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Penske suspends multiple key figures after internal review

Written by Archie O’Reilly


Team Penske has suspended a number of key senior figures, including Team President Tim Cindric, following the recent penalties handed out for a push-to-pass violation during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. 


Race winner Josef Newgarden and third-place finisher Scott McLaughlin were disqualified from the event after gaining an illegal advantage through the use of push-to-pass on race restarts. Will Power did not use the system illegally but was docked 10 points and fined for his No.12 Chevy not conforming to the regulations.


Penske has since conducted an internal review, which has resulted in a number of two-race suspensions, spanning the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500. 


As well as Cindric, who the team says “has accountability for all of Team Penske’s operations” as President, Managing Director Ron Ruzewski has been handed a suspension. Despite committing no wrongdoing himself, Power is left without a key figure on his timing stand amid Ruzewski’s suspension.


Newgarden, who admitted to purposefully pressing the button on multiple restarts amid claims that his No.2 team believed there may have been a rule change, will be without suspended Race Engineer Luke Mason for the Month of May. Senior Data Engineer Robbie Atkinson has also been punished.


After a full and comprehensive analysis of the information, Team Penske has determined that there were significant failures in our processes and internal communications,” a statement from the team says.


There is no suggestion from Penske’s statement that anybody on McLaughlin’s No.3 team has been suspended. The Kiwi claimed he accidentally used push-to-pass on one occasion for 1.9 seconds, from which he said he did not gain an advantage.


“I recognise the magnitude of what occurred and the impact it continues to have on the sport to which I’ve dedicated so many decades,” Team Owner Roger Penske added in his own statement. “Everyone at Team Penske along with our fans and business partners should know that I apologise for the errors that were made and I deeply regret them.”


In a special press conference hosted at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of the Grand Prix of Alabama - the first race weekend after the ordeal came to light - Newgarden admitted that Penske, who also owns the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, “did not take it well” and “interrogated” him on the situation.


“For Ron and I as leaders of this team, it’s not about what we did, it’s about what we didn’t do,” Cindric has said in a further statement. “It is our responsibility to provide for the Team and all our drivers with the right processes to ensure something like this can't happen.


“For that, I apologize to Roger, our Team and everyone that supports us. In that regard, as the overall leader, I failed, and I must raise my hand and be accountable with the others. This is a team, and in my position, it’s the right thing to do.”


The infraction was discovered during Sunday’s warm-up session in Long Beach, resulting in an investigation and the subsequent penalties handed out by the series, when Penske had access to the system despite it being inadvertently disabled. The series acted swiftly to disqualify a race winner for the first time since 1995 - a decision which was later overturned.


Newgarden took accountability for his part in the situation - having pressed the button - and accepted that a disqualification was necessary for the sake of the series’ integrity. Such was the belief that the team “somehow” convinced themselves of a missed rule change, Newgarden said he commented on the radio in Long Beach that push-to-pass was not available on a restart.


Other drivers and teams have found it hard to believe that nobody questioned the perceived rule change and have been doubtful over whether it was a genuine mistake from a team that prides themselves on being ‘Penske Perfect’. 


Graham Rahal said “poor excuses” were made and Penske were “digging a hole” amid a discord in the stories between each of the team’s three cars. Even Newgarden suggested it was hard to believe his No.2 team would simply believe there was a rule change without verifying so and said even IndyCar President Jay Frye found it a tough sell.


Penske bounced back with a one-two finish at Barber, with McLaughlin winning for the second successive year having taken pole, with Power finishing second after a front-row start. Albeit a 16th-place finish for Newgarden leaves him 16th in the championship after three points-paying rounds.


Meanwhile, McLaughlin jumped from 29th to ninth in the standings. Power sits second, one point behind leader Colton Herta, with a lift from fourth to second in St. Pete - courtesy of his teammates’ disqualifications - meaning his 10-point penalty only ended up as a net two-point loss.


But the team may now be on the back foot heading into the Indy 500, which Newgarden is bidding to defend after picking up the team’s 19th victory last year, amid the drastic internal stand made by Penske.

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