Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. We can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Editor’s note: IndyCar’s news cycle has been quite a ride over the past few days, and RACER’s readers had a lot to say about the controversy surrounding Team Penske – far more than we could fit into a Mailbag. To keep things somewhat manageable and minimize repetition, we’ve chosen a selection of submissions that we feel represents the full spectrum of letters and opinions that we received. Apologies to those whose letters we couldn’t fit in, but we hope that you’ll still find the answers you were looking for amongst those below. OK, here we go…

Q: Who was it that said, “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’ hard enough”?

Were the penalties honest mistakes by Team Penske, or were they trying to cheat? Since IndyCar found it without much effort, I find it hard to believe that Penske did it deliberately. What do you think?

I think the penalties to Newgarden and McLaughlin were appropriate, but why was Will Power docked points if he didn’t use push to pass on restarts?

Doug Mayer

MARSHALL PRUETT: I think it was Ricky Bobby who said that.

There are so many amazing people who work on and run Penske’s cars that I know, and I don’t look at them as being accomplices in or responsible for this nonsense.

There are also so many contradictory statements from Josef Newgarden and Penske president Tim Cindric where Josef swore everyone on his car thought they could legally use P2P like they did at St. Pete, saying “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.”

But the day before, Cindric, the boss and strategist of Newgarden’s car — the most important member of the ‘we’ Newgarden referred to – told me this with his managing director Ron Ruzewski on the call: “The number one thing I wanted to understand, that Roger wanted to understand collectively is, was this done on purpose? And if so, who, what, where and why? Who would think that they would even remotely get away with something like this? And if we did, for how long?”

So if the No. 2 Chevy team — again, led by Cindric, the boss of the team, and the boss of the car – believed they could use the anytime P2P on restarts, why on earth would Cindric launch an internal investigation to find a potential cheater… since, according to Newgarden, everyone on the No. 2 car thought what they were doing was legal?

Both things can’t be true. At least one must be false. So which is it?

Have you ever heard of a situation where a team, which thought they weren’t cheating, searched for a cheater?

It’s just insulting. As my father would say when he thought someone was lying, ‘Don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining.’

And for the sake of absolute clarity, not once did Cindric or Ruzewski tell me in our 45 minutes that they were confused about the rules. Not once. Never hinted at. Never alluded to. Never mentioned.

I doubt we’ll ever know for sure, but Newgarden did himself no favors — at least within the paddock — by doing that press conference and directly and publicly contradicting what Cindric told us in our story that went up a few hours earlier. Instead of calming the waters, the contradictions, which is what triggered to many alarm bells in the paddock, made matters worse.

On the Power situation, he should have had Entrants’ points taken away; that’s the championship for the teams, and this was a team thing where Power’s car was in an illegal specification. Taking 10 points from the Drivers’ standings when he didn’t use the button illegally is hard to understand.

Q: Understanding the importance of the integrity of the sport and its history of creative gamesmanship, are we making too much of Team Penske’s infraction?

Gary, from The Road

MP: We aren’t. If this was Joe Smith Racing, it would have been more of of a nothingburger — an oops by a small team that’s not a championship or Indy 500 winner with decades of operating as the gold standard in the series.

Instead, it’s the team owned by the guy who owns the series, whose team fielded illegal cars that exploited the illegality

to finish a demonstrative first, and to a lesser degree, finish a distant third. This is such a terrible look and loss of respect for the series.

Q: Rather than going on a lengthy screed there is one word to describe Newgarden’s and Cindric’s verbal behavior at Long Beach – irony. What will be the ultimate punishment for Team Penske? In-depth analysis of 2023 with Newgarden’s Indy 500 win being voided? Or sponsor withdrawal either all or in part if the further investigation goes sideways for Penske? Keep us posted, as always, of this black eye for IndyCar racing. A damn shame.


MP: IndyCar told us it has looked through 2023’s data, found nothing, and this is a closed matter. I would rather have seen an external investigator brought in to do a multi-year review. That takes the burden of pressure on IndyCar president Jay Frye — our commissioner — having to investigate the guy who signs his checks, and would probably ease a lot of the paddock’s concerns that this is being put to rest too swiftly instead of hiring an independent firm to do a full compliance dive.

Time will tell if the team will bear any financial repercussions.

Q: Thank you for the explanation of the penalties to Newgarden and McLaughlin. It seems to me both drivers knew about the push-to-pass violation or why would they even push the button at the start and restarts? I cannot imagine drivers pushing the button when they know it is disabled. And according to your report it seems Chevrolet would have been aware of the violation as they track the data of each car but remained silent.

I know the St. Petersburg race is not as large as the Rolex 24 but seems what Penske did is not very different from what the Michael Shank team did – manipulation to gain an advantage. A big difference for me was Honda reported to IMSA what they found, Chevrolet did not report to IndyCar. Your thoughts?

Rick, Miami

MP: Drivers push the disabled button all the time across most teams, so that is real.

So far, Chevy has avoided the data review topic altogether.

I’d like to see a new self-reporting clause in the rulebook that comes with an eight-race ban for teams/manufacturers who fail to self-report. If the data showing a violation sits for more than seven days without it being handed over to the series, we’ll see you and your car/your brand’s car eight races from now.

Call it the ‘F*** Around and Find Out’ rule.