NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports have revealed intentions to compete in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with a modified NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car as a Garage 56 entry.
It comes nearly half a century after NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. first took stock cars to the French endurance classic.
The initiative, announced Thursday during a joint NASCAR-IMSA press conference at Sebring International Raceway, is a collaboration between NASCAR, Hendrick, 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.
Sportscar365 believes that the car could be outfitted with a hybrid powertrain in advance of NASCAR’s targeted adoption of hybrids in the Cup Series in 2024.
“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 IMSA chairman and NASCAR CEO/chairman Jim 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.”
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 team owner Rick Hendrick
“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.”
Bill France first brought stock cars to Le Mans on June 12, 1976, after reaching a deal with the ACO.
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 was introduced in 2012 as an unclassified single-car category reserved for innovative cars, with Association SRT41 fielding an Oreca 07 Gibson for two disabled drivers last year.
The DeltaWing and Nissan ZEOD RC were the two most notable cars to run as previous Garage 56 entries in the race.
“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 ACO President Pierre Fillon.
“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.”