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The RACER mailbag, May 1

Welcome to the RACER mailbag. Questions for all RACER writers can be sent to [email protected]. We cannot guarantee that every letter will be published, but we will respond to as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3:00 PM ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Editor’s note: IndyCar’s news cycle is goodIt’s been quite a ride these past few days, and RACER readers had a lot to say about the controversy surrounding Team Penske—much more than we could fit into a mailbag. To keep things somewhat manageable and minimize repetition, we have chosen a selection of submissions that we believe represents the full spectrum of letters and opinions we have received. Apologies to those whose letters we couldn’t fit in, but we hope you still find the answers you were looking for among the answers below. OK here we go…

Question: Who was it that said, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough”?

Were the penalties honest mistakes by Team Penske, or were they trying to cheat? Since IndyCar found it without much effort, I find it hard to believe that Penske did it on purpose. What do you think?

I think the penalties for Newgarden and McLaughlin were fair, but why did Will Power get points if he didn’t use push to pass on restarts?

Doug Mayer

MARSHALL PRUETT: I think it was Ricky Bobby who said that.

There are so many wonderful people who work on and drive Penske cars, as far as I know, and I don’t consider them complicit in or responsible for this nonsense.

There are also so many conflicting statements from Josef Newgarden and Penske president Tim Cindric, where Josef swore that everyone in his car thought they could legally use P2P like they did at St. Pete, saying: “The main difference on the 2nd car, what’s important to understand is that we somehow convinced ourselves that there was a rule change for restarts, specifically with overtaking.

But the day before, Cindric, Newgarden’s car boss and strategist – the key member of the “we” Newgarden referred to – told me this during the phone call with his general manager Ron Ruzewski: “The most important thing I wanted to understand, that Roger wanted to collectively understand is: was this done on purpose? And if so, who, what, where and why? Who would think they could even remotely get away with something like that? And if we did, for how long?”

So if the No. 2 Chevy team – again led by Cindric, the team’s boss and the car’s boss – believed they could use the P2P at any time on restarts, why on earth would Cindric initiate an internal investigation? start to find a solution? potential cheater… since, according to Newgarden, everyone in car #2 thought what they were doing was legal?

Both things cannot be true. At least one must be false. So what is it?

Have you ever heard of a situation where a team, thinking they weren’t cheating, went looking for a cheater?

It’s just insulting. As my father said when he thought someone was lying, “Don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining.”

And to be absolutely clear, not once in our 45 minutes did Cindric or Ruzewski tell me they were confused about the rules. Not once. Never referenced. Never hinted at. Never mentioned.

I doubt we’ll ever know for sure, but Newgarden didn’t do himself any favors – at least within the paddock – by holding that press conference and directly and publicly contradicting what Cindric told us in our story that emerged a few hours earlier . Instead of calming the waters, the contradictions, which caused many alarm bells in the paddock, only made matters worse.

As for the power situation, he should have had the participants’ points taken away; that’s the teams championship, and this was a team thing where Power’s car was an illegal specification. It’s hard to understand taking 10 points off the drivers’ standings when he wasn’t using the button illegally.

Question: Understanding the importance of the sport’s integrity and its history of creative play, are we overusing Team Penske’s offense?

Gary, from The Road

MP: We are not. If this had been Joe Smith Racing, it would have been more of a nothingburger – an oops from a small team that isn’t a championship or Indy 500 winner, with decades of experience as the gold standard in the series.

Instead, it’s the team owned by the man who owns the series, whose team fielded illegal cars that exploited the illegality to demonstratively finish first, and to a lesser extent, a distant third. This is such a terrible look and loss of respect for the series.

Q: In lieu of a long discussion, there is one word to describe Newgarden and Cindric’s verbal behavior on Long Beach: irony. What will be the ultimate punishment for Team Penske? An in-depth analysis of 2023 that voided Newgarden’s Indy 500 win? Or withdraw the sponsor in whole or in part if further research turns out poorly for Penske? As always, keep us posted on this black eye for IndyCar racing. A damn shame.

Diana

MP: IndyCar told us it searched the 2023 data but found nothing, and that this is a closed case. I would have preferred to see an external researcher brought in for a multi-year review. That takes the pressure off IndyCar president Jay Frye – our commissioner – to investigate the man signing his checks, and would likely alleviate a lot of the paddock’s concerns that this is being shut down too quickly rather than a hire an independent company. to take a full compliance dive.

Only time will tell if the team will experience financial consequences.

Question: Thank you for explaining the penalties to Newgarden and McLaughlin. It seems to me that both drivers were aware of the push-to-pass violation, or why would they even press the button at the start and restart? I can’t imagine drivers pressing the button knowing it’s disabled. And according to your report, it appears that Chevrolet had been aware of the violation, as they kept records of each car but said nothing about it.

I know the St. Petersburg race isn’t as big as the Rolex 24, but it seems like what Penske did isn’t much different from what the Michael Shank team did: manipulation to gain an advantage. A big difference for me was that Honda reported to IMSA what they found, Chevrolet did not report to IndyCar. Your thoughts?

Rick, Miami

MP: Most teams have drivers pushing the off button all the time, so that’s real.

So far, Chevy has avoided the subject of data assessment entirely.

I would like to see a new self-reporting clause in the rulebook, which would come with an eight-race ban for teams/manufacturers who fail to self-report. If the data showing an infringement remains for more than seven days without being transferred to the series, we will see you and your car/your brand’s car again in eight races.

Call it the ‘F*** Around and Find Out’ rule.