James Hinchcliffe has already been described as the best male dancer ever to compete on Dancing With the Stars— a massive big honor considering the show is in its 23rd season with hundreds of past competitors on its roster—but it may not be a coincidence that he’s the second IndyCar driver to be a frontrunner on the ABC celebrity ballroom competition. In an interview with Access Hollywood, Hinchcliffe shared his pro partner Sharna Burgess’ theory about why dancing seems to come so naturally to him.
James explained that when he’s in an Indy car, he is “balancing this machine to the limit at all times” and that drivers get “all these little inputs to every part of our body” as they maneuver the car to the edge.
“In dancing, you’re locked in with a partner you’re feeling little adjustments and little movements and we’re able to react to them very quickly,” Hinchcliffe said.
James added that while Sharna is like a race car, it’s a rough road out there on the dance floor.
“Sometimes we have crashes, just like in racing,” Hinchcliffe admitted.
James Hinchliffe says that his dance experience before Dancing With the Stars was limited to the Macarena.
“I’m not sure I ever danced sober before the show” James joked. “So it’s a much a surprise for me as it is for everybody else…but it speaks volumes for Sharna. She’s an incredible teacher, an incredible coach, and a great partner.”
Last week, DWTS judge Julianne Hough proclaimed Hinchcliffe to be the best male dancer she has ever seen on the show. That’s saying a lot, considering Hough herself has won two mirrorball trophies on DWTS, one of them with auto racer Helio Castroneves. Julianne won the fifth season of Dancing With the Stars with the Brazilian Indy champ.
While a Dancing With the Stars stint comes with up to 40 hours of grueling rehearsals a week, in an interview with Indy Star, Hinchliffe said it helps that it’s not unusual for him to “zone in on one task for a long period of time.”
In the same interview, Burgess also pointed to the fact that over the history of Dancing With the Stars, one in three mirrorball champions have been athletes.
“Athletes have an advantage because they’ve been training their whole lives to do something physical like this,” Sharna said.
“The mental pressures you go through here are what they’ve experienced in their careers. James has an incredible work ethic, and he can focus for a long period of time. He’s also very in tune with his body, which is a major asset.”
And Burgess added that James’ racing background makes him stand out even more among other athletes.
“He has a fantastic understanding of momentum, so I can do things faster with him, speed-wise, than I could with, say, (an NFL receiver) who doesn’t understand contra body movement or centrifugal force. That makes James an amazing student.”
James Hinchcliffe has gone on record as saying that while dancing on live TV is outside of his comfort zone, the show suits his competitive nature.
“This is definitely going to be a unique sort of experience for me, definitely outside my comfort zone, and Sharna definitely has her work cut out for her,” Hinchcliffe said ahead of the DWTS premiere. “But I’ve got the competitive spirit, and IndyCar drivers have a pretty good record on this show, so hopefully that counts for something.”
Take a look at the video below to see James Hinchcliffe’s Most Memorable Year dance.
You can see James Hinchcliffe on Dancing With the Stars Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
[Featured Image by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for iHeartMedia]