CONCORD, N.C. – After serving as the crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports’ Garage 56 effort, Greg Ives reflected on the project during a Thursday morning appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s "The Morning Drive."
The No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was the talk of the endurance event and the Garage 56 group was received warmly. Fellow competitors wanted to see the modified Next Gen vehicle up close for themselves before it had even gotten on track.
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"The reception from everybody and anticipation of what the car was capable of started pretty early," Ives told hosts Pete Pistone and Doug Rice. "Throughout the testing, we knew we were able to get speed out of the car.
"The driver lineup with Jenson (Button), Rocky (Mike Rockenfeller) and Jimmie (Johnson) and Jordan (Taylor) as the coach, we knew that they extracted a lot of speed out of the car, gave us very good feedback and went to DIL (driver-in-the-loop) sessions. They did a lot of extra work to make sure that when we made our first lap at Le Mans, we were as close as we could be. It was pretty spectacular to have that sense of feeling of accomplishment and that was coming from our peers and we had made a lap on track yet."
Ives walked through the timeline of his involvement. Early conversations with Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of competition and Garage 56 project leader Chad Knaus set the stage for Ives to join the project. In August 2022, Ives announced he would be stepping down as the crew chief of the No. 48 team after eight seasons atop the pit box in the NASCAR Cup Series as he looked to spend more time with his family.
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Ives fully dove into the Garage 56 project following the season finale at Phoenix Raceway. The Michigan native was heavily involved in the planning and executing of the testing sessions leading into Le Mans and working with the star-studded driver lineup that include a Formula One champion (Button), a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion (Johnson) and a two-time winner at Le Mans (Rockenfeller).
Once the car was on track in France, organizers and fans were amazed at the cars performance. The No. 24 Chevy was consistently running lap times with the top cars in the GTE class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not just in practice but in the main event as well.
"We definitely showed pace," Ives said. "Every time they (GTE class) stepped up the pace in response to what we had, we stepped up as well.
Garage 56 was a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR, Goodyear, IMSA and Chevrolet. The No. 24 was part of a single-entry class for innovation. The Next Gen car that is run in the Cup Series was the basis of the vehicle at Le Mans, with some alterations and adjustments made, such as the addition of headlights and taillights.
The entry finished 39th in the 62-car field at the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car was near the top of the board among the GT class until a drive line issue sidelined the squad for about an hour. The car was able to return to the track and was running at the finish, which was one of the main goals of the team leaders and drivers. All told, the entry completed 285 laps, which at the 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, equaled out to 2,413.095 miles.
"I think the program was a success and the relationships that we built through this project are really something that I am going to look forward to for the rest of my life," Ives said.
"Going over there as the innovative car, I believe we accomplished and checked off what that program was supposed to be about in the eyes of the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Quest) and everybody that’s part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans."