Josef Newgarden loses his victory in the season-opening IndyCar race due to manipulation of the push-to-pass system

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Josef Newgarden, Pato O'Ward, Scott McLaughlin

Team Penske suffered a major setback on Wednesday when Josef Newgarden, last year’s winner of the Indianapolis 500, lost his victory in the first IndyCar race of the season.

This happened because he was found to have manipulated his push-to-pass system during the race. Newgarden’s teammate, Scott McLaughlin, who finished third in the race, was also disqualified. Although Will Power, another Penske driver who came in fourth, was not disqualified, he lost 10 points.

As a consequence, all three Penske drivers were fined $25,000 each, and they had to give up all the prize money they earned from the race. Will Power was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

Roger Penske, who owns the race team, the IndyCar Series, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, expressed his disappointment, saying he felt embarrassed about the situation.

The news spread quickly throughout the paddock, with rival team owner Chip Ganassi expressing his disappointment and calling it a blemish on Penske’s team, organization, and the series itself.

The disqualifications resulted in Pato O’Ward being declared the winner, who originally finished second. This marks the first victory for McLaren’s IndyCar team since 2022.

Josef Newgarden

Although Newgarden was accused of manipulating his car during the March 10 race, IndyCar didn’t discover the violation until Sunday morning’s warmup in Long Beach, California, almost two months later.

IndyCar President Jay Frye emphasized the importance of the series’ integrity and stated that while the violation went unnoticed at St. Petersburg, it was detected during Sunday’s warmup in Long Beach and promptly addressed to ensure compliance for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

To prevent such violations in the future, new technical inspection procedures will be implemented starting with the upcoming race at Barber Motorsports Park.

A review of the race data revealed that Team Penske manipulated the overtake system, allowing their drivers to use push-to-pass during starts and restarts, which is against IndyCar rules. According to the rules, the overtake function can only be used after the car crosses the alternate start-finish line.

In response, Team Penske President Tim Cindric explained that the push-to-pass software was not removed as required after the completion of recent hybrid testing in their Indy cars.

“This software allowed for push-to-pass to be used during restarts at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix race, which wasn’t supposed to happen,” Cindric explained. “Both the No. 2 car driven by Josef Newgarden and the No. 3 car driven by Scott McLaughlin used push-to-pass on a restart, breaking IndyCar rules. Team Penske accepts the penalties imposed by IndyCar.”

Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar champion, and the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, saw his position drop from first in points to 11th due to the disqualification. Following Scott Dixon’s victory at Long Beach on Sunday, he is now the points leader heading into Sunday’s race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

Josef Newgarden

McLaughlin, in a statement shared on social media Wednesday night, expressed that he was unaware of the software glitch and only used push-to-pass for a brief duration (1.9 seconds) in a routine part of the circuit.

“I pressed the button out of habit, but I didn’t overtake any cars or gain any advantage in time,” he explained. “The data available to IndyCar confirms this. While I accept the penalty, I want to clarify that I didn’t gain an advantage over my competitors.”

“A mistake happened,” McLaughlin acknowledged. “Maintaining integrity is crucial to me, both personally and for the team’s reputation.”

It’s the second instance of rule-breaking for Team Penske this season. Joey Logano faced a $10,000 fine and lost his starting position for a NASCAR race in Atlanta because he wore an unauthorized glove during qualifying.

It’s believed that Logano used the same glove, which had visible modifications to affect aerodynamics, when he secured pole position for the Daytona 500 a week earlier.

The black glove Logano wore on his left hand had material between each finger, suspected to be altered to help him block air while qualifying. Penske expressed strong disapproval after Logano’s violations, emphasizing the team’s need to avoid such controversies given the intense scrutiny they face.


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