Herta and Johnson lead Team USA to surprise 2nd in Sweden
The father-son tandem of Petter and Oliver Solberg beat the surprisingly competitive American team of Colton Herta and Jimmie Johnson on the frozen Baltic Sea for win the Nations Cup Race of Champions (ROC).
The Norwegian team was led on Saturday by Petter Solberg, 47, the 2003 world rally champion and two-time world rallycross champion. His son, Oliver, is a 20-year-old rally driver. The knockout event took place on the snowy and icy course of Pite Havsbad, Sweden, 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
Herta came on as a last-minute replacement for Travis Pastrana, who broke his back and hip in a BASE jumping accident late last month. The 21-year-old IndyCar star replaced Pastrana and left for Sweden after leading his team to a class victory last Sunday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion heading into a full IndyCar season this month, returned to the ROC for the second time. He represented the United States alongside Jeff Gordon in their 2002 upset victory in Spain.
“Who would have thought that two Californians would be here on snow and ice and finish second in the Race of Champions Nations Cu” Johnson said in a video on social media. “Great day for both of us. I think we kind of surprised each other. Then I really think we had a chance to reach the final.
“I had a car breakdown and a mechanic which robbed me of a first lap opportunity. I came back and won in the Porsche. Colton was right there on the pace and just caught up The Solberg family. Just a super fun day. We exceeded expectations and can’t wait to have fun tonight.
Johnson was scheduled to compete for the “Champion of Champions” title in the individual ROC category on Sunday.
Johnson and Herta qualified for the semi-finals on Saturday by beating the German team four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher.
Then they knocked out Team Finland, with Herta beating two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen to take Team USA to the final. Herta also faced four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the first round.
The Race of Champions “Snow + Ice” global event pits drivers against each other in a variety of vehicles that focus on electric power.
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