CONCORD, N.C. – Hendrick Motorsports had a significant year outside of its NASCAR Cup Series teams. The organization took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the Garage 56 entry for the 100th running of the race and fielded its NASCAR Xfinity Series entry in six races.
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Announced in March 2022, the Garage 56 entry was a collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, Goodyear and IMSA. The Garage 56 entry was a single-entry class of competition for innovative cars – there was no other car in the class. Garage 56 was introduced in 2012 and allows for creativity without taking away a spot in the traditional starting grid. 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 Cup Series. However, this car had headlights and taillights for nighttime racing, a larger fuel cell, carbon brake discs and Goodyear Eagle race tires that had been specially designed for the event.
Seven-time Cup Series champion for Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johnson, 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button and two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans Mike Rockenfeller drove the car in the endurance event. Four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor served as the team’s backup driver and coach. Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus oversaw the project with Greg Ives serving as the crew chief for the modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Over 15 months of work and testing culminated with the group’s participation in the international event.
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The car was the sight of wonderment for competitors and fans alike in France. For more than 20 hours, the entry ran near the top of the GT field before a drive line issue sidelined the group for an hour. Overall, the car finished 39th in the 62-car field and completed 285 laps around the 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. That equals out to approximately 2,413.095 miles -- roughly four Coca-Cola 600s (NASCAR's longest race on the schedule). Following Le Mans, the car was taken to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July and turned laps at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in October.
At Le Mans, the team’s pit crew won the Pit Stop Challenge by besting the 16 teams in its class and placed fifth in the overall competition. Performing a NASCAR-style pit stop in 10.364 seconds, The crew consisting of Dawson Backus (front-tire changer), Cody French (front-tire carrier), Jarius Morehead (rear-tire carrier), Mike Moss (rear-tire changer) and Donovan Williams (jackman) performed a NASCAR-style pit stop in 10.364 seconds. There was no fueler for the event as the fuel comes from an overhead tank. The Garage 56 crew was the only one to have a jackman as opposed to the in-car jack system that the other Le Mans entries carry.
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Laps completed: 285
Total miles: 2,413.095 (approximately)
Finishing position: 39th
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Team owner Rick Hendrick on Garage 56 completing the 24 Hours of Le Mans:
"This is something that you dream about. When we first started talking about it, I had no idea we were going to do it. It’s such a massive undertaking to build a purpose car for this race. When I look around at the drivers we were able to bring and the crew, I’ve been so proud of everybody and what they’ve been able to accomplish. When (NASCAR Chairman and CEO) Jim (France) and I talked, it was about finishing this race. We’ve shown a lot of speed. The pit crew team won. We are so proud of the effort and it's been a big effort."
Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus on participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans:
"I feel like we had already captured the trophy right when they dropped the green flag. The thing I’m most proud of is that this wasn’t anybody but a few people’s full-time job. Everybody accepted this task as a passion project and something that they wanted to participate in. And when you get people like that put together, you can do anything."
The team’s No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro Xfinity Series entry made six starts on the year, competing at Circuit of The Americas, Sonoma Raceway, Pocono Raceway, Watkins Glen International, Darlington Raceway and Phoenix Raceway. Each of the four Cup Series regulars – Alex Bowman, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – made one start with Larson getting behind the wheel twice. Rajah Caruth also made a start for the team. Greg Ives was the crew chief for five of the races with Kevin Meendering calling the shots at Sonoma (while Garage 56 was taking place).
Byron’s finish of second at COTA was the team’s best result of the partial slate, with Larson (at Sonoma) and Elliott (at Pocono) each earning third-place finishes. The Xfinity entry provided the drivers with additional seat time on tracks where they were looking to get more laps to be stronger on Sunday.
The No. 17 car number carries a rich history and special significance to the organization and team owner Rick Hendrick would very much like to see it back in victory lane. His late son Ricky Hendrick drove the car in various races, including in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series in 2000 and 2001. This year’s HendrickCars.com paint scheme was again based on the No. 17 truck driven by Hendrick during his 2001 rookie season. NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip drove the car number to nine Cup Series wins for the team from 1987 to 1990, including in the 1989 DAYTONA 500.
Top fives: 3
Top 10s: 4
Laps led: 68
Average finish: 11.5
Hendrick Motorsports is involved in another all-star collaboration. The organization is partnering with IndyCar’s Arrow McLaren as Kyle Larson attempts to run the Indianapolis 500. In October, Larson completed his Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, logging laps for the first time on track in an IndyCar. Larson’s double is being dubbed the #Hendrick1100 as he will aim to complete the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. HendrickCars.com is sponsoring both efforts. This is Hendrick’s first foray into IndyCar.
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The team’s 2024 Xfinity Series plans are unknown. Since 2022, the organization has fielded the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevy in 10 races with an emphasis on getting its Cup Series drivers additional seat time at tracks where they wish to get more on-track time.