Nearly half a century after Bill France Sr. first took stock cars to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports have announced their intention to compete in the 2023 event as the special Garage 56 entry. The entry will be a modified version of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car and is a collaboration of NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, IMSA, and Goodyear. Further details, including technical elements of the car and the team’s driver lineup, will be announced at a later date.
“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 Jim France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “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.”
Hendrick Motorsports is the all-time leader in NASCAR Cup Series championships, points-paying victories and laps led. The team is coming off its second consecutive title and has won two of the four races in 2022. Seven-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus will serve as its 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.”
“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.”
“Goodyear has proudly produced tires for NASCAR for more than 60 years, and we look forward to taking our innovation to the next level at the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Stu Grant, Goodyear’s general manager of Global Race Tires. “In addition to Goodyear’s presence at Le Mans on the LMP2 class vehicles, being involved in this historic race as part of the Garage 56 entry is yet another demonstration of our commitment to advancing racing tire technology.”
Bill France first brought stock cars to Le Mans on June 12, 1976, after reaching a deal with the event’s organizers. Two NASCAR race cars – a Dodge Charger owned and driven by Hershel McGriff, and a Junie Donlavey owned Ford Torino driven by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson – competed in a newly-created Grand International class.
“Garage 56 is a special opportunity at Le Mans since this race has been a leader in technological process for the auto industry over its nearly century long existence,” said Pierre Fillon, president of l’Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “When the ACO receives an application for a Garage 56 program, we begin by talking with designers, team partners, and suppliers in order to set performance parameters such that the program can be successful for everyone involved. We will continue to work with NASCAR and all their partners as they work toward their proposed 2023 Garage 56 project.”
Garage 56 was introduced in 2012 as a special single-entry class reserved for innovative cars. It allows for the testing of new technologies and fostering of creativity and innovation without taking away the spot of a car from the traditional starting grid.