Race Weekend Central

Upon Further Review: Warming Up to Disqualifications

It all seemed to be a normal Wednesday morning. Following a shift at the early morning job, I was getting ready to get settled in for a quick nap before an email at 10 a.m. ET shook everything up.

IndyCar announced that they had disqualified Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin from the season-opening race at St. Petersburg after a thorough check of data revealed some behavior outside of the rules with the Push to Pass system. Pato O’Ward is now the St. Petersburg race winner some six and a half weeks after the race’s conclusion.

So much for that nap, huh?

See also
Luca Ghiotto Making IndyCar Debut at Barber

Following the warmup session ahead of Sunday’s (April 21) Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, IndyCar discovered a technical anomaly with the Team Penske entrants that allowed their drivers to use the Push to Pass boost system whenever they felt necessary.

IndyCar then corrected this issue in the inspection process ahead of the race and looked over the data from St. Petersburg with rule 14.19.16 in mind, which reads:

“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.”

3he series determined that both Newgarden and McLaughlin used Push to Pass on restart laps in St. Petersburg while Will Power did not. Because Power did not use the system during the forbidden time, the Australian was not disqualified from St. Petersburg but was instead assessed a points penalty.

What a mess, right? Well, let’s look into it.

On the start of the race, Newgarden started from pole position and led away while McLaughlin went from ninth on the grid up to sixth place despite some light contact with Rinus VeeKay.

Looking at the start from the aerial shot, McLaughlin is the only driver to majorly get out of line to attempt an overtake on a car starting in front of him. That could be because of McLaughlin using Push to Pass or because of a good start. It’s impossible to confirm unless the data is made public, but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility to say that McLaughlin was on the button at the start of the race.

However, McLaughlin did admit on social media that there was an interval where he used it “out of habit” in a different area of the track.

As for Newgarden, he hit the button twice on the first restart of the race where he overtook Colton Herta for third place. As of this writing, Newgarden has not commented on his disqualification.

Newgarden and McLaughlin both used the system outside of its designed parameters in violation of IndyCar rules. One of them gained a competitive advantage while the other did not. Either way, such a blatant skirting of the regulations has to come with consequences and IndyCar did the right thing in disqualifying Newgarden and McLaughlin.

But let’s look at Power. The irregularity was found on his car, but Power never used it, which brings up several questions. Did Power know about the system override? If he didn’t, why wasn’t Power told? If he knew, why didn’t he use it? Did the two-time IndyCar Series champion have the presence of mind in that moment to not hit the button to activate the system because he knew when the system was supposed to be activated?

See also
Josef Newgarden Stripped of Win, Penske Penalized After St. Petersburg Violations

And how badly does this reflect on The Captain and his team? The man who owns the series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway now has to deal with the repercussions of his eponymously-named team working well outside the rules and having his entire organization being called into disrepute.

And all of this on top of IndyCar having a dismal final TV ratings number for their second most prestigious race of the season, there’s a whole lot of disgust coming from the IndyCar realm.

This is a messy situation that will have McLaughlin and Power busy in the media bullpen on Friday morning at Barber Motorsports Park and maybe Newgarden will have to talk about it Friday afternoon if he’s fastest in practice and is brought in for the post-practice press conference.

Who knows, after Barber might even be the best time to analyze Theo Pourchaire‘s remarkable performance in IndyCar competition so far.

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You think 6 1/2 weeks is bad? Wait until Felipe Massa is awarded the 2008 title and they take Lewis’s trophy.


Gonna be waiting a long time since the F1 rules prevent any changes from being made after the results are certified (which they were 15 years ago)


Thanks for the update on Power’s situation. I thought it odd that he was penalized but not DQ’d. Now I know that he was not DQ’d because he never used it outside of approved parameters. Good on Will.

Share via