Race Weekend Central

Josef Newgarden: “I Didn’t Know I Did Something Wrong in St. Pete”

LEEDS, Ala. — The ongoing saga from the season-opening race of the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season continued on Friday morning (April 26).

Recently disqualified race-winner Josef Newgarden spoke to the media at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix.

Newgarden was the original winner at St. Petersburg before INDYCAR discovered that he and third-place finisher Scott McLaughlin both utilized the Push-to-Pass boost system outside of when they were allowed to. The system is supposed to remain dormant on restarts until the drivers pass the alternate timing line after taking the green flag on restarts.

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

For the non-points race at The Thermal Club, INDYCAR put in different rules that allowed for more leeway on Push to Pass and its usage, and an emotional Newgarden explained his side of the situation to the assembled media.

“We genuinely believed and convinced ourselves that at St. Pete, the rule was now you can use it immediately on restarts,” Newgarden said. “You don’t have to wait till the alt start/finish line. It’s going to be available immediately. I even wanted the team to remind me of this so I didn’t forget.”

Both drivers were disqualified from the results after the issue was discovered at the Sunday morning warmup session at the most recent IndyCar race at Long Beach. All three Team Penske cars had access to Push to Pass while the rest of the field didn’t, owing to a technical mishap.

Despite having access to the system, the third Team Penske driver, Will Power, did not use Push to Pass on restarts at St. Petersburg and was not disqualified from the official results.

Newgarden’s penalty dropped him from first in the results to 26th, with only McLaughlin behind him. Pato O’Ward is now credited as the St. Petersburg winner with Power moved up to second and Colton Herta finishing third.

Newgarden first heard heard about the rules violation on Monday after Long Beach. The two-time IndyCar Series champion was under the impression that he had done nothing wrong until he was told what the violation was.

“I knew getting to this part was going to be difficult for me,” Newgarden said. “You guys can call me every name in the book. You can call me incompetent, call me an idiot, call me an asshole, 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 to answer your question, 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.

“Then I’ve had to wrestle with the fact that, how do you explain a situation to people? I know what happened. I know why it happened. I don’t think it’s very believable, even when I try to tell the story back. I don’t think any of us believe it will be believable to somebody. But it’s the truth.

“So no, to answer your question, I didn’t know I did something wrong in St. Pete.”

See also
Upon Further Review: Warming Up to Disqualifications

The defending Indianapolis 500 champion agreed with the penalty levied against him and McLaughlin.

“It just doesn’t matter what the intent was,” Newgarden said. “If you broke a rule, you broke a rule, and you should suffer the consequences. The series has to uphold that standard. It makes me proud that I’m part of a series that does that. That’s a series I want to be a part of. I think the penalty is fair.

“It’s crushing. I’m going to look back on it, too, and say I don’t want that win on my books either. I don’t want it. I’m glad they’re taking it away. If it was tainted, I don’t want to be near it. Unfortunately, it is. I can’t reverse that in time.”

Newgarden fought back tears as he elaborated on his time speaking with Roger Penske that he described as “an interrogation” and his meeting with INDYCAR President Jay Frye on Thursday evening.

“I want to deeply apologize to our fans, our partners, my teammates, the competitors that I race against, anybody that’s in our community,” Newgarden said. “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.”

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.

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