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IndyCar Road America

O'Ward: Fans threatening drivers 'shouldn't be defended'

Pato O’Ward shared his thoughts after his Arrow McLaren IndyCar team-mate Theo Pourchaire was subject to death threats from fans of Agustin Canapino at last week's Detroit Grand Prix.

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

The early part of this week saw the true fallout of the Detroit IndyCar incident involving Pourchaire and Canapino, with the former alleging that he had received death threats from fans of his Argentinian rival.

Both Arrow McLaren and Juncos Hollinger Racing acted quickly to condemn the threats and other online abuse, but it was only a few hours later that Canapino began ‘liking’ posts from his fanbase that mocked Pourchaire, including one – that he since ‘unliked’ – that preceded a statement of his own rejecting claims that his supporters threatened rivals.

The fallout led to the early termination of the strategic alliance between Arrow McLaren and JHR on Thursday morning, while JHR revealed Canapino had taken “a leave of absence” at Road America. As a result, Nolan Siegel has been called upon to substitute this weekend in JHR’s No. 78 Chevrolet.

Before learning that Canapino had stepped away, O'Ward said, “It's not my place to defend them (the fans).

“No matter if you're trying to, at that point, if your fans are doing that to somebody else, it shouldn't even be defended. That's just not right. In who's right mind is it okay to death threat somebody? Never.

“I'm not responsible for the actions of my fans, but it doesn't mean I'm going to be supporting whatever they say about somebody else because things happen.”

The 100-lap race was heavily disrupted by eight cautions, totalling 47 laps.

Agustin Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

Agustin Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

Reflecting on the on-track incident between Pouchare and Canapino while the pair had been battling towards the rear of the top 10, O’Ward conceded, “Things are going to happen. 

“Mishaps are going to happen. That's what makes the racing exciting (and) exhilarating. That's why we have fans in the first place, because if it was just kind of follow-the-leader type of thing, what would be so fun about that?

“Accidents are going to happen and it's not going to be the last time. I've made mistakes. I've made my fair share this year and it's not going to be the last I make a mistake. You try and minimize them, but that's just part of it. Everybody's under pressure.

“The nature of that track, I just feel like it puts the drivers in a window of, I would say frustration and impatience because of just how much risk you have to take in order to get by somebody just because of well, what the track is. It's just part of racing at tracks like that. That's going to happen.”

Despite what his 20-year-old team-mate has been put through, however, O'Ward maintains he feels no obligation to educate fans to avoid repeat incidents. 

“Nah, I'm a racing driver,” O’Ward said. “I'm not a teacher. I think a lot of these people are grown adults. I have my morals and my values, and I will always stick to those, but it's not my place to try and parent somebody else.

“Really, you just hope that at least in a way, their understanding of certain circumstances, they're going to happen. If you can't handle it, then maybe this is not the sport for you.

Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, Santino Ferrucci, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda, Agustin Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, Christian Rasmussen, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Romain Grosjean, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Start

Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, Santino Ferrucci, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda, Agustin Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, Christian Rasmussen, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Romain Grosjean, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Start

Photo by: Brett Farmer / Motorsport Images

“It's part of entertainment. It's part of the sport. It's part of everything. Accidents are going to happen, and disagreements are going to happen, but I think that's what creates a very passionate fan is when you know you want someone to do so well.”

Although any tangle by anyone with Canapino seems to enrage his fans, O’Ward doesn’t have plans to race him any differently to anyone else on the grid.

“I try and race everybody the same,” O’Ward said.

“I stand with the team. I get we’re in entertainment. At some point, there’s always going to be disagreement and opinions, but I do think some people take it to an extreme and I think that it’s unfair to our community. It’s unfair to us.

“I mean, it’s happened to me as well; even with like some of the same people that call me a hero and call me the best that they’ve ever seen, they’ve also called me the exact opposite. It’s part of it, but I guess at some point it’s like do you really have to?”

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