CONCORD, N.C. – The old colonial saying "one, if by land, two, if by sea" could have applied to the task of getting all of Hendrick Motorsports’ Garage 56 equipment, cars, parts and pieces overseas. The cars have been loaded up, shipped by air freight and arrived in France. Other items like toolboxes and various parts and pieces arrived earlier this month via sea freight. 

Chad Knaus, the vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, is overseeing the project. He has been quite pleased with how the Garage 56 group has figured things out, sometimes on the fly, and gotten everything prepared to take part in the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

"The biggest learning is how proud I am that Hendrick Motorsports can adapt as quickly as they can to a different product," Knaus said. "This car showing up with no instruction manual and some parts just showing up not knowing what they were. Our group of guys and gals knowing how to put this thing together in a proper manner to where it can go out there and perform and do what it needs to do. I know that we’ve got great people but this has just been another testament to that."

In March 2022 at Sebring International Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports, in collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear, announced their intention to compete in the 2023 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the Garage 56 entry. The team received its official invite for the event in February 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.

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Jessica Hook, a design engineer at Hendrick Motorsports, has filled the role of chief-of-staff for the team thanks to her sports-car background. She is excited to blend her two worlds of racing.

"It has been a great opportunity to meet new people and experience a new program," Hook said. "I’ve done Le Mans and sports car racing and NASCAR, but never both of them at the same time. It’s just been a really huge learning experience."

For Garage 56 program manager Ben Wright, the ability to be a part of such a historic event like Le Mans is a dream come true. 

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to go and compete in a car at Le Mans,” Wright said. It is a pretty massive deal.

"… Anytime you build a new car, there’s so much that has to happen. It has been a challenge but also extremely rewarding."

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The car, a modified version of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car, was formally unveiled at Daytona International Speedway in February. The systems and components of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 are mostly unchanged from the car that runs in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, this car will have headlights and taillights for nighttime racing, a larger fuel cell, carbon brake discs and Goodyear Eagle race tires that have been specially designed.

"It is going to be amazing," Hook said of seeing the Garage 56 car go around Le Mans. "I’ve been there several times and I have never seen a car like ours there. I think everyone is going to love it and once the engine turns on, everyone is going to think it is the coolest thing. It’s going to be really great to see those worlds collide." 

Prior to Le Mans, the driver lineup of Formula One champion Jenson Button, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller as well as backup driver/coach Jordan Taylor (a four-time IMSA champion) tested together on four occasions. The sessions took place at Daytona in JanuarySebring in February and April as well as Circuit of The Americas in March. The four drivers swapped in and out of the car, working on various adjustments, including aero and chassis developments, to prepare for the endurance race. The program’s cars in total have logged 6,834 miles in preparation for Le Mans with the bulk of that occurring by the backup car. 

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"It’s been great," crew chief Greg Ives said of working with the four drivers. "Jimmie (Johnson) and myself have a relationship going back to 2006, so just a familiar face to be able to be comfortable around. I have a lot of confidence in him and I feel the same of him with me. Jenson (Benson), Jordan (Taylor) and Mike (Rockenfeller) they are all fun group of guys. 

"Jordan has a lot of knowledge in the sports car world that he can bring to the table, even if he is not going to be driving in Le Mans. Rocky is tenacious and always looking to be the fastest guy on the track. You want that guy to be able to push the limits. Jenson, just being the champion he is, brings a great attitude. As much as he is accomplished, it feels like he is one of the guys. He’s able to have those conversations and be in the group setting with just common folk like us that love racing. All in all, couldn’t ask for a better group of four drivers to represent us and to help us get to Le Mans and have a lot of success."

While the 24 Hours of Le Mans is still a week and a half away (June 10-11), the intensity picks up this week. The cars go through a process called scrutineering, which is basically the pre-event technical checks, on Friday morning. The car will hit the track at the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe for practice on Sunday, June 4.  

"At a track as difficult and challenging as that is for eight-and-a-quarter miles, to run that for 24 hours and see Hendrick Motorsports all over that race car and our Hendrick Motorsports teammates over there representing NASCAR, that means the world to me," Knaus said.

Tune in to watch the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 10, on MotorTrend TV/MotorTrend+.