NASCAR is planning a return to Le Mans in 2023.
In a collaborative effort between IMSA, NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, a modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be entered in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. It will be a Garage 56 entry, which is reserved for highlighting innovation and technology that exists outside of the WEC regulations. The entry will not take a spot from a car on the traditional starting grid.
Bill France Sr. first took a stock car to the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 12, 1976. Hershel McGriff owned and drove a Dodge Charger while Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson drove a Ford Torino owned by Junie Donlavey.
“From the early days of NASCAR, it was important to my father that we played a visible role in international motorsports, and there is no bigger stage than the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Jim France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “In partnering with Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, we have the winningest team, manufacturer and tire in NASCAR history. We look forward to showcasing the technology in the Next Gen car and putting forward a competitive entry in the historic race.”
NASCAR executives announced their intentions alongside IMSA on Thursday at Sebring International Raceway, where IMSA competes this weekend with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours.
“Garage 56 is a special opportunity at Le Mans since this race has been a leader in technological process for the auto industry over its nearly century long existence,” said Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “When the ACO receives an application for a Garage 56 program, we begin by talking with designers, team partners and suppliers in order to set performance parameters such that the program can be successful for everyone involved. We will continue to work with NASCAR and all their partners as they work toward their proposed 2023 Garage 56 project.”
Details about the technical elements the car and its driver line-up will be announced at a later date. Chad Knaus will serve as the program manager.
“Participating in one of the truly iconic events in auto racing and representing NASCAR and Chevrolet on the world stage is a privilege,” said Rick Hendrick. “Jim deserves tremendous credit for having the vision for the project, and we thank him for trusting our organization with the responsibility.
“Even though Garage 56 is a ‘class of one,’ we are competitors and have every intention of putting a bold product on the racetrack for the fans at Le Mans. It’s a humbling opportunity — one that will present an exciting challenge over the next 15 months — but our team is ready.”
Said Jim Campbell, vice president, Chevrolet performance and motorsports, “NASCAR is going back to Le Mans! Chevrolet is looking forward to being a key partner with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports and Goodyear in this historic Garage 56 effort. While many know us as the winningest manufacturer in NASCAR, we also have had great success with our Corvette Racing program at Le Mans, with eight class wins in 21 starts since 2000. At Chevrolet, we love to compete and we can’t wait to get started on this program.”
“Goodyear has proudly produced tires for NASCAR for more than 60 years, and we look forward to taking our innovation to the next level at the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Stu Grant, Goodyear’s general manager of Global Race Tires. “In addition to Goodyear’s presence at Le Mans on the LMP2 class vehicles, being involved in this historic race as part of the Garage 56 entry is yet another demonstration of our commitment to advancing racing tire technology.”