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Johnson, Rockenfeller, Button to Drive for NASCAR Garage 56

NASCAR Garage 56 project announces driver lineup for 24H Le Mans innovative entry…

Photo: John Dagys

Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller and Jenson Button have been named as the drivers of the Hendrick Motorsports-run NASCAR Garage 56 project that is aiming to enter this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The all-star trio will, subject to entry invitation, share a modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the centennial edition of French endurance classic on June 10-11.

Their NASCAR machine is set to appear on the grid alongside Hypercar, LMP2 and GTE sports cars but will race separately from the main competitive classes as an ‘innovative’ entry.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson is set for his Le Mans debut, accompanied by two drivers who have competed in the race before. Corvette Racing factory driver Jordan Taylor will be on reserve duties.

Rockenfeller won Le Mans overall in 2010 with Audi, while 2009 Formula 1 world champion Button joined SMP Racing for its 2018 entry in the LMP1 class.

Button is the surprise addition to the roster, having never previously raced a NASCAR in its usual environment, let alone around the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” he 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.”

Johnson and Rockenfeller, meanwhile, have been deeply involved in Hendrick’s Garage 56 development program which included a test at Sebring International Raceway last month.

The modified Camaro has been run at several U.S. circuits including Sebring, Virginia International Raceway, Carolina Motorsports Park and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, where it turned its first laps last August.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” said Johnson.

“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 added: “It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project.

“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.”

The NASCAR Garage 56 project was announced at last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as a collaboration between Hendrick, NASCAR, IMSA and Goodyear.

Technical details of the car have not yet been confirmed.

“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,” commented 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.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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