On Saturday, NASCAR made the official announcement surrounding the driver lineup for the sanctioning body’s Garage 56 entry, which will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans later this year.
Jimmie Johnson, Jenson Button, and Mike Rockenfeller will make up the three-driver roster, which will pilot the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which is likely to be approved for entry by l’Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) in the coming weeks.
The Garage 56 project – originally announced in March 2022 – is a partnership between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, and Goodyear – the winningest organization, manufacturer, and tire in the sport’s 75-year history.
“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” said Jim France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”
Johnson, who throughout his career with Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet collected 83 victories and a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, helped test the Garage 56 entry at Sebring in December.
The 47-year-old recently gained a partial ownership stake in LEGACY MOTOR CLUB – formerly known as Petty GMS – and will compete in select NASCAR Cup Series events this season, including the Daytona 500. The experience of the El Cajon, California-native also includes a pair of seasons in the NTT IndyCar Series, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”
Rockenfeller, winner of the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans GT Class, 2010 ROLEX 24 at Daytona, and 2013 German DTM Championship, has served as the leading test driver for the Garage 56 entry.
The 39-year-old has served as the lead test driver for the Garage 56 entry, driving the car at every on-track test, and spending countless hours behind the wheel in the simulator. Rockenfeller also competed in a pair of NASCAR Cup Series events for Spire Motorsports at Watkins Glen, and Charlotte’s ROVAL, with a best finish of 29th.
“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”
Button, who retired from full-time Formula 1 competition after 2016, is widely considered to be one the best British drivers of all time, finishing his F1 career with 15 wins, and 50 podiums, in addition to his 2009 World Championship.
“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”
All three drivers will compete in the two-day test session next week at Daytona International Speedway, in preparation for the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Jordan Taylor, who currently competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Corvette Racing, will serve as the backup driver and driver coach for the Garage 56 effort. Taylor won the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Class and has finished on the podium four times. He is a four-time IMSA champion.