Crunch IndyCar meeting held after huge controversy sparked with illegal victory

Thomas Maher
Josef Newgarden, Penske, St. Petersburg 2024.

Josef Newgarden was disqualified from the St. Petersburg IndyCar race for illegal use of the push-to-pass system on his Penske.

Away from the world of F1, the controversy currently enveloping IndyCar following the disqualification of former F1 hopeful Josef Newgarden in St. Petersburg has led to a crunch meeting.

The 2023 Indy 500 winner was stripped of his win at the 2024 IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg, following the discovery of illegal use of his car’s push-to-pass system.

Crunch paddock meeting held following IndyCar disqualification

With IndyCar owned by Roger Penske’s corporation, sharing common ownership with the race team that Newgarden races for, the 87-year-old summoned the various team owners together for a meeting ahead of qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park.

Newgarden and teammate Scott McLaughlin were both disqualified some 45 days after the race in St. Petersburg, with McLaughlin having finished in third place – he was found to have committed a similar infraction to Newgarden.

Will Power’s car was also found to have access to using the push-to-pass system outside of permitted times, but IndyCar’s own verification found he was not guilty of having used it in a wrongful way. However, all three drivers were fined $25,000 and made to relinquish their prize money.

The meeting called by Penske was attended by all team owners, aside from Arrow McLaren. Their team was represented by team boss Gavin Ward, with Zak Brown in attendance in Monaco for the Formula E event.

Team Penske President Tim Cindric was not in attendance.

According to Motorsport.com, those willing to acknowledge the meeting had occurred remained very tight-lipped about what was discussed.

“No, not necessarily learned a lot,” Michael Andretti said.

“Just good talking session among everybody.”

Chip Ganassi didn’t give anything away as he said “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, while Ed Carpenter said the conversation held behind closed doors had been a positive one.

“It was a private conversation that I think we all appreciated and getting on with this weekend and season,” Carpenter said.

“It’s obvious what we were talking about in there but what we talked about in there, from my standpoint, it’s going to remain in there.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 v IndyCar: Top speeds, engines, formats, calendars and safety measures all compared

F1 v IndyCar v NASCAR: How do pit-stops compare in each of the three racing series?

Josef Newgarden addresses controversy in apology

The issue with the push-to-pass system was discovered during the round at Long Beach, with the overtaking aid – which boosts horsepower – having had software left in from hybrid testing during the pre-season.

The coding change was not removed when the season began, allowing the drivers access to the system at any time.

In a press conference earlier this week, Newgarden held his hands up to apologise to the fans and his team for being responsible for using the system outside of permitted times.

“Today I want to be held accountable for what I did and the actions I took and I want to tell people the truth,” he said.

“Those are the two things I wanted to achieve this morning. If I do that, I can leave here and feel good about anything going forward.”

“If there’s anything I wanted to come and say, too, I want to deeply apologise to our fans, our partners, my team-mates, the competitors that I race against, anybody that’s in our community.

“I’ve worked my entire career to hold myself to an incredibly high standard. Clearly I’ve fallen very short of that in this respect.”

Newgarden acknowledged that he had let his Penske team down, admitting that he knew “exactly” when he activated the push-to-pass system.

He added: “There’s only one person sitting in the car. It’s just me, so that responsibility and the use of the push-to-pass in the correct manner falls completely on me.

“In that regard, I failed my team miserably.”

“It’s nothing [I’m] trying to hide from. I know exactly when I pushed the button. I feel it every time. It’s a very obvious thing.”

Newgarden insisted he was not a liar, admitting he had no idea that he had stepped over the line before he was disqualified this week.

And he claimed that his team had been left confused by a relaxation to the push-to-pass rules for the recent $1million Challenge exhibition race at the Thermal club track, where P2P was allowed in qualifying for the first time in IndyCar history,

This, Newgarden claimed, led his team to believe that the overtaking aid would be available more freely on a general basis in 2024.

He explained: “You guys can call me every name in the book – you can call me incompetent, call me an idiot, call me an a**hole, call me stupid, whatever you want to call me – but I’m not a liar.

“The story that I know, which is the truth, is almost too convenient to be believable.

“So no, I didn’t leave St Pete thinking we pulled something over on somebody. I didn’t know that we did something wrong until this week.

“The key difference on the [number] 2 car, which is important to understand, is that somehow we convinced ourselves that there was a rule change to restarts specifically with overtake usage.

“You say: ‘How do you come up with this? It’s never happened before.’ The only place that this got introduced was with the Thermal exhibition race.

“It’s the only time, in my time in IndyCar, where we’ve actually had a legitimate legal change of the push-to-pass system, where it’s going to be operable at a time other than at the alt start/finish line.

“It was going to be able to be used in qualifying, too. There was a lot of discussion about it.

“We genuinely believed – and convinced ourselves – that at St Pete the rule was now you can use it immediately on restarts, you don’t have to wait til the alt start/finish line. It’s going to be available immediately.”

Read Next: ‘I’m not a liar’ – Former F1 hopeful fights back tears after IndyCar disqualification