Josef Newgarden’s IndyCar win disqualified; Pato O’Ward named winner

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Team Penske suffered a humiliating disqualification Wednesday 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. Will Power, who finished fourth at St. Pete, was not penalized 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 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.

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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