NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports running a Camaro at the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans just may be a distinct possibility. The Hendrick Motorsports-built Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 test car recently made its debut at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), and the likelihood of a loud, V8-powered stock car running the 8.5-mile mile course in France next summer is starting to become a reality. The Garage 56 project is a collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA, Goodyear and Hendrick Motorsports.
The Garage 56 slot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a single-entry for cars that promote technological innovation without taking a spot from any vehicles in the starting grid. It’s been 46 years since NASCAR ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but neither entry finished the 1976 race.
Sports car driver Mike Rockenfeller drove the concept car at the two-day test at VIR. Rockenfeller has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win under his belt, 2010, and has driven a pair of NASCAR races on road courses. The two-day test at VIR was the second time the project had track time, with the initial test taking place in August at Road Atlanta in a concept car developed by Action Express Racing. Rockenfeller was also the test driver at Road Atlanta.
“Every car is different,” Rockenfeller says. “I think it helps to have this experience and to know what you want to develop because I think that’s why we are here. We have some freedom on this program, and we have certain goals. Obviously, there are different ways in achieving that. We know that we need to find performance. We know that we need to make the Cup car faster.”
Like many new endeavors, the Garage 56 project has gremlins to fix, and the entry has not received an official invitation to partake in the endurance race.
“No, it’s definitely an infant,” says Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition, in a NASCAR.com post. “So we’re still trying to get it to go and honestly, the way it ran today, I’m actually pleased with the performance of the car. We’ve just got to start to work out some of the bugs.”