCar.com on the eve of the climactic week in Los Angeles. The two-hour broadcasts air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET today and 9 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Hinchcliffe is competing against Olympic gold-medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez, retired football star Calvin Johnson Jr. and singer/actress Jana Kramer. Each will perform two dances tonight with their respective professional dance partners. Based on judges’ scores and last week’s fan vote, one of the four couples will be eliminated at the conclusion of tonight’s show and the remaining three advance to Tuesday’s finale.
Hinchcliffe and pro partner Sharna Burgess will perform a foxtrot on “redemption style” night to “It Had to Be You” by Harry Connick Jr. All four celebrity-pro couples will do a freestyle for their second dance, with Hinchcliffe and Burgess performing to “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets” by The Piano Guys.
“There’s two days of dancing left, it’s been a very busy, very stressful week,” Hinchcliffe said. “A lot going on, a lot of long hours. Not as much rehearsal time as we would have liked, but that’s like drivers and engineers complaining about not enough track time. It’s the same for everyone. We’ve done what we can and we really hope that everybody enjoys the dances that we’ve put together for Monday.”
The three couples moving on to Tuesday will put together a new routine as part of the “24-Hour Fusion Challenge.” In it, they will fuse together two contrasting dance styles with less than 24 hours to prepare. The judges’ scores from the fusion dance will be combined with this week’s fan voting to determine the Season 23 champion.
To have that chance, Hinchcliffe and Burgess need to secure as many fan votes as possible. Voting by phone begins at 8 p.m. ET today and continues until 60 minutes after completion of the broadcast in each time zone. To vote for Hinchcliffe and Burgess up to four times by phone, call (800) 868-3405.
Online voting also begins at 8 p.m. ET today on ABC.com and the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page, and remains open until 8 p.m. ET Tuesday. Again, four votes can be cast for accounts at each site.
“Ultimately we hope that everybody votes for us,” Hinchcliffe reminded. “It’s been an incredible amount of support from everybody in the INDYCAR community and the racing community as a whole up to this point. We just need your help one more time to try and make that final push.
“Either way, we’re super thankful. It’s exciting that we’re here and can’t believe that it’s all coming to an end.”
Locally in Indianapolis, Forty Five Degrees (765 Massachusetts Ave.) is hosting another “Dancing with the Stars” viewing party tonight. Hinchcliffe fans are urged to attend and show their support.