On Thursday, NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports made an interesting announcement. A collaboration between the team, sanctioning body, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear will put a modified NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the field for the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans event.
According to the announcement, the entry will be the special “Garage 56 entry”. Garage 56, introduced in 2012, is a special single-entry class, which is reserved for innovative cars.
For Jim France, NASCAR’s Chairman and CEO, it connects his current role with NASCAR to a love of international racing with his father — NASCAR Founder Bill France Sr.
“From the early days of NASCAR, it was important to my father that we played a visible role in international motorsports, and there is no bigger stage than the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said France. “In partnering with Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, we have the winningest team, manufacturer and tire in NASCAR history. We look forward to showcasing the technology in the Next Gen car and putting forward a competitive entry in the historic race.”
Bill France Sr. struck a deal to bring NASCAR stock cars to the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in 1976. In that edition of the endurance race, a Dodge Charger owned and driven by Hershel McGriff and a Ford Torino owned by Junie Donlavey and driven by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson, competed in the Grand International Class.
Rick Hendrick, a 14-time NASCAR Cup Series championship car owner, sees Le Mans as a new challenge, one that his team is prepared to tackle as Seven-Time NASCAR Cup Series champion Chad Knaus will serve as the Garage 56 program manager.
“Participating in one of the truly iconic events in auto racing and representing NASCAR and Chevrolet on the world stage is a privilege,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Jim deserves tremendous credit for having the vision for the project, and we thank him for trusting our organization with the responsibility. Even though Garage 56 is a ‘class of one,’ we are competitors and have every intention of putting a bold product on the racetrack for the fans at Le Mans. It’s a humbling opportunity – one that will present an exciting challenge over the next 15 months – but our team is ready.”
There could be no more important piece of the Le Mans puzzle for the program than their manufacturer Chevrolet, who boast eight class wins since the turn of the century. Chevrolet is proud to help HMS and NASCAR move forward with their Garage 56 in the 2023 24-Hours of Le Mans.
“NASCAR is going back to Le Mans! Chevrolet is looking forward to being a key partner with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports and Goodyear in this historic Garage 56 effort,” said Jim Campbell, Vice President, Chevrolet Performance and Motorsports. “While many know us as the winningest manufacturer in NASCAR, we also have had great success with our Corvette Racing program at Le Mans, with eight class wins in 21 starts since 2000. At Chevrolet, we love to compete and we can’t wait to get started on this program.”
The development of the 2023 Hendrick Motorsports / NASCAR 24 Hours of Le Mans entry will be a fun story to keep an eye on as the program closes in on hitting the race track in the iconic event.