until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Penske president and Newgarden engineer suspended for Indy 500

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Roger Penske has apologised for the “errors” which led to two of his drivers being disqualified from the St Petersburg IndyCar season opener and has suspended a number of personnel including the team's president in charge of operations and Josef Newgarden's engineer.

Penske says it has conducted and completed a review into the St Petersburg incident, where its three drivers were able to use push to pass on restarts, which is against IndyCar rules.

Team Penske president Tim Cindric claimed the issue came about because a line of code in the cars’ software was mistakenly left on from a hybrid test.

Cindric's role means he is effectively in charge of the racing team’s operations with Roger Penske spread across a number of business interests. But Cindric also calls strategy for Newgarden’s car.

Luke Mason was promoted to Josef Newgarden’s lead engineer for 2023, winning the Indianapolis 500 with Newgarden - from 17th on the grid - in his first attempt at the race in that role. He has also been suspended for two races.

Ron Ruzewski, Team Penske's managing director, and Robbie Atkinson, the senior data engineer on Newgarden’s car, complete the personnel suspended for a pair of races, which will be the Indianapolis road course and the Indy 500.

“I recognise the magnitude of what occurred and the impact it continues to have on the sport to which I’ve dedicated so many decades,” Roger Penske said in a separate quote alongside the team statement.

“Everyone at Team Penske along with our fans and business partners should know that I apologise for the errors that were made and I deeply regret them.”

The Race says

If you needed any indication of how seriously Roger Penske has taken his team breaching the IndyCar rules in St Petersburg, this is it.

He may have just cost himself a 20th Indy 500 win for his team.

The Indy 500 is IndyCar’s Superbowl. That single race is bigger and more important to win than the overall championship for probably 90% of the IndyCar paddock.

From the day after last year’s Indy 500 win, the team will have been working and tweaking the car for this year’s event, or running tests and simulation to come up with new ideas at the very least.

It takes the sum of thousands of details to win an Indy 500.

Aside from the pit crew nailing five-plus perfect pitstops, the other areas you have to get right are the car set-up and how to tweak it through the race, and the strategy.

The two people who covered those areas last year won’t be available to Newgarden. Penske has benched them.

Engineer Mason and strategist Cindric will both be watching the Indy 500 from the sidelines, as will Newgarden's data engineer to add a hat-trick of key people he's missing.

Given what this race means to people who work in IndyCar, that must be the worst possible form of torture - never mind punishment.

Roger Penske might have to look back and realise that his team’s St Petersburg actions might not have only cost him an IndyCar championship in the long run, but he may have also condemned himself to being stuck on 19 wins for at least another year.

The team said in its statement “after a full and comprehensive analysis of the information, Team Penske has determined that there were significant failures in our processes and internal communications”.

It later shared another statement from Cindric in which he said he had failed to uphold Penske's standards and had to be held accountable and accept his suspension.

“For Ron and I as leaders of this team, it’s not about what we did, it’s about what we didn’t do," said Cindric.

"It is our responsibility to provide the team and all our drivers with the right processes to ensure something like this can’t happen. For that, I apologise to Roger, our team and everyone that supports us.

"Our number one job is to protect and enhance the reputation of our brand and that of those that support us.

"In that regard, as the overall leader, I failed, and I must raise my hand and be accountable with the others. This is a team, and in my position, it’s the right thing to do.”

Team Penske has come in for heavy criticism on multiple fronts, with many in the paddock not believing Cindric and Penske’s explanation that the code had accidentally been left on the car.

Choking back tears in an emotional interview last month, Newgarden said he could understand why many thought the story was difficult to believe, but maintained he had told the truth: that his #2 team thought a rule change had made the push to pass available, leading to his repeated use of it.

Scott McLaughlin - who won at Barber, the first race since the furore of Penske’s disqualification hit the headlines - said he only used the push to pass for 1.9 seconds. Will Power was not disqualified as he did not use it, but was fined 10 championship points effectively for Penske’s error of the push to pass being available when it shouldn’t have been.

The fact that Roger Penske’s umbrella companies own IndyCar and the race team that competes in it has drawn criticism.

Newgarden's lost win promoted Pato O'Ward to victory, ending McLaren's winless IndyCar streak that stretched back to 2022.

Power has been the least affected of the drivers; the 2022 title winner now one point behind championship leader Colton Herta in the standings.

The disqualifications have hit McLaughlin and Newgarden harder as they sit ninth and 15th respectively.

Penske's engine supplier Chevrolet has also been criticised by members of the paddock for not noticing Penske's push to pass use between St Petersburg and Long Beach. It was instead found by IndyCar after its push to pass system went down and the Penske cars were the only ones able to use it.

In a widely reported statement, General Motors president Mark Reuss said: “Chevrolet engaged a third-party law firm to conduct a thorough review of the matter, and they found no evidence that any Chevrolet employee had any knowledge of or involvement in the matter.”

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