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

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

Penske said in an interview with The Associated Press that a review done by his general counsel found that the team had 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 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.”

Tim Cindric, who oversees all of Team Penske’s operations and is the strategist for Newgarden, is the top name to receive a two-race suspension. Also suspended was team managing director Ron Ruzewski, Newgarden engineer Luke Mason and senior data engineer Robbie Atkinson.

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

“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 is the only of the three Penske drivers not accused of any wrongdoing in the push-to-pass scandal. 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 suspensions are for two races, which cover this weekend’s event 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.

In a statement released when the suspensions were announced, Penske apologized for the team’s actions.

“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.”

The team said an internal review was completed following IndyCar discovering that all three Penske cars had an illegal software system installed that allowed the drivers to use the push-to-pass function on starts and restarts. The system is controlled by IndyCar and disabled on starts and restarts, when the extra boost of horsepower is illegal.

IndyCar discovered it on the Penske cars in the morning warm-up at Long Beach when a glitch to the software knocked it out of 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.

McLaughlin said he used it once at St. Petersburg and Power never illegally used the software. IndyCar stripped Newgarden of the St. Pete win and McLaughlin of his third-place finish, while all three drivers were fined $25,000 and docked 10 points.

Penske owns the race team, IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has been in damage control since series officials discovered the manipulation late last month. Cindric said the software was inadvertently left on the cars since last August when it was installed to test IndyCar’s upcoming hybrid engine.

IndyCar has said it is working on its processes to determine how it wasn’t found through inspection at the first three events to open the season.

Newgarden, meanwhile, maintains 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.


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