Jimmie Johnson, Travis Pastrana reuniting as Team USA at Race of Champions in Sweden

Jimmie Johnson Race Champions
Race of Champions

Jimmie Johnson is returning to the Race of Champions for the first time in 15 years, reuniting with Travis Pastrana in attempting to bring back the trophy he won nearly 20 years ago.

Johnson and Pastrana will represent Team USA in the 2022 Race of Champions event Feb. 4-6 in Pite Havsbad, Sweden. The field also will include rally legend Sebastien Loeb, two-time Formula One champion Mika Hakkinen, F1 winner Valtteri Bottas, WRC champion Petter Solberg and Mattias Ekstrom, a champion in DTM and rally.

Johnson also will be competing for the “Champion of Champions” title in the individual ROC category. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion last competed in ROC with Pastrana in 2007 at Wembley Stadium (the photo above of the duo is from a practice session at that event).

In the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 2002 event, Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and MotoGP rider Colin Edwards won the ROC Nations Cup championship for Team USA in Gran Canaria, Spain — the country’s most recent ROC title.

“Gran Canaria was dirt, and I don’t think the other guys knew how much dirt racing Jeff and I had in our backgrounds,” Johnson said in a release. “I don’t think many expected me to run well or even knew who I was for that matter. To win the ROC Nation’s Cup, was something really unique. The only event where I represented my country. I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in my career, but that’s the only experience I’ve had like that.

Jimmie Johnson, Colin Edwards and Jeff Gordon celebrated after winning the ROC Nations Cup in the Canary Islands in 2002 (Race of Champions).

“I’m really looking forward to returning to ROC and competing with Travis.  He’s a tremendous talent and we have such fun competing together.  Hopefully, we can go have some fun and success on the snow and ice.”

This year’s event will be called the “ROC Snow & Ice World Final” with a sustainability focus that will feature electric cars and others powered by biofuels. It will be held on the fastest and widest course in the 30-year history of the ROC.

Pastrana, the 2021 American Rally Association champion, has been starring in his new Nitro Rallycross Series (which is broadcast on Peacock).

“This is exactly what I had been hoping for,” Pastrana said in a release. “Jimmie and I has some bad luck at the 2006 and 2007 Nations Cup, but I think this type of track will be perfect for us.”

Johnson will be competing in the ROC shortly before beginning his second season in the NTT IndyCar Series (which is expected to include the Indy 500). He recently concluded his 2021 season by racing last Saturday in the IMSA Petit Le Mans season finale.

In a video announcing his return to the ROC, Johnson said the event will mark his first trip to Sweden. The race will take place about 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, which Johnson said “will be an entirely new experience for me.

“To race on the snow and ice in Sweden will be such an interesting twist for me,” he said. “On top of that, it’s a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and all of my dirt background and sliding around was with a two-wheel-drive vehicle. So a lot to learn and certainly looking forward to this challenge.”

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change