Hinchcliffe wins hearts, but ends runner-up, on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Leave a comment

Let’s face it – James Hinchcliffe has come a long way from being the guy who used to make homemade YouTube videos featuring bratwursts and novelty size checks nearly a decade ago.

The likable, entertaining and talented-as-all-get-out Canadian, who turns 30 next month, and his professional dancing partner Sharna Burgess ended as runners-up on Season 23 of “Dancing with the Stars,” in the season finale show held Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Laurie Hernandez, 16, became the youngest champion in the show’s history along with her professional dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy – more here on the Rio Olympics gold medal-winning gymnast from NBC Olympic Talk. Calvin Johnson, the retired Detroit Lions wide receiver, and professional partner Lindsay Arnold finished third.

And for a guy who self-deprecatingly notes his career as driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the Verizon IndyCar Series sees him “sit for a living,” and who’d never danced at all prior to this run of events, it was still one heck of an accomplishment.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Professional dancer Sharna Burgess and professional race car driver James Hinchcliffe attends ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" Season 23 Finale at The Grove on November 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Professional dancer Sharna Burgess and professional race car driver James Hinchcliffe attends ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” Season 23 Finale at The Grove on November 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

All season, Hinchcliffe and Burgess bonded, with Burgess’ choreography producing some incredible dances throughout the year. She was gutted to miss a couple weeks due to a knee injury, but Jenna Johnson filled in well as Hinchcliffe’s interim dance partner. A “Suicide Squad” themed Viennese Waltz they did for Halloween was one of the season’s highlights.

Hinchcliffe’s rapid development and growth drew rave reviews from the professional judges, with Hinchcliffe’s IndyCar rival and past DWTS champion Helio Castroneves’ dance partner Julianne Hough at one point calling Hinchcliffe the most talented male dancer in the show’s history.

While Hinchcliffe didn’t have the pedigree of dancing and moving quite like Hernandez, a professional gymnast who entered with a distinct experience advantage, he made it further than most thought possible thanks in large part to Burgess’ tutelage and his own adaptability to different dances, styles and performance types.

Those of us that follow IndyCar on a full-time basis know what an entertainer and a talent Hinchcliffe is, and it was great to see a significantly wider audience exposed to that throughout this season.

Hinchcliffe will be on a teleconference later Wednesday afternoon for a reflection on the season just passed.

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
Chris Owens/IndyCar
Leave a comment

James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

VEACH OUT: Driver elects to vacate seat for rest of season

“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”