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Zak Brown frustrated at Penske ‘excuses’ over IndyCar push to pass scandal

McLaren's Zak Brown has responded to the big controversy surrounding Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin's disqualifications from the first IndyCar race

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McLaren CEO Zak Brown has admitted he’s disappointed at the excuses from Penske and Josef Newgarden after himself and Scott McLaughlin were disqualified from the opening IndyCar race in St Petersburg.

Six weeks on from the first race of the 2024 season, initial race-winner Newgarden and third-placed McLaughlin were found to be in breach of the rule which does not allow the use of push to pass on safety car restarts.

McLaren‘s Pato O’Ward inherited the win and the fallout from the controversial disqualifications have sparked some emotional words during this weekend’s third IndyCar round at Barber Motorsports Park.

“I think that series demonstrated it has the integrity to find out there was an issue out was an issue and dealt with things swiftly,” Brown told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown and McLaren Formula E Team Principal Ian James | Total-Motorsport.com
McLaren CEO Zak Brown and McLaren Formula E Team Principal Ian James | Total-Motorsport.com

“I guess there are a couple of concerns that I would like to understand and make sure, in the future, how did we all miss the push to pass being deployed, when it shouldn’t, on the spot?

“With the technology, data, stewards and teams…if DRS opened up on the first lap of F1 you would have everyone going ‘what’s going on there?’.

“So I would like to understand how was it missed at the time to make sure that in the future, there’s the right information being looked at. I think restarts are a little bit trickier because so many things are happening, but with IndyCar‘s cameras you can see the button being pushed.

“I think they showed their integrity because they penalised the guy who owns the series, so I’m comfortable with that. But then I’m disappointed with the various excuses or explanations that the teams and drivers have because they don’t make a lot of sense.

Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward and Scott McLaughlin on the 2024 IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Podium | Penske Entertainment: James Black
Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward and Scott McLaughlin on the 2024 IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Podium | Penske Entertainment: James Black

“Champion drivers know exactly what the rules are and exactly what they have in the car. A team of that calibre, to have an oversight of that magnitude, doesn’t seem right. The team and the drivers are too good to not know the rules.”

Newgarden apologises for ’embarrassing’ incident

Newgarden was leading the IndyCar Drivers’ Championship after two events but he is now 45 points adrift of new leader Scott Dixon after his disqualification.

There has been controversy surrounding Penske drivers being penalised when IndyCar is now owned by Roger Penske, so there are questions over whether there has been wrongdoing over push to pass in the past.

For Newgarden, he tried to hold back tears when opening up to the press about an incident which shocked the IndyCar paddock.

“I want to deeply apologise to our fans, our partners, my teammates, the competitors that I race against,” Newgarden told the press. “Anybody that’s in our community. I’ve worked my entire career to hold myself to a very high standard and clearly I’ve fallen very short of that in this respect.

“It’s a difficult thing to wrestle with. It’s a very embarrassing thing to go through. It’s crushing. I’m going to look back on it, too, and say I don’t want that win on my books, either.

“I’m glad they’re taking it away. If it was tainted, I don’t want to be near it. Unfortunately it is. I can’t reverse that in time. It’s good what’s happened.

”You guys can call me every name in the book, you can call me incompetent, call me an idiot … call me stupid, whatever you want to call me, but I’m not a liar. The story that I know, which is the truth, is almost too convenient to be believable.

“So to answer your question, no, I didn’t leave St. Pete thinking we pulled something over on somebody. I didn’t know that we did something wrong until this week.”

IndyCar president Jay Frye added: “It’s very hard to police intent or to evaluate intent. So at the end of the day it is about data. It’s on us. We didn’t catch it at St. Pete. We’ve put mechanisms in place we think should prevent it from happening again.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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