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IndyCar Drivers Not Ready To Forgive Newgarden

birmingham, al during the indycar children's of alabama indy grand prix at barber motorsports park in birmingham, al photo by joe skibinski  ims photo
IndyCar Drivers Not Ready To Forgive Newgarden Joe Skibinski
  • Tean Penske driver Josef Newgarden faced the press Friday for the first time since his win in the season opening race was taken away by IndyCar.

  • Penske entertainment president Mark Miles confirmed Friday there was no interference from Roger Penske concerning the Team Penske violations.

  • Some drivers question the explanation from Newgarden, while others conveyed ‘shock and disbelief’. Colton Herta said Newgarden’s account was a ‘lie’.


This week’s controversy clouding the IndyCar Series was made more convoluted by the interlaced nature of the series and the team that was involved.

When St. Petersburg race winner Josef Newgarden was stripped of that victory because of rules violations, the rather awkward result was a series owned by Roger Penske penalizing and fining a team owned by Roger Penske. In addition, with the controversy likely still lingering next month, the series and the team will race at a track – Indianapolis Motor Speedway – owned by Penske.

There was no public criticism of the way the Newgarden-Team Penske issue was handled Friday in the paddock at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama, but the oddity of the situation clearly bubbled around the surface.

Penske Entertainment president Mark Miles said there was no interference by Roger Penske in the handling of the Team Penske violations.

“I would just say from our perspective what’s really important to know is that there was never any question as to any interference,” Miles said. “We could be objective and handle the data in the same way we would for any other team.”

IndyCar Series president Jay Frye said the cars’ central logging units, which control the use of the push-to-pass systems, will be locked during times when they are not supposed to be used. “That’s one way to prevent this going forward,” Frye said. “We think the penalties have been addressed. We think they were severe. It’s the way we’ll treat everybody else.”

Newgarden lost the St. Petersburg victory. He and teammate Scott McLaughlin were disqualified. Will Power, the third Penske driver, was docked 10 points. Each team was fined $25,000 and forfeited race-purse money.

Roger Penske has not commented publicly on the situation.

The IndyCar paddock at Barber responded with shock and disbelief Friday as teams gathered for the first time since the penalties were announced.

birmingham, al during the indycar children's of alabama indy grand prix at barber motorsports park in birmingham, al photo by joe skibinski ims photo
Andretti Global driver Colton Herta questioned part of Newgarden’s explanation.Joe Skibinski

Although Newgarden accepted responsibility Friday for the violations, Andretti Global driver Colton Herta questioned part of Newgarden’s explanation.

“If he thought that, why didn’t he push it at the start?” Herta said as teams prepared for opening practice. “He didn’t. He did at the restart. You’d think when everybody is stacked up the most, you would. That’s a lie.”

Asked if the Penske drivers would have to rebuild trust within the paddock, Herta said, “At the end of the day, it’s a Penske problem. The drivers, even though they took advantage of it and that’s wrong--it shouldn’t have been in the car to begin with.”

Pato O’Ward was awarded the St. Pete victory after Newgarden’s disqualification.

birmingham, al during the indycar children's of alabama indy grand prix at barber motorsports park in birmingham, al photo by joe skibinski ims photo
Pato O’Ward was awarded the St. Pete victory after Newgarden’s disqualification.Joe Skibinski

“I can guarantee you, it's not just Josef in this," O'Ward said. "Obviously, what he did was wrong, but I truly feel he’s taking the fall for something that he needs a team of people to help with. He can't do it alone. I think it's a bit unfair to him. I think he's absolutely taken the whole fall. He wouldn't have been able to do that without the team behind him. That's just a fact.”

Marcus Ericsson, Herta’s teammate at Andretti, said the announcement of the penalties surprised him so much that he initially thought the IndyCar computer system had been hacked.

a man wearing sunglasses
Marcus Ericsson initially thought the IndyCar computer system had been hacked.Joe Skibinski

“It’s easy for people to question what happened beforehand,” Ericsson said. “It’s easy to open that box of speculation, conspiracies and stuff like that. And that’s not good for anyone. Everyone wants to push boundaries, but you live within the rules.”

Defending series champion Alex Palou said other drivers were shocked and upset by the news.

“I was shocked and interested in what was going on,” he said. “It was a shocking moment for everybody to learn what it was, who did it and which conditions. I think the paddock is pretty pissed at the team. I wouldn’t like to be in that position.

a race car on a track
Newgarden led the opening practice at Barber Friday.Indycar

“Honestly, I’m not really mad at the drivers. If I was in that position, I’m not going to say I would not have used it. That’s what we do. We compete.”

Palou said the Penske team can rebound. “We’re only two races in,” he said. “It looks now like it’s a lot of points, but Josef is still 11th. It’s not all done. They can catch up.”

For the record, Newgarden led the opening practice at Barber Friday.