Roger Penske tells AP cheating scandal overblown by critics because there's 'blood in the water'

DETROIT (AP) — Roger Penske is well aware his integrity has been questioned because of a cheating scandal that cost Josef Newgarden his season-opening IndyCar victory.

“It always bothers you when people take shots at you,” Penske said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. “But you know something, we have a strong foundation. People know who we are and how we operate. I guess we’ll have to move on.

“But sometimes when there’s blood in the water, people like to go after you and I think that’s what happened. I’m fine. I mean, we moved on.”

Newgarden moved past Pato O’Ward in the third turn of the final lap to win his second consecutive Indianapolis 500, giving Team Penske its record 20th victory in the race amid a scandal that has rocked IndyCar.

“The controversy, as far as I’m concerned, was way overblown,” Penske told the AP.

The series shifts to the Motor City this week, racing in the Detroit Grand Prix on Sunday.

Nearly six weeks after Newgarden’s victory in Florida, IndyCar discovered Penske's three cars had an illegal version of the push-to-pass software installed that allowed their drivers to use the horsepower boost when no one else in the field had access to the advantage.

“Newgarden never should have had to worry about it because our team missed it, but it was not malicious," Penske said. "By the way, it was available for everybody to look at it at all the races. So at the end of the day, we took our medicine and we’re moving on.”

Penske suspended four crew members, including team president Tim Cindric, the star strategist in IndyCar who calls Newgarden’s races, for the Indy 500.

“They weren’t there and we were able to show you how deep our bench was because we won the race,” Penske said, adding the previously suspended crew members are back with the team in Detroit.

Zak Brown, head of Arrow McLaren Racing, said the Penske punishments were too light.

Brown called Cindric’s presence at Penske’s sports car win at Laguna Seca earlier this month while under suspension “a bad look."

Newgarden, following a luncheon to promote the Detroit Grand Prix, said he did not want to hypothesize to suggest the motivation behind the shots Penske has taken.

After Newgarden's latest Indy 500 win, though, he did say he was grateful for everything during this turbulent season.

“It’s an experience that it’s got to either break you or tough you up, and for me, that’s all I’ll say about it,” he said. "We’ve been moving forward. We’ve never worked together more as a group, and I thought that was difficult to do.

“This is the most tight-knit team I’ve ever seen.”


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