NASCAR today announced a prestigious driver lineup to pilot its Garage 56 entry in the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 100th anniversary of the legendary race.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, and 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button will share the driver’s seat of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which is anticipated to be approved for entry by l’Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) in the coming weeks.
The Garage 56 project is a partnership between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – the winningest team, 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.”
France was honored last year with the 2022 Spirit of Le Mans Award in recognition of his longtime impact in motorsports and his work securing a historic convergence agreement between IMSA and the ACO. The first chicane at Le Mans’ Mulsanne Straight is now called the “Daytona Chicane” and the chicane at Daytona International Speedway – once referred to as “The Bus Stop” – is now called the “Le Mans Chicane.”
Johnson won a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series championships and 83 races for Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet in his illustrious career. He recently became part owner of NASCAR Cup Series team LEGACY MOTOR CLUB and will race in next month’s Daytona 500. Johnson helped test the Garage 56 car at Sebring in December.
“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, whose sports car accolades include winning the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans GT Class, the 2010 ROLEX 24 at Daytona and the 2013 German DTM championship, has served as the lead test driver for the Garage 56 project. He has driven the car at every on-track test and spent countless hours behind the wheel in the simulator.
“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 had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.
“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 participate in next week’s two-day test at Daytona International Speedway.
Jordan Taylor, who currently competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Corvette Racing, will serve as the backup driver and help coach the drivers. 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.