Colton Herta, Jimmie Johnson reach Race of Champions individual quarterfinals

Johnson Herta Race Champions
Race of Champions

Jimmie Johnson and Colton Herta remained successful in Sweden as the American stars reached the individual quarterfinals Sunday in the Race of Champions Snow and Ice after finishing second in Saturday’s Nations Cup.

Herta fell to four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel, and Johnson was defeated by nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen.

Vettel reached the final where champion rally legend Sebastien Loeb captured this year’s Race of Champions title. It’s the record-tying fourth Race of Champions title for the Frenchman, who beat Mattias Ekstrom to advance to the final.

The event was held on a snow- and ice-covered course in Pite Havsbad, Sweden, 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle. But Johnson and Herta, who both grew up in Southern California a generation apart, quickly acclimated to the frigid conditions. With hardly any practice because of a snowstorm, they reached the final Saturday and lost to Petter and Oliver Solberg.

“The Race Of Champions is such a special event because you switch between different cars, so no one is very comfortable,” Johnson said, according to the ROC website. “You have to forget the experience and try to tackle what’s in front of you. On the start line I tried not to think about who I was racing, I just tried to stay within my means, be smart and drive the car.”

While Johnson had competed in the ROC before (winning the event in 2002), Herta was making his debut in place of injured Travis Pastrana. Johnson said Pastrana had called just before Saturday’s event to offer moral support.

Herta said the team celebrated as if they had won after winning in the first round Saturday. “Certainly nobody could have thought we’d make it to the final, but we had a plan, we stuck to it and here we are,” Hera said on the ROC site. “Our approach was just ‘Send it and see what happens.’ ”

Johnson defeated two-time champion Mika Hakkinen by 3 seconds Sunday in the individual Round of 16.

Herta advanced to the Round of 16 by eliminating fellow NTT IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves, whom he also had faced during the team competition Saturday.

Castroneves amusingly was waging a struggle with the wintry weather a week after the four-time Indy 500 winner had won his second Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“Very cold,” the Brazilian exclaimed in an ROC social video. “Oh my God, this is ridiculous. I’m dying here!’

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III