INDIANAPOLIS – If anyone knows what exactly goes through IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe’s mind in the moments before a competition – any competition – it’s his former Dancing with the Stars partner, Sharna Burgess.
The pair finished second in the dance competition in late 2016 to Laurie Hernandez and her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, but shined in a memorable freestyle performance chronicling the crash that nearly killed Hinchcliffe in 2015 and his recovery.
At her first race, Burgess was among the many stars walking the red carpet Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of the 101st Indy 500. Hinchcliffe will start 17th in his No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. While she said he didn’t often talk much about the race when they were on ABC’s hit show, she knows he’ll be calm leading up to the start of the race, adding his relaxed demeanor even helped her on Monday nights.
“James has such an incredible attitude when approaching competition,” Burgess said. “He keeps himself very calm. He likes to joke around and keep things light. He’s focused, but he doesn’t take it too seriously.
“He knows he’s put in the work, and it’s time to just let it be. James is the kind of person if he stresses about it the moment before, that’s when things start to go wrong. He knows his process, he’s an incredible athlete (and) he knows what he needs to do.”
Burgess was loving the buzzing atmosphere at the Brickyard and said “there’s some magic” with hundreds of thousands of people coming out for a race of this magnitude.
Although she said it’s hard to pick a favorite moment from dancing and competing with him, their freestyle performance still sticks out in her mind.
“It was the most incredible moment of filling in that gap from when he flatlined and telling that story of what he had to overcome,” Burgess said.