Newgarden emotionally opens up on his IndyCar rule breach at St. Pete: “I want to be held accountable for what I did”

Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski
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The biggest cheating scandal in years has hit IndyCar in the past few days, following the disqualification of Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin from the St. Petersburg round.

Team Penske was in fact caught manipulating the overtake software system, with the two drivers able to use push to pass at all race starts and restarts.

Today, the former winner of the St.Pete GP and the reigning 500 champion talked to the press for the first time since the news of his penalty and DSQ came out.

Newgarden opened up in a very emotional and personal press conference ahead of the Alabama GP, taking all responsibilities for the violation:

“With regards to the St. Petersburg race ruling, I think at that point it’s really important to look at the facts of what happened. The facts are extremely clear. There’s no doubt that we were in breach of the rules at St. Petersburg. I used push to pass at an unauthorized time twice, on two different restarts. There’s really nothing else to it other than that. Those are the rules, and we did not adhere to them.

“For me, what’s really important about that, too, is there’s only one person sitting in the car. It’s just me. So that responsibility and the use of the push to pass in the correct manner falls completely on me. It’s my responsibility to know the rules and regulations at all points and make sure I get that right.”

The Penske driver tried to clear his crew members’ reputation, mentioning that it was a personal mistake he had done on his own:

“With that regard, I failed my team miserably. A complete failure on my side to get that right. It’s my job as the leader of the 2 car to not make mistakes like that. You cannot make a mistake at this level in that situation. There’s no room for it. There’s no room for that type of mistake anywhere, certainly not at the top level of motorsports. I don’t want to hide from that.”

His next step was to apologise to the series and to all of its fans, in a very emotional statement that saw him tear up: “For me, it’s an embarrassing situation to have to go through, to see what’s transpired.

“It’s demoralizing in a lot of ways. There’s nothing that I can say that changes the fact of what happened. I mean, it’s pretty clear. That’s why I say I think the facts are most important right now. I think that’s what really matters. I also think the truth is important. There can be space for both of those things.

“If there’s anything I wanted to come say, too, I want to deeply apologize to our fans, our partners, my teammates, the competitors that I race against, anybody that’s in our community.

“I’ve worked my entire career to hold myself to an incredibly high standard. Clearly I’ve fallen very short of that in this respect. Once again, I mean, I can’t overstate, it’s a difficult thing to wrestle with.

“It’s a very embarrassing process to go through. I hope we can find a way forward after this. That’s really all you can do after the fact,” he concluded looking forward to a chance for redemption in the upcoming race.

Newgarden went on to explain the exact circumstances of the usage of the forbidden extra push, mentioning that he had believed it to be a new rule for the entire season:

“The tricky thing about this whole situation is I didn’t know I did anything wrong until Monday after Long Beach. It’s the first time I heard that I broke rules. I knew if getting to this part was going to be difficult for me, you guys can call me every name in the book, you can call me incompetent, call me an idiot, call me an asshole, call me stupid, whatever you want to call me, but I’m not a liar.

“The key difference on the 2 car, which is important to understand, is that somehow, some way, we convinced ourselves that there was a rule change to restarts specifically with overtake usage.”

He wengt at lengths to explain the reasoning behind his usage of the button.

“We genuinely believed and convinced ourselves that at St. Pete, the rule was now you can use it immediately on restarts, you don’t have to wait till the alt start/finish line. It’s going to be available immediately. The craziest part of the story is, the software issue that no one knew about just perpetuated that belief even further.

“Then you go through St. Pete, you go through Thermal, where it’s an actual change and everybody’s using it. Then you go to Long Beach, and it’s still in the car.

“The first time that any of us hear about this software issue or mistake is of warm-up. Even the crazier part of that is, even when you learn about the software issue that no one knew about, and it was fixed, I still believed the procedural difference on restarts was applied for Long Beach. I tried to do the exact same thing leading the race at Long Beach. I even pushed the button. I came over the radio, Hey, guys, the overtake isn’t working correctly. I said it throughout the whole first lap because it wasn’t working right.”

The American racing driver highlighted multiple times that all the blame for the issue should be put on him and his shoulders, also bringning up his own feelings and beliefs on the matter:

“The truth is, somehow we got that mixed up, it got entangled with the mistake. It’s created some ridiculously unbelievable storyline now. The facts are that I used it illegally, I wasn’t allowed to. I can’t change that. Whatever I say going forward will not change those facts. It kills me that it doesn’t. I wish I could go back in time and somehow reverse all this, but I can’t.

“I thought about this a lot. I don’t want to put out a statement. Two things matter to me: accountability, and we have to be held accountable for any sort of mistake, whether you meant to do it or not; and the truth matters to me,” he added on the topic, while also bringing up his not very successful meetings with Roger Penske and Jay Frye to explain in even more details the unpleasant situation.

“Today I want to be held accountable for what I did and the actions I took, and I want to tell people the truth. Those are the two things I wanted to achieve this morning. If I do that, I can leave here and feel good about anything going forward,” Newgarden concluded, trying to look forward to the next events.