EXCLUSIVE: 'Dancing With the Stars' Finale Preview -- Who Will Win the Closest Race Ever?
By Angelique Jackson
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The winners and new champions of Dancing with the Stars are... too close to call!
Season 23 of Dancing with Stars has been one of its most exciting yet, with our own panel of champions and show insiders saying they have no idea who will take home the Mirror Ball Trophy tonight.
Will it be Laurie Hernandez, America's Sweetheart -- the front runner from the very beginning? Or will it be underdogs James Hinchcliffe, the Indy Car driver, or Calvin Johnson Jr., the NFL superstar, both of whom have surprised us all with their grace and personalities on the dance floor?
We turned to our Dancing insiders -- Seasons 2 and 3 Champion Cheryl Burke, Season 5 Champion Helio Castroneves, and DWTS choreographer Mandy Moore -- to predict the winners.
"It really depends and -- I hate to say this, it sucks, but the last nine weeks, ten weeks of the show, you might as well just erase. It really goes down to that freestyle round," Burke explained. "And then it doesn't really matter. Anything else you can just flush down the toilet."
However, last night's freestyle round ended in a dead heat, with perfect scores for Hernandez, Hinchcliffe and Johnson. So if whoever wins the freestyle, wins the show, what does this all mean? To further complicate matters, the couples are only separated by three points, with final combined scores of 78 for Laurie and her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, 77 for James and Sharna Burgess and 75 for Calvin and Lindsay Arnold.
The last three standing have one more dance to go -- the 24-hour Fusion Round -- and it all comes down to this.
Castroneves, who won Season 5 of the competition with (now judge) Julianne Hough, shared his keys to winning, saying "there is no more playing it safe, you gotta go for it, you gotta take a risk."
The one thing all of ET’s experts agreed on -- the final two will come down to Laurie Hernandez and James Hinchcliffe.
DWTS choreographer Mandy Moore predicted the race car driver as the winner when we caught up with her at the AFI Fest screening of La La Land.
"From the beginning, I actually thought James might win. Because Week 1, I was just like 'This guy!' There's something about him that you don't expect he can do it, and then he does it," she told ET. "Laurie, from day one, it's like she's just been at this level of amazing. So for me, it's probably between James and Laurie."
Castroneves is also rooting for his fellow Indy Car driver and sensed that Hinchcliffe had "potential" long before joining the competition.
Burke has a different pick for which team will pull off the big win.
"Gosh it could go any direction, but I think who is going to win is Laurie and Val. I predicted that from the beginning," Burke concluded. "You also saw a different side of Val that no one's seen, and their chemistry is so pure. And you can tell that Val is playing that big brother role and it's really nice to see. They never really fought."
To Burke, the key to winning the show is the relationship between the partners.
"After being on [the show] for so long, it's the couple that just has easy chemistry -- that you don't have to force -- that wins the competition," Burke explained. "It's going to be close."