Newgarden's next challenge is to repair his reputation around IndyCar after disqualification

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — It may take Josef Newgarden some time to regain the trust of his fellow IndyCar drivers and he knows it.

Two days after Newgarden's season-opening win at St. Petersburg, Florida, was wiped off the board for manipulating the push-to-pass system on his car, the popular driver featured on the “100 Days to Indy” show is grappling with the hit to his reputation. It's also a contract year for Newgarden with a potential big payday awaiting.

The two-time series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner was disqualified from the race — along with fellow Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin — on Wednesday, though both are eligible for Sunday's race at Barber Motorsports Park and races the rest of the season. Newgarden knows it may take time to convince his peers he's not a cheater.

“Certainly not going to come from words,” he said Friday during a news conference to discuss the disqualification. “It’s just going to take repetitive action. That’s all you can do is just repetitive action and hopefully I can stand on that in the future. However long the takes, how many years, if I’m given the time, I’ll just try to earn it through action.”

Other drivers were skeptical of Newgarden's contention that he unknowingly broke the rules. Newgarden said he did use the push-to-pass at St. Petersburg but incorrectly thought it was allowed on restarts.

Andretti Global driver Colton Herta, who gained a third-place finish at St. Pete following the disqualifications, said he could accept that as a one-time mistake.

“But what’s not possible is to go to Long Beach with the intent to use it again,” Herta said. IndyCar said the manipulation wasn’t discovered until the pre-race warmup in Long Beach, California, nearly six weeks after the opener.

Defending series champion Alex Palou said he can relate to having fellow drivers regard you with distrust. He was sued by McLaren Racing (now Arrow McLaren) after changing his mind and staying at Chip Ganassi Racing in 2022.

"I think the toughest part is when you see the other teams and other drivers and they look at you differently," Palou said. "That’s the hardest thing, especially when there are so many people and everybody looks at you the same way. And it’s repeatedly, constantly. So they keep on reminding you without saying anything. I think that’s the toughest part. It’s not the end of the world. It’s bad but nobody killed anybody.”

Herta believes the situation also reflects on Team Penske, not just Newgarden. The head of the team is Roger Penske, the owner of IndyCar and one of the most respected leaders in the history of motorsports. The 87-year-old Penske earlier this week texted The Associated Press: “I am embarrassed.”

“At the end of the day it’s Penske,” Herta said. “The drivers, even though they took advantage of it and it’s wrong, it shouldn’t have even been in the car to begin with.”

Herta's Andretti teammate, Marcus Ericsson, said he is trying to give Newgarden the benefit of the doubt.

“I like to believe the best of people so I don’t believe they did anything on purpose,” Ericsson said. "But what is strange to me is that it didn’t get noticed when it happened and especially after it happened when they looked back at the race, when they looked back at the data and when they looked back at the videos. That’s why it’s surprising that nobody noticed.

“That’s the strange part.”

Romain Grosjean, a veteran Formula 1 driver who joined IndyCar in 2021, shrugged off the controversy.

“I haven’t lost any respect for them,” Grosjean said. “They tried, they got caught and move on.”


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