Josef Newgarden stripped of season-opening IndyCar victory for manipulating push-to-pass system

Josef Newgarden has been stripped of his win in IndyCar’s season-opening race at St. Petersburg because Team Penske manipulated its push-to-pass system during the race, making Pato O’Ward the winner
FILE - Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, right, celebrates his victory with team owner Roger Penske after the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race, Sunday, March 10, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Team Penske suffered a humiliating disqualification Wednesday, April 24, when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the season-opening race for manipulating his push-to-pass system. Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who finished third in the opener on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, was also disqualified. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson, File)

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FILE - Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, right, celebrates his victory with team owner Roger Penske after the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race, Sunday, March 10, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Team Penske suffered a humiliating disqualification Wednesday, April 24, when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the season-opening race for manipulating his push-to-pass system. Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who finished third in the opener on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, was also disqualified. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson, File)

Team Penske was dealt a humiliating disqualification Wednesday when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the IndyCar season-opening race for manipulating his push-to-pass system.

Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who finished third in the opener on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, was also disqualified. Will Power, who finished fourth at St. Pete, was not disqualified, but docked 10 points.

Additionally, all three Penske entries were fined $25,000 and forfeited all prize money associated with the race. Power has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Roger Penske owns the race team, the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, host of the Indy 500.

“Very disappointing,” Penske said in a text message to The Associated Press. “I am embarrassed.”

The reverberations were immediate throughout the paddock.

“I've emulated Roger Penske for many years on and off the track, so today's news is quite a disappointment for me,” rival team owner Chip Ganassi told the AP. “This is a blemish on his team, their organization, and the series. Very disappointing as a fellow owner and competitor in the series.”

The disqualifications gave the victory to Pato O'Ward, who finished second. It is the first win for McLaren's IndyCar team since 2022.

Although Newgarden is accused of cheating in the March 10 opener, IndyCar said the manipulation wasn't discovered until Sunday morning's warmup in Long Beach, California — nearly two months later.

“The integrity of the IndyCar Series championship is critical to everything we do,” IndyCar President Jay Frye said. “While the violation went undetected at St. Petersburg, IndyCar discovered the manipulation during Sunday’s warmup in Long Beach and immediately addressed it ensuring all cars were compliant for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"Beginning with this week’s race at Barber Motorsports Park, new technical inspection procedures will be in place to deter this violation.”

A review of the data from the St. Petersburg race showed that Team Penske manipulated the overtake system so the three Penske drivers could use push-to-pass on starts and restarts. According to IndyCar rules, the use of the overtake isn’t available until the car reaches the alternate start-finish line.

Team Penske President Tim Cindric said in a statement that the “push-to-pass software was not removed as it should have been, following recently completed hybrid testing in the Team Penske Indy cars.”

“This software allowed for push-to-pass to be deployed during restarts at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix race, when it should not have been permitted," Cindric continued. "The No. 2 car driven by Josef Newgarden and the No. 3 car driven by Scott McLaughlin, both deployed push-to-pass on a restart, which violated IndyCar rules. Team Penske accepts the penalties applied by IndyCar.”

Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner who is in a contract year with Penske, fell from first in points to 11th with the disqualification. Ganassi driver Scott Dixon, winner Sunday at Long Beach, is now the points leader headed into Sunday's race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

McLaughlin, in a lengthy statement posted Wednesday night on social media, said he was unaware of the glitch in the software and used "a single, very brief, (1.9 second) deployment" of push-to-pash in a routine part of the circuit.

“I hit the button out of habit, but I did not pass any cars nor did I gain any time advantage,” he said. "The data, which IndyCar has, confirms all of this information. While I accept the the penalty, I want to be clear that I did not gain an advantage over my competitors.

“A mistake was made,” McLaughlin said. “I have the highest level of integrity and it is important to protect both my own reputation and that of the team.”

It's the second cheating offense this season for Team Penske. Joey Logano was fined $10,000 and docked his second-place starting position for a NASCAR race at Atlanta earlier this season because he was wearing an illegal glove during his qualifying run.

It is assumed that Logano wore the same illegal glove — which had clear aerodynamic-deflecting alterations that made it look as if he was wearing part of an amphibious costume — when he won the pole for the Daytona 500 one week earlier.

The black glove for Logano’s left hand had webbing made of an unspecified material in between every finger. The theory was that Team Penske had the glove altered in order for Logano to place his hand out his window as an aerodynamic blocker during qualifying.

Penske was livid after the Logano infractions.

“I didn’t like that at all,” Penske told the AP at the time. "It’s not good. Period. I told him. He’s the leader of the team. Look, we are under so much scrutiny and the last thing we need to do is have any noise like that. It’s not good for us. It’s not good for him. We’ll take our punches.”

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AP IndyCar: https://apnews.com/hub/indycar

FILE - Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, center, celebrates his first place finish along with second place finisher Arrow McLaren driver Pato O'Ward of Mexico, left, and third place finisher Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand in the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race, Sunday, March 10, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Team Penske suffered a humiliating disqualification Wednesday, April 24, when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the season-opening race for manipulating his push-to-pass system. Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who finished third in the opener on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, was also disqualified. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

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FILE - Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, center, celebrates his first place finish along with second place finisher Arrow McLaren driver Pato O'Ward of Mexico, left, and third place finisher Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand in the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race, Sunday, March 10, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Team Penske suffered a humiliating disqualification Wednesday, April 24, when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the season-opening race for manipulating his push-to-pass system. Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who finished third in the opener on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, was also disqualified. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson, File)

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Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O'Ward, right, and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyffin Simpson race during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Long Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

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