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Herta: Any excuse Newgarden and Penske have “is bullshit”

Colton Herta is not tolerating any excuses and stated his respect level has changed for Josef Newgarden and the rest of Team Penske.

Colton Herta, Andretti Global w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Newgarden was stripped of his victory in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last month, along with Penske team-mate Scott McLaughlin’s third-place finish, after both were found by IndyCar officials to be in violation of illegally using the overtake boost on restarts.

The infractions were found during the warm-up session in last weekend’s round in Long Beach, which led to IndyCar examining data and coming to the decision 45 days after the event at St. Petersburg. In disqualifying Newgarden, Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward was promoted to the race winner.

Considering the owner of the team under fire by the paddock, Roger Penske, also owns the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there are currently more questions than answers.

Although the disqualification benefited Herta, promoting him to third to now have two podiums to start the year and sit second in the championship, his respect level for Newgarden, McLaughlin and the rest of the organisation has changed.

“It's definitely different,” Herta said. “Ultimately, the biggest thing is it's a Penske mess up, right?

“It's not the driver's fault that was in the car, but it is the driver's fault that they used it and were going to use it again in Long Beach. They were all fine with it in Long Beach. Nobody said anything.

“And I find it hard to believe that anybody would have a hard time feeling 50 extra horsepower in the car. So, any excuse that they have is bullshit.”

Following IndyCar’s announcement of the disqualification, a video circulated on social media of Newgarden on the push-to-pass button and ripping by Herta’s No. 26 Andretti Global Honda on the lap 30 restart – when overtake should have been inactive.

“You know, it's funny because I sent that video to Kyle [Kirkwood],” Herta said. “I was the one that screen recorded that and sent it to Kyle, and this was right after St. Pete.

“I said, 'Man, look at this. Like, did Chevy really gain this much in the off-season? It looks like he's on push-to-pass. I get a better exit and he still like closes up to me.'

“And you'd have some sort of slipstreaming effect, but not really at St. Pete on the front straight; it's pretty short. I sent it to Kyle and he's like, 'Dude, it looks like he's on overtake.'

“We were like, 'No, couldn't be that.' It was that.”

Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian

Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian

Photo by: IndyCar Series

When asked by Autosport on Friday morning if he was concerned this situation went on previously before St. Petersburg, Herta said, “Maybe.”

“There's a possibility of something like that,” he said. “It's tough to say because I think if you were to see them using it in qualifying, they would have poles by bigger margins. Like, they don't have a pole by seven-tenths or six-tenths, so it's not, yeah, I don't really think so.”

He was then asked if he had concerns that the software could be played with beyond push-to-pass events, maybe to oval events where Newgarden has been the most successful in recent years, including last year’s Indianapolis 500 victory?

Herta replied: “Yeah, it points to like what else can you do with that software? Can you make it to where it doesn't count down your push-to-pass? I don't know.

“There's a lot of unknowns, but obviously now, I have complete trust nothing will be happening going forward. They're going to be under such a magnifying glass that it's going to be hard for them to do anything.”

At least Herta found the monetary fines of $25,000 from Penske Entertainment to Team Penske something to laugh at.

“Just moves from savings to checking,” he said. “Yeah, but what are you going to do? It is funny, though.”

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