INDIANAPOLIS — Agustin Canapino had a tall task at hand when entering his rookie season in the NTT INDYCAR Series. Not only is this his first year in the series, this is also his first time in the United States as well. He doesn’t know these cars, these tracks or even these other drivers.
This is all new to him.
“I mean, Agustin is in a very tough position,” his teammate Callum Ilott admitted. “It’s not easy being a rookie, and it’s definitely not easy being a rookie without single seater experience. It’s a tough one because of the position that he’s in.”
Another difficult part of his learning curve is the fact that the 32-year-old has barely even been out of the country of Argentina before.
“Yes, I left, but only for a few days, but it my first time living outside my country,” he says. “I did my career in South America and speak Spanish, only a little bit of Portuguese. When I did stock car in Brazil I did two races, but otherwise Spanish.”
Because of that, Canapino barely knows English. He said he’s happy to be here but apologized for his lack of knowing our language. We all thought he was joking because he sounded great. If he didn’t say that fact, we’d have never known.
As far as when he even started this journey of learning the English language?
Around last Thanksgiving, the only word he knew was, “hello.” That’s it. Now, in a few days, the Argentinian will take part in the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Canapino became the first Argentine driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 since Raul Riganti in 1940 when he qualified his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet in 27th on the Outside of Row 9.
Canapino has a teacher helping him learn the English language. The teacher is from Argentina. He does 2-3 classes a week. The classes range from an hour to an hour-in-a-half, but he says that he focuses a lot to at least try to learn to speak, to communicate, and of course when he can speak to his engineers.
As far as why make this trek this at his age now, he says it was simple.
“Because it’s INDYCAR,” he said.” INDYCAR is in my opinion the most demanding and competitive category in the world. For me it’s a big opportunity to try something outside, something in international level. We are here with Grosjean, with Dixon, with Power, of course Callum, one of the best drivers in the world, so for me it’s a big opportunity.
“Of course we are in trouble because I don’t know the cars, the tracks, the ovals, but I love the challenge. I love the situation. So I know it’s very difficult to me, but I have confidence. Of course I need time. I need time. I need to learn day by day, test by test. That’s it.”
He’s done a great job in the brief opportunities that he’s been given already. On Sunday, he’s wear the colors of his native country on his uniform and hop into the his race car that dons the colors of his flag as well.
Argentina just won the World Cup and Canapino is hoping to shock the world this Sunday.