ANDERSON, Indiana – Verizon IndyCar Series drivers James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach and Robert Wickens are used to having hundreds of horsepower at their disposal on a racetrack.
Friday night at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, they each had a single horsepower to race with, but enjoyed it just as much. The four drivers were the featured guests for Celebs in the Sulky, a charity harness racing event at the 7/8-mile track.
Each INDYCAR driver rode with one of Hoosier Park’s professional drivers behind a harness racing horse in the competition. Hinchcliffe, riding with John DeLong, came from behind down the homestretch to win the race and earn $1,500 for the International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation.
Hinchcliffe compared his race strategy to that of an INDYCAR race – even if it may not have been totally accurate.
“We lifted into Turn 1, let Alex push the air to make the draft for us,” the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver said. “Robbie tried to go the long way around 3 and 4 and we found the front and stayed there. We had a nice photo finish at the end.”
Each driver said it was his first time at a harness racing event.
“This is the first time I’ve been within touching distance of a horse,” Wickens admitted.
Rossi has been around horses before and holds the breed in high esteem. It made for an enjoyable experience for the Andretti Autosport driver.
“I thought it was very cool, actually,” Rossi said. “I grew up with horses so I have a huge respect for the animals and what they do. I’ve watched a lot of horse racing, never harness racing. To be able to sit behind them and see how their body moves and what they go through and how hard they’re actually working is pretty awesome.”
When asked how harness racing compared to Indy car racing, Veach was quick to point out a noticeable difference.
“I can’t say I’ve ever been pelted by a thousand rocks anytime I’ve been in a race car,” he said, alluding to the pebbles kicked up by the horses.
Hinchcliffe said a more accurate comparison would be to a Funny Car dragster.
“A Funny Car is like this giant, powerful, explosive thing sitting right in front of you. It’s very nerve-racking,” he said. For us, (the engine) is behind us.”
The three drivers who didn’t win still earned $500 for their respective charities in the event sponsored by Flat 12 Bierwierks: Rossi to the Find Your Grind Foundation, Veach to the Riley Children’s Foundation and Wickens for Make A Wish America.
“That’s the best part, that there really was no loser,” Hinchcliffe said. “Everybody walked away with something for their charity.”
Watch the entire race here, courtesy of Hoosier Park: