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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Roger Penske Suspends Four Team Members Ahead of Indy 500 for Cheating Scandal

  • He said the situation stemmed from a breakdown in internal processes and miscommunication. 
  • Penske, the owner of IndyCar, is seeking his 20th Indy 500 win.
Mike De Sisti / USA TODAY NETWORK

Team Penske will go into the Indianapolis 500 shorthanded after its namesake suspended four team members for their roles in a cheating scandal. The suspensions—for the team president, managing director, and two engineers—will last two races. 

A review done by Penske’s legal team found “no malicious intent by anyone,” Roger Penske told the Associated Press. He said the situation stemmed from a breakdown in internal processes and miscommunication. 

“We’re the same company we have been for 50 years and I’m going to hold my head high,” Penske said. “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.”

Team Penske came under the microscope in March after a race in St. Petersburg, Fla. IndyCar disqualified the winner, Josef Newgarden, and fellow teammate Scott McLaughlin, who finished third, for illegal use of the push-to-pace system, which illegally boosts cars and is considered cheating in the sport.  

IndyCar discovered three of Penske’s cars had illegal software installed that allowed drivers to use the push-to-pass function with starts and restarts. IndyCar controls the software, which is disabled during those race phases due to the extra boost of horsepower. 

Team Penske was outed by a software glitch in the warmup of IndyCar’s Long Beach race April 21 that knocked it out of every car but Penske’s three entries. The investigation showed Penske cars had the software installed throughout the season, and Newgarden confessed to using it three times. 

In 2019, Penske bought IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is home to the Indy 500, in a deal worth as much as $300 million

Tim Cindric, who runs Team Penske’s operations and is the strategist for Newgarden, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, is the biggest name in the suspension. Rob Ruzewski, Team Penske’s managing director, senior data engineer Robbie Atkinson and Luke Mason, an engineer for Newgarden, were also suspended. 

According to Penske, both Cindric and Ruzewski accepted responsibility for the situation. None of McLaughlin’s crew members were punished, and all three Penske drivers were fined $25,000 and docked 10 points. 

“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 Tuesday. “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 fellow Penske driver Will Power’s car. Power is one of the few Penske drivers not implicated in the push-to-pass scandal. Roger Penske told the AP that Power remains innocent and the suspensions to his crew members are based on their role within the bigger team. 

The suspensions come as Penske’s team is trying to win its 20th Indianapolis 500 in addition to this weekend’s event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

“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. “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.”

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