Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, longtime sports car star Mike Rockenfeller and former Formula 1 champion Jenson Button will make up the highly anticipated group of drivers for this year’s NASCAR Garage Project 56 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The announcement was made Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway in the hours leading up to the 61st Annual Rolex 24 in the Daytona IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
Project Garage 56 is a joint effort between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Grand Endurance Racing this June 10-11.
“Since the beginning of Project Garage 56, our goal has been to partner with the best racers in the world to represent us at Le Mans,” said Jim France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. The line-up of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jensen is everything we could dream of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsport around the world.
“As we celebrate NASCAR’s 75th anniversary, we are honored to have these world class champions help bring the sights and sounds of NASCAR race cars to fans at Le Mans and around the world.”
Johnson, 47, is a seven-time champion and 83-time race winner in the NASCAR Cup Series and is now a co-owner (and part-time driver) of the LEGACY MOTOR CLUB in the NASCAR Cup Series. It will be his Le Mans debut, though he has competed in 16 sports car races over the past two decades in the IMSA ranks with a podium finish in the Rolex 24 in 2021 and a runner-up at Motul Petit Le Mans last November.
When Rick [Hendrick] I called, I couldn’t resist the opportunity,” Johnson said. “It was my big dream to go to Le Mans and experience what it is all about and have the experience that I had here. I know how special this event is.” [Rolex 24] He and I are sad that I’m not there today. To know I’m going to Le Mans with this amazing group of drivers, this great team, the collaboration between GM and NASCAR, everyone involved, it’s really a special, special opportunity. ”
Rockenfeller, 39, is not only the true sports car veteran of the group, but the German driver is a former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner overall (2010) and in the GT class (2005). He’s also a previous Rolex 24 in Daytona (2010) and was the lead test driver for this Garage 56 project.
“It’s just such an amazing group of partners on this project and being involved from day one is a great honor and a lot of fun,” said Rockenfeller. “I can’t wait to share the car with these two guys.”
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Button, 43, won the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship and has 15 career victories in Formula 1. After attending a practice session to watch Johnson and Rockenfeller in the car in Sebring, Florida – just as a spectator – he said the idea was floated for him to be a third driver only in December. 2022. He has previously raced against Rockenfeller and is an old friend of Johnson’s. He raced at Le Mans in 2018 and is not only excited but optimistic about this next opportunity.
“I’m done with F1 and I’m looking for new challenges and this is definitely an exciting challenge and working alongside these two you can see there’s some really good banter,” said Button. Advertising.
“I think it shows the teamwork we’ll need to go to Le Mans and do what we want to do. Very excited to be working with this all-star team.
Jordan Taylor, a four-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and current Chevrolet Corvette factory driver, will serve as a backup driver and join Rockenfeller for the program’s testing program that will continue next week at Daytona International Speedway.
There is actually a fairly solid testing schedule before the Garage 56 goes overseas to compete, said Chad Knauss, vice president of competition for Hendrick Motorsports and Johnson’s former championship crew chief. After testing the car at Daytona next week, it will run several endurance tests, including one at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in late February. The idea, Knauss emphasized, is to be competitive.
Judging from the smiles and positive reception to the news in Daytona on Saturday morning, there is a lot of interest in Garage 56. A lot of expectations and a lot of hope.
“I would suggest that if there is such a thing as an all-star team in motorsports, this project is the absolute poster child for that,” said IMSA President John Doonan.
“It first started seeing Jim France and then it started about a year ago in a conversation with Rick Hendrick. And the organization, it’s unbelievable that Chad Knauss and Greg Ives would be involved in this. And you couple that with what Chad and Jimmy have accomplished over 15 seasons, seven championships won with 83 twice here on this stage in 06 and 2013, which is unbelievable.
“And then you go to Mike Rockenfeller, a Le Mans winner with incredible endurance sports car experience and a Formula One World Champion, it’s exactly what the vision was to put NASCAR on the world stage and bring in drivers from many different disciplines.”
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