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Hinchcliffe: DWTS Created “Whole New Demographic of Fans”

AVONDALE, Ariz. — During the offseason, James Hinchcliffe’s celebrity status grew from racecar driver to dancer — and a good one, at that.

The 2011 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year finished runner-up on the popular ABC television series Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with Sharna Burgess, who has been a part of the show since 2013, for its 23rd season.

Now that the dancing season is over and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver’s focus turns to the upcoming IndyCar campaign, he discussed how he created a new fanbase for himself.

“Yeah, I’m everybody’s grandmother’s favorite,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s bringing a whole new demographic of fans to IndyCar, which was a huge motivator for doing it in the first place.

“When you’re on a program that draws 10 to 11 million people a week, it’s a pretty big number to get recognized a little more.”

Hinchcliffe wasn’t the first racecar driver to appear on the show. Fellow IndyCar competitor Hélio Castroneves competed with Julianne Hough and won first place in the reality series’ fifth season in 2007. Also, NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip partnered with Emma Slater for Season 19 in 2014 but was eliminated seventh.

With IndyCar’s second-tier standing behind NASCAR, the industry wanted to gain some ground on the more mainstream stock car series. Social media helped Hinchcliffe and IndyCar get more exposure, which benefits the racing community as a whole.

“A big reason to want to do it was to increase the visibility of the sport,” Hinchcliffe added. “I think we did that and hopefully we see some Dancing fans in the grandstands this year.”

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By John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.