The 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner is trying to finalize sponsorship deals for a two-car team for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, team spokesman Eric Mauk said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Thursday.
Rahal has been eagerly trying to get back into the series since losing his primary sponsor after the 2009 season, and the reunion with Honda has rekindled some fond memories. Rahal's team was the first to use Honda in the now-defunct CART series, and Buddy Rice gave Honda its first victory at Indianapolis in 2004 when he drove for Rahal.
"We are pleased to once again be partnering with Honda," Rahal said in the news release. "We have a storied history with Honda and respect its tradition of excellence in motorsports. In putting together our plans for 2012, we felt that having the full support of a proven winner such as Honda would aid us in building the strongest program possible, and we intend to represent Honda in the best manner possible."
Rahal has not yet announced any drivers for next season.
The team has run a part-time schedule the last two years, and competed in only four races — Indy, Texas, Kentucky and Las Vegas — in 2011.
But the team is already taking shape.
About three hours before the engine deal was confirmed, Rahal's team announced it had hired IndyCar veteran Tom Anderson as its president of racing operations.
Anderson was the managing director for Ganassi's team when it won four consecutive CART titles from 1996 to 1999. In December 2009, Michael Andretti hired Anderson to run his team. But after the four Andretti Autosport drivers struggled in May and Danica Patrick, the series' glamour girl, was nearly left off Indianapolis' starting grid, Andretti fired his competition director.
He wound up landing with Rahal, the fourth owner to choose Honda, the sole IndyCar engine supplier since 2006. Chip Ganassi Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports also have signed on with Honda. Rahal's son, Graham, drives for Ganassi's team.
Penske Racing, Andretti Autosport and KV Racing Technology have announced they will use Chevrolet engines next season.
Michael Shank's new IndyCar team will use Lotus.
"We're looking forward to continuing our long and successful relationship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan as IndyCar begins a new era of multi-manufacturer competition in 2012," said Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development.
Four-time series champion Dario Franchitti tested the Honda engine in a closed practice at Indy on Wednesday. Rain postponed Thursday's test session. Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, of KV Racing, are scheduled to resume testing Friday at Indy.