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Team Penske hit with penalties over Push to Pass use; O’Ward declared St. Petersburg winner

The IndyCar Series has disqualified Josef Newgarden from the season-opening race in St. Petersburg which he won handily, disqualified teammate Scott McLaughlin from third and penalized Will Power with the loss of 10 points after determining Team Penske, the team owned by IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske, violated the series’ push-to-pass rules.

Second-place finisher Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren has been promoted to first and awarded the win.

IndyCar’s longstanding practice in its road and street course races is to disable the push-to-pass system, which gives drivers an extra shot of 50hp or so, prior to starts and restarts. The system only becomes active when the series enables the buttons on the steering wheel to command the engines to deliver the extra power.

During last weekend’s event in Long Beach, the series found the three cars from Team Penske were able to bypass that software restriction and use push-to-pass at any time.

“During the Sunday, April 21 warmup session ahead of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, IndyCar discovered the team’s possible rules violation,” the series stated.

“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 No. 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 No. 2 and the No. 3 gained a competitive advantage by using Push to Pass on restarts while the No. 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 says the push-to-pass issue was rectified before Sunday’s race won by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.

“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 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.”

Team Penske issued a statement through president Tim Cindric after the matter was made public by the series and blamed a software oversight for the problem and subsequent advantage that was seen when Newgarden streaked away from the field at St. Petersburg to win by more than eight seconds.

“Unfortunately, the push-to-pass software was not removed as it should have been, following recently completed hybrid testing in the Team Penske Indy cars,” Cindric said. “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 also acknowledged Newgarden and McLaughlin chose to use the illegal access to push-to-pass power, which calls into question whether the unfair advantage was known to exist in advance.

“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,” he added. “Team Penske accepts the penalties applied by IndyCar.”

Story originally appeared on Racer