Viva Colombia: Huertas, Montoya, Munoz contribute to nation’s great sports day (VIDEO)

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Verizon IndyCar Series rookie and Bogota, Colombia native Carlos Munoz is proud of where he’s from. That said, he doesn’t mind being away from home for the time being.

“I think right now we’re really lucky to be here in America, not in Colombia,” he said after finishing third behind fellow Colombians Carlos Huertas and Juan Pablo Montoya in today’s Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. “I think right now Colombia, [it would] be really crazy to go out in the streets and celebrate.”

The Andretti Autosport youngster probably has a point. In addition to the occurrence of the first all-Colombian podium in Indy-car history, the Colombian national soccer team advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals today with a 2-0 win over Uruguay.

Party time in Bogota.

“Obviously the football – as you guys say it, soccer – is huge in Colombia, and I was there last week for every game,” said Huertas, who earned his inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series win today. “And every time the game starts, like the whole country stops. People don’t even work.

“My win is just a little bit [of the celebration]. I hope they’re happy, and the people that watched it back home, my girlfriend, my friends, my family, my mom was sitting there watching it, I hope they’re very happy, because it means a lot to me.”

The all-Colombian podium can also be interpreted as a sign of just how much influence Montoya has had over the years.

In post-race, Montoya recalled looking up to Colombian F1 and IndyCar racer Roberto Guerrero when he was young. And in turn, Huertas and Munoz looked up to Montoya as he left his own mark around the world in CART, F1, and NASCAR.

“When I went up, karting and racing in Colombia was there and a couple people tried it,” said Montoya. “But nobody ever thought you could make a career out of this.”

Munoz was lucky enough to have some contact with Montoya when he was in karting.

“He’s always been an example for me and also for a lot of drivers growing up…It was nice to have when I was small as an example, and right now competing against him at the track, he’s very good,” he said.

Huertas also noted his appreciation for what Montoya’s done. But he stressed that on the track, it’s all business – and no deference to childhood heroes.

“I have huge respect for him, and to beat him shows that I’ve done a good job,” he said. “But my objective is to beat all the drivers, and I treat them all the same. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the same feeling.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”