A.J. Foyt Enterprises has named Chase Austin as its second driver for the 2013 Indianapolis 500. Austin has four career Firestone Indy Lights Series starts – two apiece at Indianapolis and Iowa between last year and this year.
The announcement is a partnership between the team, Starting Grid, Inc., an organization that works to develop motorsport opportunities amongst minority demographic, and Honda, which will again supply engines to the team.
If he makes the race, he'd be the third African American driver, following Willy T. Ribbs and George Mack.
Foyt's second car featured rookie Wade Cunningham this year, and in 2011 had Bruno Junqueira before the ride was purchased by Andretti Autosport to secure a spot for Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had failed to qualify.
Austin, who became the first African American driver to start a NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series oval race at Memphis in 2007, has since made several lower-division NASCAR starts, and ran selected Indy Lights rounds with Willy T Ribbs/Brooks Associates Racing in 2011, and this year with Juncos.
"What can I say? It's AJ Foyt," said Austin. "I'm really excited. Sometimes things fall through, but AJ came through for us. I'm really excited to get next year started."
Foyt said that signing Austin is in keeping with his tradition of developing young talent, and is confident that the 22-year-old will be fully prepared for his Indy debut.
"I've dealt with a lot of young drivers though the years," Foyt said. "I've watched [Austin] and he's run some Sprint Cars, and run pretty good, and I just think he'd be good to go to Indy with, and that's mainly the reason we picked Chase to come and race for AJ Foyt Enterprises. I think he'll do a fine job for us.
"If you look at my history, I've always brought young boys to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chase ain't the first one, and he probably won't be the last one. But we're happy working with him. Out whole objective right now is at the end of the season to put a plan together and really do a lot of testing and things like that with Chase so that when he gets to Indy, he'll look like a professional."
The deal is currently for Indy only, although team manager Larry Foyt said that additional races could be on the cards.
"Right now the goal is just Indy for Chase, but that doesn't mean that couldn't expand," he said. "Our plan is to get through the season with the [Mike Conway] ABC car and then we'll really start to focus on that car and Chase in the off-season and do what's best."