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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Indy 500 poster boy or paddock pariah?

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Two-time IndyCar champion Newgarden was disqualified from his season-opening St. Petersburg victory due to illegal use of the push-to-pass system throughout restarts, in any case three of Penske’s entries mistakenly ran with software program that allowed him to take action.

Though he accepted the penalty, in an emotionally charged press convention on the subsequent race at Barber, Newgarden revealed that he was below the misapprehension that it was authorized to make use of push-to-pass at restarts, as per the exhibition race at Thermal, which occurred after the St. Pete season opener.

This model of occasions flew within the face of what his different team-mates, Will Power and Scott McLaughlin (who was additionally DQ-ed), had mentioned.

This reality alone led one in every of his friends that I spoke to just lately, below situation of anonymity, to state that “frankly I don’t purchase it” and that Newgarden had “misplaced what respect I had for him”.

On account of Team Penske’s detailed inside evaluation, performed by Roger Penske’s common counsel, no malicious intent was uncovered and the errors have been made attributable to “important failures in our processes and inside communications”.

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Among the many 4 personnel who have been suspended for the Indy Grand Prix and the upcoming Indy 500 have been Penske’s right-hand man, Tim Cindric, who has been the president of all its racing operations since 2006 and Luke Mason, Newgarden’s race engineer, the person that Josef gave a lot credit score for his 2023 Indy 500 success.

Cindric can also be Newgarden’s strategist, so it’s a little bit of a double whammy.

Josef Newgarden, Workforce Penske Chevrolet

Photograph by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

When requested by Autosport at Indianapolis this week if he felt any guilt over his colleagues being suspended, Newgarden replied: “Oh, uh, I do not know that I really feel guilt.

“I will depart the group choices to Roger Penske. You guys have heard from him.

“At this level the great factor for me is while you converse the reality, you solely gotta converse it as soon as. So, after that, I am prepared to maneuver ahead.

“Look it is a complicated state of affairs proper, in a number of methods. However that is Roger Penske’s group and I respect any choice he is gonna make. And he is actually the supply for any of that.”

Newgarden was pressed additional, requested how he feels that some drivers nonetheless don’t consider him, and whether or not he’s felt any awkwardness within the storage…

“It is felt actually good, to be trustworthy, that is not been my expertise to date,” he mentioned. “The whole lot’s felt fairly regular this month for me. So, from that standpoint, fairly pleased.”

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden, Workforce Penske Chevrolet

Photograph by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Newgarden then received right into a spikey dialogue with the AP’s Jenna Fryer about Graham Rahal, who – when requested earlier what Josef must do to regain belief or respect of his friends – Rahal replied: “I’d ask him. I don’t suppose he’s mentioned a phrase to anyone.”

Newgarden’s response to that was pretty brusque: “I have not talked to Graham, OK? There’s a number of guys right here, proper? What number of guys you bought right here? 34 guys. Yeah, he is one particular person I have not talked to. I can affirm that for certain.”

One other factor for certain is that he’s not the social butterfly that he was when he co-hosted the ‘Bus Bros’ YouTube present with team-mate McLaughlin, which ended abruptly on the finish of final season.

The rollercoaster sequence of occasions which have unfolded for him since – together with the numerous milestone of profitable the Daytona 24 Hours with Porsche – have actually put him below scrutiny like by no means earlier than.

And his contact-plagued IndyCar races which have resulted in sixteenth and seventeenth place finishes (together with some wild follow spins) because the scandal was uncovered present that maybe not all is nicely as he makes an attempt to bounce again from the turmoil.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden, Workforce Penske Chevrolet

Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Is Newgarden the Indy 500 poster boy or its paddock pariah? He’s each proper now, on this author’s thoughts.

This complete episode has definitely dented Newgarden’s status because the Indy 500’s poster boy, however there’s definitely no crime in treating your rivals as enemies and never your pals – particularly if they’re complaining about you behind your again.

Driving for probably the greatest groups within the collection, there’s a good quantity {of professional} jealousy aimed in his path. His rivals know he’s at all times received nice tools beneath him, so the spectre of benefiting from an unfair benefit, just like the push-to-pass scandal, solely elevates their resentment.

However America’s racing historical past has loads of superb examples of famous person drivers that weren’t universally favored…

For instance, Dale Earnhardt constructed his ‘Intimidator’ NASCAR status on being completely ruthless in fight, whereas his sworn enemy Jeff Gordon had Hendrick Motorsports’ well-known ‘Rainbow Warriors’ on his aspect, and their ‘refuse to lose’ mantra that bent the foundations so far as they may get away with.

Each had their followers, each had their haters; each have been extremely profitable.

Newgarden isn’t in IndyCar to win any associates, he’s in it to win races.

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