Penske suspends Cindric and 3 others in the wake of a cheating scandal ahead of the Indianapolis 500 – Metro US

Penske suspends Cindric and 3 others in the wake of a cheating scandal ahead of the Indianapolis 500

Roger Penske has suspended the president of Team Penske along with three others for the next two races for their roles in the cheating scandal that has rocked IndyCar ahead of the Indianapolis 500.

Penske said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press that a review done by his general counsel found no “malicious intent by anyone” and chalked up the incident as a breakdown in internal processes and miscommunication.

He also said he remains committed to reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden, who was stripped of his March 10 victory for the scandal, and is actively trying to sign the two-time IndyCar champion to a contract extension.

“We’re the same company we have been for 50 years and I’m going to hold my head high,” Penske told the AP. “This is an unfortunate situation and when you’re the leader, you have to take action. We’ve done that and we’re going to move on. I am not trying to run a popularity contest.”

The scandal dates to the IndyCar season-opener in March won by Newgarden. Six weeks later, the series discovered that the three Penske cars were able to use a software system to get a horsepower boost on starts and restarts, which is against the rules.

Tim Cindric, who oversees all Team Penske operations and is the strategist for Newgarden, is the top name to receive the two-race suspension, which includes the showcase Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Also suspended was team managing director Ron Ruzewski, Newgarden engineer Luke Mason and senior data engineer Robbie Atkinson.

Cindric and Ruzewski “raised their hands as the team leaders” to accept responsibility for the mess, Penske told AP.

“For Ron and I as leaders of this team, it’s not about what we did, it’s about what we didn’t do. It is our responsibility to provide the team and all our drivers with the right processes to ensure something like this can’t happen,” Cindric said in a statement. “For that, I apologize to Roger, our team and everyone that supports us. Our number one job is to protect and enhance the reputation of our brand and that of those that support 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.”

Ruzewski and Atkinson both work on Will Power’s car — Ruzewski is his strategist — and Power was the only one of the three Penske drivers not accused of wrongdoing. Penske acknowledged that Power had done nothing wrong and said the suspensions to his crew members were based solely on their roles within the team. None of Scott McLaughlin’s team members were punished; the driver was earlier stripped of his third-place finish at the March race.

The suspensions cover this weekend’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indy 500, which Penske is trying to win for a record-extending 20th time.

“That’s a big deal, a significant impact to the team, to the individuals involved,” Penske told the AP of the Indy 500 being included in the suspensions. “I talked to all of them and the goal was, ‘How can we move forward and be competitive and win? Win the next two races?’ That was the feeling I had when I left the meeting.”

Asked how Newgarden moves forward and regains the respect of his competitors, Penske said: “He’s got to do it on the racetrack. I think he understands the gravity of this thing and I need to support him.”

He said contract talks with Newgarden are ongoing but “for sure I do” want to re-sign him.

The push-to-pass function is controlled by IndyCar and disabled on starts and restarts, when the extra boost of horsepower is illegal. Two weeks ago at Long Beach, a glitch in the software knocked out the software on all cars except the three Penske entries. IndyCar’s investigation later showed that the software had been in place in the season-opening race and Newgarden used it to his advantage an admitted three times.

Newgarden said he thought there had been a rule change and the P2P system was now legal on restarts. McLaughlin said he hit the button out of habit and gained no advantage from the horsepower boost that lasted less than 2 seconds.

McLaughlin said he used it once at St. Petersburg and Power never illegally used it. Besides stripping Newgarden and McLaughlin of their podium finishes, IndyCar fined all three drivers $25,000 and docked them 10 points each.

Cindric said the software was inadvertently left on the cars since last August when it was installed to test IndyCar’s upcoming hybrid engine but the scandal shook IndyCar, which had not had a disqualification in 29 years.

Penske owns the race team, IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has been in damage control

“I recognize the magnitude of what occurred and the impact it continues to have on the sport to which I’ve dedicated so many decades,” Penske said in the statement when the punishments were announced. “Everyone at Team Penske along with our fans and business partners should know that I apologize for the errors that were made and I deeply regret them.”

IndyCar has said it is trying to determine how the software wasn’t found through inspection during the season’s first three races.

AP Motorsports: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing