until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Why IndyCar's disqualified its season opener winner one month later

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Josef Newgarden has been stripped of victory in the opening round of the IndyCar season in St Petersburg and disqualified, handing Pato O’Ward a first series victory since 2022.

Newgarden won from pole in St Petersburg while his team-mate Scott McLaughlin finished third, but both have been disqualified from the opening round - forfeiting the points they had earned - because they used push-to-pass on restarts.

IndyCar rules do not allow this.

The push-to-pass software was not changed on the Penske cars from the hybrid test carried out at Sebring prior to the St petersburg weekend, which caused the issue.

Will Power has also been docked 10 points but not disqualified because he did not use push-to-pass on a restart. He also effectively only loses two points because of the net gain in position he received due to his team-mates being disqualified.

New St Petersburg race result
1 O’Ward
2 Power
3 Herta
4 Palou
5 Rosenqvist

New championship points
1 Dixon 79
2 Herta -2
3 Palou -12
4 O’Ward -15
5 Power -20

Having originally led the standings after a win and a fourth in the first two races, Newgarden plummets to 11th in the championship, 45 points off the lead. McLaughlin is 29th with only five points after a gearbox issue put him out of the Long Beach race.

“Unfortunately, the push-to-pass software was not removed as it should have been, following recently completed hybrid testing in the Team Penske IndyCars,” said Team Penske president and Josef Newgarden’s strategist Tim Cindric.

“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.

“The #2 car driven by Josef Newgarden and the #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.”

The St Petersburg race occurred on March 10, so well over a month has passed before these penalties have been applied.

The reason for the length of time in awarding the sanctions is because IndyCar did not discover the infraction until the warm-up session at Long Beach last weekend.

Speaking to the Associated Press, both Roger Penske and his main IndyCar rival Chip Ganassi had strong statements to make regarding the news.

“Very disappointing,” Penske said. “I am embarrassed.”

Ganassi, who has been stout in his defence of Roger Penske on multiple topics in recent years, said: “I’ve emulated Roger Penske for many years on and off the track, so today’s news is quite a disappointment for me.

“This is a blemish on his team, their organisation, and the series. Very disappointing as a fellow owner and competitor in the series.”

IndyCar’s press release added: “An extensive review of data from the race on the Streets of St Petersburg revealed that Team Penske manipulated the overtake system so that the #2, #3 and #12 cars had the ability to use push to pass on starts and restarts.

“According to the IndyCar rulebook, use of overtake is not available during championship races until the car reaches the alternate start-finish line.

“It was determined that the #2 and the #3 gained a competitive advantage by using push to pass on restarts while the #12 did not.

“Additionally, all three entries have been fined $25,000 and will forfeit all prize money associated with the Streets of St Petersburg race.”

IndyCar President Jay Frye has confirmed a new inspection protocol will be in place for this weekend's race at Barber to prevent the issue happening again.

“The integrity of the IndyCar Series championship is critical to everything we do,” Frye said.

“While the violation went undetected at St Petersburg, IndyCar discovered the manipulation during Sunday’s warm-up 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.”

Team Penske can appeal the penalty but it appears unlikely it will do so based on Cindric’s statement accepting the penalties.

O'Ward crashed into his team-mate Alexander Rossi in Long Beach last weekend which led to a drivethrough penalty and a 16th-place finish, but the change to the St Petersburg result propels him to fourth in the standings, 15 points adrift.

The revised result doesn't just end O'Ward's win drought, which stretched back to Iowa in July 2022, but also that of his McLaren team - as none of its drivers won last season.

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