A.J. Foyt sticks with Honda engine

INDIANAPOLIS -- A.J. Foyt will do anything to win next season -- even if it takes a Japanese engine manufacturer to put him in Victory Lane.

Yes, IndyCar's career leader in victories and a major proponent of American racers said Tuesday his team will go with the Honda engine in 2012.

It's the first time since 2005 that IndyCar owners have had a choice of engines, and Foyt is the third prominent team owner to announce his choice. He joins Chip Ganassi as the second to go with Honda, the sole engine supplier for the IndyCar Series since 2006. To the Houston native, the reasoning was simple.

"The people at Honda have been very good to us through the years and when I asked them a question, they always answered honestly," Foyt said during Tuesday's conference call with reporters. "So you want to stay with people who are truthful with you. I did talk to Chevy and they have been very good to us through the years, too, but we have to find a way to get back to Victory Circle."

The selection is a philosophical shift for Foyt, who embraced Tony George's intention to create a predominantly American oval series in the mid-1990s. Some thought Foyt's roots would compel him to choose the only American manufacturer in the mix, Chevrolet.

But the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner decided to stick with the company that has proven it can build an engine to withstand the toughest racing conditions and almost never breaks. The advantage, of course, is that Foyt's team can spend more time fine-tuning the team's No. 14 car rather than starting over.

Foyt even acknowledged the irony in his choice.

"Well, every now and then you've got to make changes and we're trying to make changes for the best," he said. "You either make a good choice or a bad choice. Any time you have competition, I don't care what it's in, I think it makes it good."

While Foyt and Ganassi have both announced they will use Honda, Roger Penske's team has chosen Chevrolet, which produced IndyCar engines from 1986-93 and again from 2002-05. Lotus, which makes the other engine package, has not had a team commit yet.

The competition for engines could be heating up soon, too.

Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development, said the company will likely provide engines for about 10 cars in 2012. Ganassi's team has four of those spots locked up. Foyt has taken at least one more and possibly a second -- if he can find enough sponsorship to add another car to his stable. Foyt said his team has already discussed two or three drivers who could fill the second spot. Brazil's Vitor Meira has been Foyt's primary driver the past three seasons.

Berkman believes another team is on the verge of announcing it will stay with Honda, too, though he did not identify the team.

"We've got a lot of team owners talking to us, trying to figure out what's going to happen," Berkman said.

Team owners also are trying to figure out what to do with new aerodynamic packages that series officials still have not approved and any other potential changes for 2012.

That's one reason Foyt's team decided to stick with a known quantity.

"You could tell all the Honda teams kind of worked together," said Larry Foyt, A.J.'s son and the team director. "They were all part of the Honda family, and I think that's something else Honda brings. I feel like we'll have a lot of great teammates now, too. We're racing against them, but we're racing with them, too."

A.J. Foyt still holds IndyCar records for most wins (67), most wins in a season (10) and was the first of the three four-time Indy 500 winners. He won another Indy title as a team owner in 1999, when Kenny Brack took the checkered flag, and Foyt remains the only driver to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

His team, however, hasn't won since Airton Dare took the 2002 Kansas title.

Foyt also said he would like to see the IndyCar Series add a third big speedway to the schedule, perhaps Pocono, and that it would be more interesting to see Indy officials try to fill the traditional 33-car field on the first day of qualifying instead of only the top 24 spots.

And don't expect him to be going away any time soon, either.

"I'm going to retire when they lower that casket," he said.