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.
“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.”
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) November 17, 2021
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.”