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Dancing With the Stars waved the black-and-white checkered flag on Monday evening, with NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip crossing the finish line last.
The Kentuckian racecar driver and professional partner Emma Slater were released from the season 19 competition on “Dynamic Duo” night after eight weeks of intense training, nationwide traveling and personal growth.
“We’re sad to go. It’s funny. We knew we probably weren’t going to win … it’s not about not winning. It’s about the experience and who we became as people and how much I loved getting up in the morning and driving to some studio to meet Emma and not only dance and talk, but just share stories,” Waltrip said. “I’ve never loved doing something I’ve hated so much, so much.”
It was a pleasant surprise to audiences that Waltrip and Slater maintained their spot in the competition right up to the quarterfinals as the duo consistently lived at the bottom of the scoreboard throughout their run. But Tommy Chong, the oldest competitor to stay in a DWTS competition as long as he has, and Peta Murgatroyd were saved from elimination at the close of the night.
Competing couples, who embodied popular and recognizable pairings, vied for the highest score for elimination immunity, which was awarded to Janel Parrish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy for their perfect 40/40 contemporary performance of Romeo and Juliet.
Youngest remaining competitor Sadie Robertson and partner Mark Ballas danced a contemporary number, taking on the Biblical theme and embodying Adam and Eve, to a live performance by BC Jean. Head judge Len Goodman was not impressed by Ballas’ choreography in week seven, remarking that the Halloween theme distracted from the couple’s dance, but praised him for the pair’s intense contemporary in week eight.
It was a big week for the Robertson teen, as her first book Live Original hit shelves Oct. 28. “I want it to be an encouraging book to people, that maybe if they need a little boost in life, that they can read it and get something from it,” Robertson said.
The six remaining couples competed against one another — Bethany Mota and Derek Hough versus Robertson and Ballas, Chong and Murgatroyd versus Waltrip and Slater, and Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintstev versus Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson — in dance-offs to earn an additional three points to be added to couples’ scores. Mota and Derek, Chong and Murgatroyd and Ribeiro and Carson each impressed the judges enough to beat out their equivalents.
Tune in to ABC at 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT next week to see which couple is eliminated from the quarterfinals.
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