Explainer: What Caused Agustín Canapino’s Leave Of Absence From Indycar, And How Long Might It Last?

Agustin Canapino, of Argentina, waits in the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Agustin Canapino, of Argentina, waits in the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — Argentine driver Agustín Canapino’s future in IndyCar is unclear after his team pulled him from Road America shortly before the first practice of the weekend.

Juncos Hollinger Racing didn’t believe Canapino was focused enough to race in the fallout of his third social media firestorm in a year. The team hasn’t said if Canapino will be back in the No. 78 Chevrolet when IndyCar resumes at Laguna Seca in California later this month.


Canapino, 32, is in his second season with the IndyCar series with Juncos Hollinger Racing, a team founded by fellow Argentine Ricardo Juncos. Canapino has won 15 national championships in Argentina and earned the 2018 Olimpia de Oro award winner as Argentine sportsman of the year.


Théo Pourchaire, a 20-year-old French driver for Arrow McLaren, made contact with Canapino’s car on a restart late during the Detroit Grand Prix on June 2. The incident didn’t knock either driver out of the race, but Pourchaire received an avoidable contact penalty.

Pourchaire said afterward that he had received online death threats.

“I’m sad I received so much hate and death threats in the last 24 hours for such a small incident in the Detroit GP,” Pourchaire wrote on social media. “I hope people can understand that we are all humans and we can make mistakes. But it’s not normal to abuse people online. Please be kind to each other.”

Although Arrow McLaren and Juncos Hollinger issued their own joint statement saying they wouldn’t tolerate any form of abuse or discrimination, Canapino put out his own statement suggesting he didn’t believe his fans had issued any such threats.

“We Argentines are passionate and euphoric, but that doesn’t mean we should be accused of something we are not,” Canapino wrote. “Therefore, I strongly reject being generalized and placed in a category we don’t deserve.

“I have not seen a single death threat directed at those who claim to have received them. From last year to today, no one in their right mind would do such a thing. It’s outrageous to be accused of this so lightly, and I won’t allow it anymore.”

His response infuriated IndyCar fans who felt Canapino was discrediting Pourchaire's experience simply because Canapino himself had not seen the messages.


Callum Ilott previously had said Canapino’s passionate fan base had made threatening comments in two instances last season.

The two were teammates when Ilott reported that he received abuse from Canapino fans on two separate occasions after on-track contact between the two. Ilott felt he never received any support from the team over the online abuse and Juncos Hollinger released him at the end of last season.

After Pourchaire made his comments about threats last week, Canapino liked a social media post that referred to Pourchaire as “Callum Pourchaire.”


Two days after Canapino made his statement defending his fans, Arrow McLaren announced it was ending its technical and marketing relationship with JHR, effective immediately. The partnership had been announced last October.

One day after Arrow McLaren announced the termination of that agreement, JHR revealed that Canapino was beginning a leave of absence. Canapino's leave started after he had already participated in Friday's autograph session at Road America — and after his statement earlier in the week urged targets of social media abuse to learn how to tune it out.

JHR said at the time that “the safety of Agustin and the rest of the competitors has to be considered first and foremost,” and that “we must prioritize the mental and physical well-being of both our drivers and our competition.”

“Online abuse is unacceptable, and we need to ensure that our drivers are prepared both mentally and physically when they get in the car,” JHR co-owner Brad Hollinger said in a statement. “We are saddened by the events that led to this scenario.”


JHR hasn’t indicated exactly when Canapino might return. Nolan Siegel, a 19-year-old, came up from the Indy NXT series to replace Canapino in the No. 78 Chevy on Sunday at Road America.

Siegel finished 23rd out of 27 drivers. Pourchaire finished 13th while driving for Arrow McLaren.


AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing