Juncos unhappy with Ilott, feels “bitter” about him ignoring strategy to help Canapino

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Co-Author: Daniel Mora

Sunday’s IndyCar race at Laguna Seca to close out the 2023 season was ruined by poor racing standards from a lot of drivers. Crashes and spins were the order of the day. It led to a whopping eight cautions on the day.

However, the biggest story to come out of the race once again is the unacceptable online abuse Callum Ilott has received following contact with his Juncos Hollinger Racing teammate Agustin Canapino during it.

The British driver already faced a barrage of it following Long Beach, but it has been arguably even worse this time.

With 22 laps to go, Ilott and Canapino battled for P4 in the race. At turn 1, the British driver broke later than his teammate and tried to sweep around the outside.

Although he left the required space, Canapino slightly lost the rear of his car, touched the back of the 77 and damaged his front wing. He ultimately limped to a P14 finish, with Ilott 5th.

Heading into Sunday’s race, Canapino was in 24th place in regards to the Leaders Circle after a costly mistake at Portland. Should a driver finish inside the top 22, $910,000 is guaranteed in prize money.

The Argentinan driver was 21st at the end of Sunday after jumping Devlin DeFrancesco, Tom Blomqvist and Juri Vips.

Speaking to Carburando following the race, JHR team boss and owner Ricardo Juncos didn’t hide his disappointment with Ilott.

“Happy on one side, bitter on the other because we had a strategy, we had talked a lot, especially with Callum, as he was already in [the top 22] and we needed the money for the team, we did it last year for him.

“We lost leaving Agustin free so we didn’t harm anything and they ended up crashing into each other.”

Juncos confirmed that they had spoken to Ilott’s engineer about sticking to the plan ahead of the restart where Canapino and Ilott touched.

Intriguingly, as reported by respected IndyCar journalist Marshall Preutt, Yves Touron — who is normally Callum Ilott’s engineer — was working on car 78 at the final rounds as they look to secure Canapino’s spot in the Leaders Circle.

“I spoke with him [Ilott] so he knows what’s the team’s objective. Before the restart, I spoke with his engineer to remind him of everything we talked about. He said that he had told the driver.

“We could’ve had 2 cars fighting in the top 5. Agustin deserved to finish the way it could have been.”

Juncos confirmed he wouldn’t talk immediately afterwards to Ilott about what happened on the track.

“I won’t talk to him because I know myself, I’m going to let things calm down, I’m going to watch the replays and I’m going to take my time to analyse everything. It’s not a certain action, it’s a whole season which we need to analyse.”

As for 2024, things could well be up in the air as to who drives for Juncos Hollinger Racing next year following Sunday’s tension.

“I still have the drivers’ contracts until December 15th, so I’ve got some time to make the best decision,” Juncos concluded.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment