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O’Ward awarded St. Pete win as Newgarden, McLaughlin disqualified

Written by Archie O’Reilly


Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward has been awarded victory in the NTT IndyCar Series season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg as winner Josef Newgarden, along with third-place finisher and Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, has been disqualified for violations of push-to-pass parameters. 


The violation was found during Sunday’s morning warmup session ahead of the Grand Prix of Long Beach - six weeks on from St. Pete - the series has confirmed.


An “extensive review of data” from the race at St. Pete then revealed that Penske manipulated the push-to-pass system on starts and restarts. This was permitted at the $1 Million Challenge event following St. Pete, but use of overtake is not allowed in championship events until the car reaches the alternate start-finish line. 


The third Penske driver, Will Power, has been promoted to second in St. Pete. but has been docked 10 points in the championship standings for a related infringement. It was deemed the No.2 and No.3 cars of Newgarden and McLaughlin gained an advantage by using push-to-pass on restarts, while Power’s No.12 car did not.


All three Penske entries have also been fined $25,000 and will forfeit all prize money from St. Pete.


“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,” Team President Tim Cindric said in a statement. “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 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. Team Penske accepts the penalties applied by IndyCar.”


The violation is considered a Race Procedure Penalty, which includes the right to reposition the driver or car with a disqualification, including the forfeiture of points and awards. The violation related to the following rules…


Rule 14.19.15: An indicator to enable Push to Pass will be sent via CAN communication from the timing and scoring beacon on board the Car to the team data logger. This signal must be passed on to the ECU unmodified and uninterrupted during all Road and Street Course Events.


Rule 14.19.16: Race Starts and any Race Restart that occurs before the lap prior to the white flag or prior to three minutes remaining in a timed Race Event will have the Push to Pass system disabled and will be enabled for a given Car once that Car reaches the alternate Start/Finish line.


“The integrity of IndyCar is critical to everything we do,” IndyCar President Jay 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.”


Colton Herta completed the revised podium at St. Pete, making it two podiums from two races after only picking up a single podium in a difficult 2023 season. Up front, O’Ward has been promoted to win a first race for McLaren since the Mexican driver tasted success in the second of the 2022 Iowa Speedway doubleheader.


Scott Dixon is the new championship leader courtesy of his win on the streets of Long Beach a now-seventh-place finish in St. Pete. Herta is two points behind in second, followed by Alex Palou, O’Ward and Power. 


Felix Rosenqvist has been promoted to fifth in St. Pete - Meyer Shank Racing’s first top-five finish since a second-place finish for Simon Pagenaud on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May 2022 - and is sixth in the standings. Alexander Rossi, Kyle Kirkwood, Rinus VeeKay and Marcus Ericsson round out the top 10.


Newgarden is now 11th in the standings and McLaughlin 29th after a mechanical failure saw him pick up the minimum five points at Long Beach.


McLaughlin later released a statement, admitting “a mistake was made” but saying he was not aware of the situation, despite being penalised for using the push-to-pass system at a time when it was not permitted. He says he has “the highest level of integrity” and added that the pressing of the button was an accident borne out of muscle memory.


“In this instance, I used a single, very brief (1.9 second) deployment of push-to-pass in a section of the track exit of turn nine where it is typically utilised throughout the race,” the statement read. “I hit the button out of habit, but I did not pass any cars nor did I gain any time advantage. The data, which IndyCar has, confirms all of this information.


“While I accept the penalty, I want to be clear that I did not gain any advantage over my competitors. IndyCar’s competition is the best in the world and I would take no pleasure in achieving success in any way other than honestly.”


Power has become the second of the Penske drivers to release a statement, writing on Thursday that he was “disappointed to learn about the penalty” given to the team. He described the incident as “an oversight by our team” and confirmed he was not aware of the issue until it was brought to the team’s attention following Long Beach.


This aligned with Power not being judged to have used push-to-pass illegally, despite the system still being present on his car, which led to his 10-point deduction and monetary fine.


“As per the rules, I did not utilise the push-to-pass capabilities during any start or restart during the St. Petersburg race,” Power’s statement read. “While I accept the penalty, I want it to be known that I did nothing wrong and followed the rules.”

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