CONCORD, N.C. – The Garage 56 program hit a major milestone coming off of last week’s test at Sebring International Raceway.
The team completed a durability test at the 17-turn road course in Florida. All told, the car was on track for 23 hours, completing 633 laps and 2,367 miles. That’s a significant tune up ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 10-11, 2023.
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"It went pretty well," Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition Chad Knaus, who is overseeing the Garage 56 project, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last week. "We had a little bit of down time from a small rubber fire, so we had some damage that we had to fix from that. That took a couple of hours. We had some starter issues, so we were working through some of that through a few couple periods throughout the night. We did a brake change and a couple of other small things. We had in totality 23 hours of on-track running time, which I think was pretty amazing."
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The seven-time championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series crew chief noted that any hiccups or gremlins discovered in testing have been beneficial in the development process. Those discoveries have impacted work as the Le Mans event draws closer especially as the second car is being prepared.
"You want to know what’s going to fail before you get there," Knaus said. "We’ve learned a lot and we are applying those things to car No. 2 right now. We’re going to keep doing that. We’ve got two more tests at a minimum – one at COTA (Circuit of The Americas) and another shakedown test at Sebring before we load up. We’ve got to keep working on it. Keep working on the details. That’s what we do a really good job of and we will hopefully be in a good spot."
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This Sebring test saw each of the drivers – Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller and backup driver/coach Jordan Taylor – log seat time. This session marked the second test since the star-studded driver lineup was announced on Jan. 28. Last month, team owner Rick Hendrick described the roster as one he “didn’t dream we would have.”
While the endurance and durability aspects served as the primary focus of this test, the pit crew personnel got reps through the session adding fuel and changing tires. Work also continued on testing different Goodyear tire options.
The car - a modified version of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car – was formally unveiled at Daytona International Speedway the Friday before the 2023 DAYTONA 500. Knaus explained just how close it is to the car seen on track each weekend in the Cup Series.
"If you raised the hood and looked at the chassis and the suspension components, you’d be like, this is a proper Cup car," Knaus said. "It has a lot of electrical enhancements when you look into the driver’s compartment – steering wheel, paddle shift, different ECU and PBX. There’s wires going all over the place and all that kind of cool stuff. A lot of data gathering widgets and trinkets and things of that nature, but the chassis is virtually identical from an appearance standpoint. The suspension is virtually identical. We are using the same wishbones, the same prop shaft, same half shaft, same transaxle, so there’s a lot of things that are very much like we have in the Cup Series."
Sebring is best known for hosting the 12 Hours of Sebring, which is a 12-hour endurance race and a staple of the IMSA schedule. Elements of the track profile made it a great place to test as the Garage 56 entry gets further in its development.
Last March at Sebring, Hendrick Motorsports announced, in collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear, its intention to compete in the 2023 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the Garage 56 entry. The entry received its official invite for the event this week and will sport the No. 24 – a nod to a storied car number in the history of both Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR. Garage 56 was introduced in 2012 as a special single-entry class for innovative cars. It allows for creativity without taking away a spot in the traditional starting grid.
"It is definitely a journey but with all the help of all the partners that we have from GM, NASCAR, Goodyear and everything that Rick (Hendrick) has put into this thing, it is a great piece of beauty," Knaus said. "Super proud of it and excited to get it to Le Mans and see how it performs. We can test all day long and all night. Keep working on the bits and pieces, but the proof is when we unload over there."
The Garage 56 group will next be on track for a test next month at Circuit of The Americas. This will mark the first test for the 002 version of the Garage 56 car.