Dre’s Race Review: IndyCar’s 2024 Xpel GP At Road America

Will Power finally snaps a 34-race dry spell at an emotional venue for him, and the Agustin Canapino drama takes a nasty turn. Dre on another dramatic IndyCar weekend.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 10 mins

“The Power of Perseverance”

Hey gang, Dre here again with another edition of Dre’s Race Review, and we needed an IndyCar race to take the edge off of what’s been a pretty nasty week of discourse about the series in the immediate aftermath of Detroit’s Grand Prix. We’ll clean some of that up a little later with some words on the escalating Agustin Canapino drama, but we also have to talk about a race of Penske domination at Road America, a comeback for a man who had gone 34 races since his last win, and some more sketchy driving standards. Let’s get into it.

Will Power is a genuinely fascinating racing driver, and his career has been in some interesting places lately. And Road America has become a bit of a reflective place for him in recent years. 

Around this time two years ago, Will was in the middle of what we called his Zenmaster phase. He’d just won his only race of the 2022 season in Detroit’s final race at Belle Isle, but a season where Will largely treated fourth place as the floor would lead to his second Astor Cup, with an average finish of just under six, nine podium finishes and five pole positions, the 68th of his career at Laguna Seca was enough for him to surpass Mario Andretti and become the series’ greatest over a single lap. In a rebooted Penske team in which Josef Newgarden had become the defacto leader and Scott McLaughlin was still honing his craft, the then 41-year-old Power still showed he was as good as anyone.

A year ago, the story was very different. Will was struggling on and off the track. His soulmate and wife Liz had complications from a Staph infection that led to hallucinations, a lengthy stay in hospital, and a family torn apart as Will still had to compete. Road America’s round was the worst state Liz’s health was in, and Will lost his rag. He gave longtime friend and rival Scott Dixon the double bird treatment and a shove after an accidental wreck in practice. He threatened to punch Romain Grosjean in the face after another near miss on track. Will’s head wasn’t in it1 and it showed in the results. To this day, it’s the second-worst season he’s had in the series. A distant seventh in the standings, with just three podiums on the year, and his first-ever winless campaign in IndyCar, snapping a sixteen-year streak.

This year, with his wife having made a full recovery and son Beau in attendance again, Will Power would go on to win in classic Power fashion – breakneck, overwhelming pace and a little bit of creativity that comes from being such an oddball.

After the initial hot mess of the first 10 laps (I’ll get to that), it quickly became a game of the three Penske’s formation flying on track. For most of the race, it seemed like the battle was going to be McLaughlin vs Newgarden as Josef took advantage of his starting stint being on the alternate tyre and getting early cautions to placate his strategy. He passed McLaughlin for the lead and looked in control as Power was sitting in a lonely third. But on the final round of stops, Power went for the overcut on his red tyre stint, nursing his tyre beautifully and taking advantage of that initial tyre warming phase of Newgarden’s final stint.

Newgarden didn’t have an answer in response, and Power pulled away to take his 40th career IndyCar win by nearly four seconds. It was a wonderful drive and a wonderful scene to see Will with Liz and Beau in victory lane again after a 734-day, 34-race dry spell.

I’ll admit, I’ve been one of the cynical ones. I was concerned that Will was cooked after the 2023 season, as Father Time was creeping around the corner. I was pushing for Christian Lundgaard to take his seat as the new up-and-coming European hotshot. Right now, I absolutely cannot justify that move on performance alone, Power’s been fabulous, and it’s a win that’s made him one of the three clear contenders for the Championship again. 

One of my favourite people in the world and one of Will Power’s biggest fans, Zoe Hamilton, once described Will Power to our Discord server as “A puppy with a knife”. After that ruthless brilliance at Road America… I’m finally starting to get the analogy. 

Because this silly little racing series lives to be the messiest of bitches, we have to do a Part 2 on the Agustin Canapino affair. 

For those who missed Part 1, a quick review – Canapino was hit by Theo Pourchaire under the radar in Detroit, team boss Ricardo Juncos called Theo a “son of a thousand whores/son of a bitch” depending on your interpretation (Both are awful by the way), for the third time in 14 months, Canapino’s fans relentlessly attack a driver over the Internet (including death threats), McLaren and Juncos write a combined statement condemning the abuse while IndyCar has a quiet word behind the scenes. 

Canapino’s statement on Twitter.

Now, I only partially addressed the Canapino statement as it landed mere hours before I hit publish on my Detroit Review, but as a reminder… at best I can say it was a poorly written statement, at worst, its gaslighting and the equivalent of pouring kerosene on a volcano. 

Implying that the death threats that Pourchaire received (And verified by multiple members of the IndyCar media via screenshots), weren’t real was a disgusting thing to do, acting like direct messaging doesn’t exist. It’s even worse when you twin it with the ignorant attitude of “Deal with it” when it comes to the abuse he’s received on social media himself. I’ve been dogpiled by people many a time on socials, I wouldn’t wish that horror on anyone. If nothing else, I’d expect a degree of empathy towards someone else going through a disproportionate amount of hate, not accusing the other party of denial and being “weak” over the Internet about it.

And yes, while it’s valid to point out that the majority of Argentine IndyCar fans are good people and don’t deserve to be typecast, it’s also the third time his fanbase has attacked a driver on social media in the last 14 months. This is a man who’s taken zero accountability for the abuse that has been dished out in his name while his team tries to put out the fire in their kitchen. Asking for the same benefit of the doubt you refuse to extend to Pourchaire when you deny his death threats is a bit rich. 

That was the final straw for McLaren who immediately terminated their commercial partnership with Juncos upon the publishing of that statement2. After publicly defending Pourchaire on Twitter, enough was enough. 

The war of words has since continued, with the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer going at it with Martin Ponte, the Argentine broadcaster whose “Callum Pourchaire” tweet was in Agustin Canapino’s Twitter likes after the incident. When Jenna asked for a simple explanation as to what that meant, Ponte accused Fryer of xenophobia, prejudice and inciting violence. Amazing given the driver he’s been so quick to defend, asked for respect and claimed he could handle it on the Interwebs. 

Canapino himself did something his boss Ricardo Juncos did after Laguna Seca last year – Run to his home media and double down on his statement, asking for McLaren and Pourchaire to retract their statements citing “discrimination” against him and the Argentine people, and claimed he was “scared” of being in the no-go zone that was… Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Highly dangerous ends, for sure. 

By Friday, it all got a bit too much for Brad Hollinger, the previously near-silent other owner of Juncos Hollinger Racing. With mere minutes to go before the start of practice, after already publishing pictures of Canapino in the team autograph session, the Argentinian was pulled for the weekend, with Nolan Siegel parking his Indy NXT car early in his practice session so he could run over to the Juncos garage and prepare as a replacement. 

Hollinger’s statement was one of mixed messages, suggesting that Canapino himself was dealing with abuse and that it was a move taken to prioritise his mental health. The same mental health that was conveniently ignored when Brad’s driver wrote his ignorant statement himself. No mention was made of Pourchaire or McLaren and what they’ve had to deal with in the past week. From the initial evidence seen in the past week, it screamed “woe is us”. 

Now, I say this sincerely – I hope Canapino is okay. I openly admit the timing made me cynical and thought Canapino was benched as a PR move. But according to Marshall Pruett last night on Racer.com, his mental health did take a sharp decline right before practice, with his anger becoming more and more evident. Two wrongs do not make a right and if he has been abused similarly to Pourchaire, that too is completely unacceptable and doesn’t solve any of the problems the series has seen in the past week. Driving a 200mph racecar while angry and your mind being elsewhere is not a healthy thing to do.

So while credit is due to the team for doing the right thing and pulling him from the weekend, it puts his future in the series in doubt. With Nolan Siegel, his original plan was four races part-time with Dale Coyne, combined with a full Indy NXT season with HMD Motorsport. That’s now a difficult situation to manage because he had to pull out of the NXT race at Road America to take Canapino’s seat. With that, he’s now 79 points behind Championship leader Jacob Abel, rendering his NXT season somewhat redundant.

With Nolan’s dad being well-funded and little point to him being in NXT anymore, there could be an opportunity for Nolan to push for a full-time ride. Worth noting that at the time of writing, Nolan’s hometown race at Laguna Seca is next weekend.

The saddest thing about this story to me was that this was all so avoidable. Canapino was originally a victim in all this. Barged out of the way from Pourchaire’s honest mistake; the man in the middle of a heated cockpit, as his team boss Ricardo Juncos had another instance that proved he cannot control his emotions from his side of the pit wall. He metaphorically, accidentally, fell on his boss’s grenade with his horrible statement, doubled down on it from the comfort of his country’s media that was always going to back him, and has now been benched by his scrambling team.

All he had to do was shut up, log off Twitter and carry on his business and he’s completely in the clear and Juncos is the one facing the major scrutiny. Instead, he’s become the story he wasn’t even directly involved in. 

Again, after their horrible handling of Callum Illot in 2023, and now this, it proves that Juncos Hollinger Racing is a team that cannot handle themselves in public. It has a team boss who cannot control himself or his messaging to the public. A lead driver whose sincerity for IndyCar in the last two years has now been thrown into severe doubt. And a co-owner who had to step in at the eleventh hour to only add to the drama. This has become one of the biggest stories of an already chaotic IndyCar season. And we’re not even halfway yet.

Please, I beg you IndyCar, show some leadership and control your damn series, because this has been embarrassing for all parties. When Santino Ferrucci can handle his business better than a whole team, something has gone badly wrong. 

Another IndyCar race, another day where I have to call into question the series’ driving standards. Linus Lundqvist had a superb pole position on a drying track, but his competitive race lasted 15 seconds as teammate Marcus Armstrong spun him out at Turn 1. He was rightly given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, but then why didn’t Josef Newgarden get the same treatment for taking Colton Herta out 50 metres behind them? Sure Josef has seen the accident in front of him and needs to check up, right? 

Thankfully this was the only questionable call from the steward’s box as Sting Ray Robb was rightly hit with a seven-place position drop for putting Felix Rosenqvist in the grass and Christian Rasmussen was given a stop-and-go for his horrible hit on Kyffin Simpson putting him in the gravel trap. Still, nasty stuff.

Speaking of nasty stuff, glad Josef was able to even race after that hellacious qualifying shunt at the Kink. He only missed the concrete by a few feet after spinning out at 175mph, causing a 95G impact. His backup tub still being good enough for a second-place finish was a minor miracle. 

One more Newgarden observation – The hand gesture when he passed McLaughlin on track, the awkward hug after the race was over, and then McLaughlin posting himself in a bar to celebrate his birthday with Colton Herta and not him… something happened last season between them didn’t it? Something big. I know Newgarden broke off with his social team and videographer last season, but it feels more than that. Hinch in the commentary box implied it during May, but it seemingly hasn’t made it public yet. Hmmm…

I’ll give the rest of the Juncos team this – Great finish from Grosjean to finish seventh and the team’s best result of the year. The rest of the team that isn’t involved in the drama deserves something nice to take a week off from and that’ll do nicely.

Scott Dixon is human – Turns out he couldn’t handle his Alternate tyres and it completely ruined his race, leading to a 21st-place finish. This three-way title race between him, Alex Palou and Will Power is quickly becoming a game of avoiding the “whammies”. Palou has one from his 16th in Detroit, Will has his terrible 500, and Dixon now has two after his poor Barber round from earlier in the year. 11 points separate the three with Pato O’Ward still nearly an entire round back on -52…

Genuinely delighted that Road America signed another extension to remain on the calendar. It’s the best track the series races at and I wish there was more like it. Keep your ovals.

I’m going to be completely honest with you readers and I risk some backlash for saying it – But I’m not going to be jumping up and down for Jamie Chadwick becoming Indy NXT’s first woman to win since Pippa Mann in 2010. But I’m delighted for what she represents. I hope you can understand why3.

  1. Mentioned it before, but again, S1E5 of “100 Days to Indy” is the best episode of the show and it goes rather deep into the Power family and their struggles at this race. Highly recommended. ↩︎
  2. It is kinda funny that they only really made that deal for Callum Illot, then ended up using and dropping him for Theo Pourchaire anyway. Good ol’ Zak. ↩︎
  3. If you don’t know why I feel this way, scroll to the bottom here. Trans rights are human rights. 🏳️‍⚧️ ↩︎

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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