Agustin Canapino finished last week’s rookie test at Texas Motor Speedway with thoughts shared by so many NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers over the years after experiencing the high-banked oval for the first time.
“This (type of racing) is really crazy, and I think these INDYCAR guys are really crazy,” Canapino said, laughing for several seconds. “But I think this is the point. This is the reason INDYCAR is INDYCAR.”
Canapino, a 33-year-old who is only a couple of months into his tenure with Indianapolis-based Juncos Hollinger Racing, was one of three drivers participating in last week’s test to prepare for the series’ second race of the season, the PPG 375 on Sunday, April 2 (noon ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). The others were Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR and Benjamin Pedersen of AJ Foyt Racing, but the advantage they have over Canapino is oval experience through participation in INDY NXT by Firestone.
Canapino’s background is in road racing in Argentine touring cars, so believe it when he says he had never encountered such an experience. Former series champion Alex Palou had advised Canapino the strenuous G-forces would challenge his body, and they did. Teammate Callum Ilott offered numerous tips on Canapino’s radio throughout the two-day test, and he tried to apply them as best he could given his inexperience.
Still, Canapino had to do the work in the No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, which included convincing himself that he could hold the pedal to the floor and trust that the car would hold to the banking measuring 20 degrees at the south end of the 1.5-mile oval and 24 degrees at the north end.
“The G-forces at those speeds are a very strong feeling, honestly, and nothing is similar to that,” Canapino said. “I never felt anything similar to that.”
Inclement weather cut Thursday’s session short, turning the event into a two-day affair. That turned out to be a benefit, Canapino said.
“For my body, my neck (and) my mind, it was better to relax (overnight) and think and start again,” he said. “The first day, the first outing, was tough – really, really tough – but when I started to understand the aerodynamics, trust the banking, trust the car, then I started to feel OK. Then I could do flat (on the gas pedal) the whole lap, and I started to do it.”
Canapino said he also was fortunate to have time to run laps behind Robb (SEE: Video) to give him a brief feel of the turbulence that will come during the race weekend. However, he knows having 26 other cars on the track will create a different aerodynamic environment.
And the Texas race won’t be anything like his first INDYCAR SERIES event, where he finished 12th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, the March 5 race staged on a 1.8-mile Florida street circuit where the fastest lap was 105.348 mph. The fastest lap in last year’s Texas race was 220.661 mph.
“Yes, yes, I was very happy with the result in St. Pete, but I am always in the same way, very focused on the next one,” Canapino said. “I’m focused on the next test, the next race, the next situation, and the next situation is an oval. I have no idea about that (race) yet.
“But before the test I was really, really nervous, but now I am more comfortable, and I have (developed) respect – a lot of respect – for the oval. For me, the race will be a test race, the same situation as (all races) this year. I want to finish and learn.
“Of course, (I) am in the fastest cars in the world, and (oval racing) is very risky, very difficult, and it’s dangerous. But it’s amazing.”