Overheard in Houston – Friday (2nd Update Andretti to Honda?)

UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement of Andretti moving to Honda.

10/17/13 Andretti Autosport will announce on Friday in Fontana that they are switching to Honda power for 2014 and beyond and we also expect to hear that Marco Andretti has been re-signed to drive the No. 25 next season with sponsorship from Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

10/17/13 As for the status of James Hinchcliffe, E.J. Viso and potentially Carlos Munoz, Michael Andretti said: “We’re hopefully announcing some things soon – there are some things I think we can do this weekend."

Andretti is spending today in Dallas for sponsor meetings, then heading to Los Angeles for this weekend’s season finale in Fontana, Calif.

The other domino is whether Andretti Autosport will switch to Honda from Chevrolet for 2014, which appears likely at this point. I asked Michael whether Chip Ganassi’s move the other way caught him off guard.

“We knew something was going on, but I was surprised it was announced then (at Houston two weeks ago)," Andretti explained. “It’s put me in a bit of a weird position. But it’s been an interesting last couple weeks. We’re close to making a decision, hopefully announcing soon, and all options are on the table."

10/05/13 We also hear that Honda of Canada is keen on getting Canadian James Hinchcliffe into their fold, another reason for Honda making a run at Andretti. Andretti said he is “close" to re-signing Hinchcliffe. “We’re about a week away," he said..

So it seems likely Honda will make a serious run at Andretti Autosport. Honda’s Roger Griffiths hinted – “We certainly don’t need a heavy imbalance of the field"

“I guess I have an interesting decision to make," Andretti said.

Honda would be a smart choice. It has won five of the past six races with the inferior single turbo and is converting to a twin-turbocharged configuration for next year like Chevrolet is currently using.

10/04/13 Word in the Houston paddock is that Honda will steal Andretti Autosport from Chevy in retaliation for Chevy stealing their top team – Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Makes some sense in that Mario Andretti is featured heavily in Honda Ads so there is strong Honda connection with the Andretti family. Given Honda's recent excellent performance with a single turbo, they could have the engine to beat in 2014 when they switch to twin turbos.

Rumor has it that faith based Kingdom Racing, who first joined Davey Hamilton for the 2008 Indy 500, may make an announcement to do a full season deal with Davey Hamilton. If true, what remains to be seen is whether the team breaks away from Sam Schmidt Racing to do their own deal or stay with Schmidt.

Although Ganassi will now run Chevy power in IndyCar and NASCAR, there is currently no plans for Ganassi to switch to Chevy power in Grand-Am. Ganassi will continue to run his 4 IndyCars out of two separate shops – Franchitti and Dixon in one, Kanaan and Kimball in the other.

Work is that the 2014 IndyCar schedule will be announced on Thursday October 17th. Look for the Indy road course race to replace the Sao Paolo, Brazil race and the doubleheader race in St. Pete to make up for the lost Baltimore race.

Chip Ganassi tells AR1.com that he did not make a play for Juan Montoya in IndyCar because he honestly believed that Montoya wanted to stay in NASCAR. "I was surprised to learn he had a real interest in coming to IndyCar. But I am happy to see got a good ride, we are still friends.," said Ganassi.

Tony Kanaan was more than happy to land a ride with Ganassi Racing, and even more happy that NTT Data would move up to sponsor him full time. "I have been doing this for 16 years and this is the first time I have been nervous coming to a press conference." It validates me as a driver and it is good to know I am with my friends again – Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, as well as Charlie Kimball.

Jimmy Vasser tells AR1.com that he hopes to announce a replacement for Tony Kanaan by the Fontana race weekend. We hear they will stay with Chevy power for 2014.

Apparently IndyCar has still not finalized the body kit details for 2015 as originally planned, but Chevy and Honda are ready to finalize their designs if asked to. Some teams still don't want them and prefer the money be spent on a better TV deal.

Justin Wilson tells us he likes having Mike Conway as a teammate on these street and road course races. "We like the same setup and here we are running identical setup and both cars are quick. It helps when both drivers like the same setup and it is good when both drivers push each other like Mike and I do."

Champ Car under the lights in 2006 at Houston

There are rumblings in the IndyCar paddock that the small teams do not feel 4 and 5 car teams should be allowed. F1 allows just 2 cars per team and NASCAR has cut down on how big a team can be. The small teams feels the 4 and 5 car teams are just too hard to beat as they monopolize things.

There was a rumor that the Houston race may move to June next year. The heat will be oppressive and the promoter, Mike Lanigan, is considering a night race. Remember this race was a night race one year when Champ Car ran here. And because the track is condensed in a relatively small area, lighting the track is doable, but never inexpensive.

Mark C. reporting from Houston

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