EXCLUSIVE: 'Dancing With the Stars' Contestant James Hinchcliffe on the IndyCar Crash That Nearly Killed Him

by Raphael Chestang 4:14 PM PDT, October 07, 2016
Playing EXCLUSIVE: 'Dancing With the Stars' Contestant James Hinchcliffe on the IndyCar Crash That Nearly Killed Him

It's "Most Memorable Year" night on Dancing With the Stars this week, and IndyCar racer James Hinchcliffe is choosing to relive the terrifying crash that nearly cost him his life just 16 months ago.

"I was appreciative of the position I was in before, but it really drives the point home when you almost lose it," Hinchcliffe, 29, told ET during a recent rehearsal.

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During a qualifying race on May 18, 2015, Hinchcliffe lost control of his race car traveling more than 200 mph coming into Turn 3 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When his car slammed into the wall, it broke into pieces, sending one shard into Hinchcliffe's thigh and striking an artery.

Hinchcliffe was quickly rushed to the hospital where doctors saved his life by performing surgery on his leg. While doctors estimated it would take seven months before he was ready to get back into a race car, Hinchcliffe made his return in only four.

"I suffered a pretty big concussion and I have no memory of the accident itself," Hinchcliffe said.

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What he does remember is the pain afterwards.

"It didn't tickle, that's for sure," he said with a laugh. "But I was, honestly, I was so lucky. For those 100 things that went wrong, 1,000 things had to go just right for me, not only to survive that, but to be able to race again, and be able to have absolutely no lasting side effects."

Now, Hinchcliffe is using that same determination that helped him get back on the racetrack to help him and pro partner Sharna Burgess win the mirror ball trophy.

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"I really think that we have the ability to make that final," Burgess said. "James dances beautifully every Monday because of the hard work he puts in, not because it's a natural talent. He practices every minute that he is with me and kind of when he is not with me he is thinking about it."

An all-new Dancing With the Stars airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.