NASCAR is Set for a 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans Entry

NASCAR is Set for a 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans Entry

by March 18, 2022 0 comments

No event in endurance racing is bigger than the 24 Hours of Le Man in France. One of the three ‘Crown Jewels’ of Motorsports has run since 1923 and has been a marquee event on the calendar ever since. For the events 91st running in 2023, a surprise entrant will run in an exhibition bid, a NASCAR team backed by Chevy, Goodyear, and Hendrick Motorsports. This surprise bid was announced yesterday at Seabring International Raceway with Rick Hendrick and NASCAR President Steve Phelps as the main participants.

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Garage 56

The caveat with this NASCAR entry is that it is not technically in the event, but is participating as the Garage 56 entry. In 2012, this classification was first introduced to Le Mans as a means for manufacturers to try new things. Such examples in the past have been the Nissan Delta Wing in 2012. In addition to the prototype SRT 41 in 2016, which accommodated quadriplegic driver/car owner Frédéric Sausset. While this NASCAR-backed entry won’t reach that level of innovation, the car itself will not be your average Gen 7 car. But what do we know about this endeavor so far?

With a Little Help from some Old Friends

The biggest piece of information we know now is that Chad Knaus, former longtime crew chief of Jimmie Johnson, will be the man leading this operation. Funny enough, Knaus was at Le Mans a year ago. Looking back, that was either sheer coincidence, or this has been in the works for a while. In any case, not many better people Hendrick could have tabbed for this role.

Regarding the car itself, it will be a modified version of the current Gen 7 NASCAR Chevy Camaro ZL1. Beyond that, the more in-depth details will be given out at a later date. Seeing as it is a 24-hour race, (responsibly) bet the farm on there being real lights on the car for sure. It will be interesting to see how far this Le Mans car differs from the real Gen 7 car that is now running in the Cup Series.

Driver Lineup?

Like the in-depth car specs, the driver lineup for this NASCAR entry was also not shown off yesterday. Not much of a surprise given that next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans is over a year out, but worth mentioning. Le Mans typically takes place on the weekend that Sonoma usually is, so unless that changes next year, it would be hard to envision an active cup driver taking part.

The plan appears to be at least to have one active Cup driver run in what would be a three-driver unit. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott feel like the top two options given that this is a Hendrick-led program. Rick Hendrick jokingly said that “we’re gonna get [Jeff] Gordon on a diet and get him in” during the presser, although he would be far from a bad option. Jimmie Johnson would also make logical sense, despite him currently running with Honda in IndyCar. However, Johnson still races for the GM banner, albeit Cadillac on a partial schedule in IMSA. Outside of those four, it will be interesting to see if any Ford or Toytoa Cup drivers end up getting the nod. Gut feeling is probably not but never say never.

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