Photo: Brandon K. Carter/ASP, Inc.

Team Penske Hit with Disqualifications for St. Pete Rules Violations

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

Team Penske started off the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season with a dominant run at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, finishing the race first, third, and fourth, but as of Wednesday morning, those finishes have been wiped off the board.

IndyCar officials announced that race winner Josef Newgarden and third place finisher Scott McLaughlin have been handed disqualifications for irregularities with their Push to Pass systems in place for the season opener, dropping both to the bottom of the finishing order.

Power was allowed to keep his finish, but was assessed a 10-point penalty, along with a $25,000 fine for each.

After a data review during last weekend’s race in Long Beach, IndyCar found that the following rules regarding Push to Pass use had been broken:

  • 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.

Per IndyCar, Team Penske modified the overtake system so that it could be used on starts and restarts before it was technically legal to do so. In their review, it was discovered that both Newgarden and McLaughlin used the system earlier than they were allowed to, while Power did not, therefore Power was only handed a point and monetary fine, while the other two were disqualified.

“The integrity of the INDYCAR SERIES championship 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.”

According to Team Penske officials, the issue with the Push to Pass system for their cars in St. Petersburg was an oversight on their part with the software used during hybrid testing remaining in place for the race instead of being swapped out for the correct race-ready software.

“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 Penske President Tim 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. 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.”

With the penalties assessed, second-place finisher Pato O’Ward has been awarded the victory, marking his fifth career win in the series in 74 starts. Power moved up to second in the finishing order, with Colton Herta rounding out the podium finishers.

Scott Dixon is also now the new points leader over Herta and Alex Palou.

Of the three Team Penske cars, Power falls from fourth to fifth in the standings, with Newgarden now ranked 11th, and McLaughlin tumbling from third all the way down to the bottom of the standings in 29th place.

McLaughlin is the defending winner of the next race on the schedule, the Children’s of Alabama Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.