A simple competition brought out some of the worst of humanity on social media.
During Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Callum Ilott left pit road ahead of an early restart in an effort to stay on the lead lap of the third race of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season. The No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet worked on building up pace and tire temperature with the team’s other car, the No. 78 of Agustin Canapino immediately behind.
Canapino led on an alternate strategy and Ilott was trying to keep from going a lap down. Helio Castroneves, who was already one lap down from an earlier spin and pit road work, was immediately behind the Argentinian and looking to pounce to get back on the lead lap.
Castroneves went around Canapino’s outside as the pair approached Turn 6 on Lap 26. The pair had contact that damaged Canapino’s suspension, causing his car to slow down and creating a logjam that eventually involved Pato O’Ward spinning in Turn 8.
Canapino retired from the race following the contact.
CLOSE call for @KKirkwoodRacing during the #AGPLB. 😬 pic.twitter.com/kSGvZeU4iC
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) April 17, 2023
The on-track aftermath of the Canapino-Castroneves collision was some damaged race car components and lost track time. Off-track, however, was an entirely different story.
The 2020 Formula 2 championship runner-up received numerous tweets of varying degrees of disdain from fans, with some death threats thrown in the mix. It may have been a late top-up on fuel, it may have been a safety check for damage, but one of the series’ most promising young drivers had to face a horde of anger from an overly-emotional, terminally-online swarm of people.
Genuinely impressed by the amount of death threats and abuse I’ve received 😂
Definitely a new record by far, really appreciate the effort to help me learn all these new Spanish words 😘
I’m going to the beach now 😎 hasta luego ❤️
— Callum Ilott (@callum_ilott) April 16, 2023
What good did those threats serve? Sports can be one of the most emotional aspects of a person’s life. This writer still remembers all of the frustration after the NOLA No-Call in the NFC Championship Game when the Saints played the Rams and the entire city of New Orleans went all-in on hating referee Bill Vinovich.
Ultimately, nothing would come of it. But let’s face it, social media allows people to take things too far in the moment. Upon hearing of the death threats, IndyCar and several organizations in the paddock released statements condemning the harassment.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) April 18, 2023
We are all in this together 💚 @callum_ilott @AgustinCanapino pic.twitter.com/WbJN9Z6QcL
— Juncos Hollinger Racing (@juncoshollinger) April 18, 2023
🇪🇸 Quiero sumarme al comunicado enviado por @IndyCar y dejar un claro mensaje
🇬🇧 I want to support the @IndyCar statement and take a clear message pic.twitter.com/Lo13s2wBPD
— Agustín Canapino 🇦🇷 (@AgustinCanapino) April 18, 2023
How has it gotten to this point? More and more people are not internally reviewing what they say before broadcasting their feelings to competitors online, ramping up abuse in a time when mental health is supposed to be championed.
This isn’t isolated to IndyCar. Go look at NASCAR Twitter whenever Bubba Wallace is brought up and see the abuse there. Hell, look up F1 Twitter whenever Red Bull are leading Mercedes and a certain segment of the fanbase brings up the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and utter all sorts of things about Michael Masi.
Think of the abuse he’s received because that portion of the F1 fanbase can’t get themselves off of the cross they’ve put themselves on, take the wood, build a bridge with it and get over it. Is that abuse really warranted because of an effort to ensure a green flag finish?
If Michael Masi decides that living is no longer in his best interest, would F1 Twitter celebrate his demise? It’s a question certainly worth asking at this point, as a casual observer might think that those people are out for blood.
Regardless, the unblemished sod outside of those people’s homes might need to see the bottoms of some footwear, because a lot more people need to touch some grass. The sooner, the better.