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IndyCar Barber Motorsports Park

Penske IndyCar scandal “not helpful” says Honda

Honda Racing Corporation President David Salters says he's unsettled by the "not helpful" recent developments surrounding IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske’s race team.

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

The integrity of Team Penske was put into question by the paddock after IndyCar officials disqualified St. Petersburg race winner Josef Newgarden and third-place finisher Scott McLaughlin for illegal use of the push-to-pass system in last month's season-opener.

Their team-mate Will Power also had access to the same software, which resulted from a coding change during hybrid testing that was not removed when the 2024 season began, but data did not find him guilty of using it in a wrongful manner. He was still docked 10 points, while all three were fined $25,000 each and forfeited their prize money.

The breach was not found until last weekend’s round in Long Beach, and the disqualifications were handed out 45 days after the event.

The complexity of the situation not only extends to the race team. Another key factor in the situation is that Penske has an ownership stake in Ilmor, the technical partner that oversees Chevrolet's engines in IndyCar .

The act and explanations for Team Penske in the aftermath have created dissension among drivers, team owners and even manufacturers.

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Reports already surfaced during the off-season of Honda debating its future in the IndyCar Series when its current agreement expires at the end of 2026, with concerns over rising costs.

HRC President David Salters told Autosport this latest situation raises concerns and said the background situation “is not helpful”.

“I'm always going to give it straightforward answer, so having that in the background is probably not... It's unfortunate in all ways, isn't it?” he said.

David Salters, Honda, HPD President

David Salters, Honda, HPD President

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Salters applauded IndyCar’s leadership for taking action, but said the fact it had happened at all was “concerning”.

“There is no point to BSing messaging, it's a big concern,” he said.

“But actually, the series organiser did – suddenly became very obvious on Sunday – respond accordingly. So, that's good.

“Just to be clear: we love IndyCar racing, and we love competing at the Indy 500. We've been doing it for 30 years. It's in our DNA. We love challenging ourselves.

“That's why this brand does it with our own people. You know, there's one chunk of people that roll their sleeves up every morning and try and get on with it. That's the bit we relish.

“The noise around it at the moment is probably not great, but we love IndyCar racing. We love the Indy 500. We are here to challenge ourselves and compete. What's happened is very unfortunate.”

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When asked how an oversight such as this would happen given the involvement of engineers and data that are involved on each car, Salters acknowledged his full understandings remains within the business model utilised by HRC.

“I cannot speak for Ilmor, Chevy, etc or the series,” Salters said. “I'm not in the business of speculating.

“I cannot speak for other people. That's just speculation and I think that's wrong. I could speak for Honda.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

“I would sincerely hope that my engineers would see things like that. That's what we pay them for, so I think that's within our stuff. I can't speak for anyone else.

“You don't know the circumstances; it's not up us to speculate – and there can be lots of things there to speculate.

“All I can speak to is for my engineers following our engines and stuff, I would hope that they could see stuff like that.”

In last year’s running of the Daytona 24 Hours, the season-opening round for the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the integrity of HRC was tested after its winning Acura-branded car entered by Meyer Shank Racing was found manipulating tyre pressure data.

The team kept the victory but was stripped of the points, forfeited the prize money and fined $50,000. MSR hit pause on its IMSA programme at the end of 2023 and shipped its Acura ARX-06 to Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti, which is now competes with two GTP entries.

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“I've been in a similar position a year last January,” Salters said. “It actually was not engine; it was chassis related.

“We noticed some stuff was wrong. It was brought to our attention during the race. You think, 'Whoa, that's not quite right.' But you don't know all the facts.

“Then you carefully go and look at them afterwards and then if it's not right, you're going to say it's not right. That's what we did. That's how we were.

#60 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb Agajanian Acura ARX-06: Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud

#60 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb Agajanian Acura ARX-06: Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

“These things need analysing. There's lots of complications, but if after the event you analyse things and you understand that things may not be correct, we've been in a similar position and went to tell the organiser. With Honda and how we race, I've been doing this for 27 years now.

“We have two rules inside our organisation: Rule No. 1 is never do anything that's going to compromise safety because it would never be worth it. You’re under a lot of pressure to find performance. Rule No. 2 is if you're going to always push the boundaries, find the grey area that's racing, but if you can't defend it, don't do it.

“I've always had two rules that I've been taught luckily, through 27 years of internship. Safety No. 1. But if you can't defend it, don't do it.

“Like push the grey, that's racing, but if it's obvious that it's indefensible, don't do it.”

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