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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Michael Andretti criticized rival IndyCar team owner Roger Penske over a cheating scandal that engulfed Penske Racing, saying multiple explanations for the controversial situation never matched up.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Josef Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg for using a “push-to-pass” speed boost on starts and restarts, a violation of series rules.

Newgarden said he thought rules had changed to allow him to use the overtake button while Penske Racing explained that changes made for an engine test allowing the restart boost were mistakenly not restored to normal before the opening race.

Andretti, in an interview with former US stock car racer Kenny Wallace posted on YouTube, said he didn’t buy the explanations.

“My opinion is they knew exactly what they had,” Andretti said. “They used this, especially Josef, and it was an advantage. I mean, he blew by Colton (Herta, who races for Andretti) at the start of the race. So it was noticeable and it may have made a difference in the race.

“It’s disappointing for sure that they went and they did that. I just wish they just would have owned it more and just said, ‘Hey, all right, we got busted. Let’s go on.’

Andretti praised IndyCar president Jay Frye for punishing Penske Racing drivers Newgarden of the United States, Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand and Will Power of Australia.

McLaughlin was stripped of third in the Florida street race and Power, who never used the overtake button, was docked 10 points in the drivers standings.

“A gutsy move to expose it and give Roger that penalty,” Andretti said. “I applaud them for being transparent.”

Andretti said the mess also brings into question the fairness of Penske, who owns IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as Penske Racing.

“All I can say is if that would happen on our team, Rob Edwards (team chief operating officer) would have been let go immediately if something was going on that I didn’t know about,” Andretti said.

“Now do I think that Roger didn’t know exactly about it? Yeah. Did he give the permission to do stuff maybe? I don’t know. Possible. I just don’t know.

Andretti’s Herta leads Penske’s Power 101-100 in the season points race ahead of the next series race on May 11 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course — the final tuneup event before the 108th Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

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