Agustín Canapino takes leave after disputing online abuse

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Agustin Canapino is taking a leave of absence from IndyCar racing after he disputed Theo Pourchaire's claim that Argentine fans had issued death threats to the rival driver this week.

Canapino will not race this weekend at Road America in Wisconsin, and Juncos Hollinger Racing replaced him with rookie Nolan Siegel.

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

The decision comes a day after Arrow McLaren Racing terminated its technical and marketing relationship with JHR over the entire fiasco. Pourchaire is the reigning F2 champion recently hired by McLaren.

JHR did not specify how much time Canapino will miss.

Pourchaire and Canapino made contact Sunday on a restart in Detroit that led to an avoidable contact penalty for the Frenchman. Pourchaire, 20, posted on social media Monday that he received death threats from Canapino fans.

"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 X. "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."

Arrow McLaren and Juncos Hollinger issued a joint statement Monday saying they "will not tolerate any form of abuse or discrimination. Those participating in such actions are not welcome in our online community."

Canapino, 34, put out his own statement Tuesday saying "of course, I am against abuse and hate" but disputing that his fans had made the death threats toward Pourchaire.

"We Argentines are passionate and euphoric, but that doesn't mean we should be accused of something we are not," Canapino said. "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."

Canapino's statement also seemed to offer advice to Pourchaire on how to deal with online criticism.

"I constantly receive abuse and hate, and I have learned to live with it as many people do, choosing to ignore it," Canapino said. "There's nothing sadder and more miserable than hiding behind social media to insult others."

Arrow McLaren then announced Thursday that it "has terminated its commercial alliance with Juncos Hollinger Racing, effective immediately." The partnership announced in October was a technical and marketing alliance designed to help the two teams lean on each other as McLaren aided the smaller Juncos team in its growth.

Callum Ilott last year reported that he received abuse from Canapino fans when the two drivers were Juncos Hollinger Racing teammates. Juncos Hollinger and Ilott parted ways at the end of last season.

This week, Canapino had liked a social media post that referred to Pourchaire as "Callum Pourchaire."

"The growth of online abuse and harassment resulting from the events of this week have led to a very difficult experience for Agustín, the team and the entire IndyCar fan base, and the safety of Agustín and the rest of the competitors has to be considered first and foremost," Juncos Hollinger Racing said in the statement announcing Canapino's leave. "Abuse, hatred, and harassment in any form is a detriment to the sport, and we must prioritize the mental and physical well-being of both our drivers and our competition."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.