Honda ‘agrees in principle’ to remain in IndyCar

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2014 Indianapolis 500 with Honda power.

Scott R LePage

Honda has “agreed in principle” to continue as an engine supplier in the Verizon IndyCar Series beyond this year, INDYCAR President of Competition Derrick Walker told FOXSports.com. Honda’s current contract will expire at the end of this season.

“Both manufacturers – Honda and Chevrolet – have been very positive about coming back and we are currently working flat-out putting together a contract to give them to make that happen,” Walker told FOXSports.com. “As soon as we can get that done. It’s in our legal department.

“It’s an agreement in principle but the devil is in the details so until we have a written contract, it’s not finalized. I’ve been working on this since I arrived at INDYCAR in 2013. One of the first projects I worked with was on Aero Kits and getting a contract renewal with our partners.”

This is the first season that in addition to supplying engines to teams in the series both Honda and Chevrolet has “Aero Kits” – additional bodywork that is added to the cars to improve aerodynamic performance.

Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr indicated negotiations with INDYCAR are moving very well and would neither “confirm or deny” that a deal is finalized.

“We’re not going to comment too much on negotiations that are still going on but we’ve said all along that we’ve been in IndyCar going all the way back to the CART days and we want to be in open-wheel racing,” St. Cyr said. “I can’t comment on that right now but we are still working on the details of a contract. That part will take a little while as we work through details.

“It’s always been Honda’s intent to remain in open wheel racing. We enjoy the competition and we want to be here and we are working out the details for that to happen.”

Honda has been part of IndyCar racing since joining the CART series in 1994. It made a major move after the 2002 season when it left CART to join what was then the rival Indy Racing League, beginning competition in 2003. Chevrolet left the series after the 2005 season and Honda was the sole engine supplier to the IndyCar Series from 2006-2011. Chevrolet rejoined IndyCar beginning in 2012 and has taken an edge in competition since that time.

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Chevrolet teams and drivers have won the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championships with Ryan Hunter-Reay in ’12, Scott Dixon in ’13 and Will Power last season. But Honda drivers won the Indianapolis 500 in 2012 with Dario Franchitti and last year with Hunter-Reay after Andretti Autosport switched to Honda. Tony Kanaan drove a Chevrolet to victory in the 2013 Indy 500.

“Winning the Indianapolis 500 saves your year for sure,” said HPD vice president and chief operating officer Steve Eriksen. “That’s the part that people remember.

“The number one goal of our company is winning the Indy 500. It is the most important thing for us to do. So that was the design ethos behind the aero kit, was start with the Indy 500 and then everything else cascades on after that.”

In 2015, Chevrolet drivers have won three of the four IndyCar contests with Juan Pablo Montoya winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, Scott Dixon won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19 and Josef Newgarden won the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26. Honda driver James Hinchcliffe won the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12.

Although Honda did not win the most recent race, Graham Rahal finished second and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth in Hondas and five cars in the top 10 for its most competitive race of the season.

“I’m very confident that we will have a contract to remain with IndyCar,” Eriksen said.

With Honda and Chevrolet being locked down the focus can turn to finding a third engine manufacturer willing to join forces with INDYCAR.

“We have always gone after a third – we have never stopped that,” Walker told FOXSports.com. “We’ve had some conversations with a couple that have asked all the right questions. They haven’t said to us yet, ‘Hey, we might be going to do it.’ We’ve had some good discussions but it’s a ways off.

“If I’m a manufacturer I might want to know more about what we will be doing in 2018 (when a new car and engine platform are expected to be implemented) I would actually want to know more. We are working through that.”

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