Hendrick offers Garage 56 update after Le Mans visit; driver lineup ‘a long ways away’

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton
Getty Images

Hendrick Motorsports provided an update Tuesday on its collaboration with NASCAR for the 2023 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, offering insights from their delegates’ visit to the endurance classic last month.

Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of competition, was an attendee for the second consecutive year. The notes and observations from this most recent trip, he said, will help shape his approach as the program manager of the Garage 56 project for next year’s race.

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“This was much more of a scouting trip to talk to vendors, get an idea of the environment from a racer’s standpoint and how to conduct the events throughout the course of the two weeks that you are over there,” Knaus said. “It was a lot to consume, for sure, but we learned an awful lot. I would definitely hate to go over to that place and try to compete without having some type of experience like we just did.

“I think it’s going to be very valuable to understand how they do scrutineering, how the race cadence goes and what happens throughout unloading, garage setup and environment teardown post-race. All of that was definitely valuable.”

The Garage 56 project was launched in March. NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports plan to base the special entry on the Next Gen stock car that debuted in the NASCAR Cup Series this season.

The spot in the field is reserved for an extra entry outside the usual maximum field, which is 62 cars. The designation is intended to spotlight technology and innovation.

Knaus said that among the next steps will be to build a working test vehicle, prepared with an assist from IMSA competitor Action Express Racing. Knaus did not divulge a testing schedule, but projected a build date for the actual Le Mans entry this fall.

“We will try to make sure that the implementation of the things we’ve changed that are different than the Next Gen stock car are functional and correct and work the way they are supposed to,” Knaus said. “If there are performance things we need to change or durability things we need to change, we start to get those implemented so that when we do build the real car – probably around November – it starts coming together that there are parts that are more tried and true as opposed to concept.”

Knaus also did not offer hints about a Garage 56 driver lineup. The NASCAR schedule for next season has yet to be released, so the availability of stock-car regulars for the 100th anniversary of the Le Mans event on June 10-11, 2023 has yet to be determined.

“We are a long ways away from (naming drivers),” Knaus said.