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June 2, 2023

Garage 56: Timeline and coverage of Le Mans project

Full coverage and timeline of the Garage 56 project’s path to participation in the centennial edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 10-11:



March 17, 2022: Launch at Sebring — The Garage 56 initiative takes flight with an announcement at Sebring International Raceway that a modified Next Gen stock car would take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. High-ranking representatives from NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, Goodyear, IMSA and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) were on hand for the project’s reveal, with the goal of competing in the “innovative car” class in the event’s 2023 centennial. | MORE: Garage 56 project sets sail | An innovative class by itself

June 11-12, 2022: Scouting mission — VP of Competition Chad Knaus and other delegates from Hendrick Motorsports take in the 2022 edition of the 24-hour race, making notes and observations for their proposed invitation the following year. | MORE: Insights from Le Mans visit | Jim France wins Spirit of Le Mans Award

August 29-30, 2022: First on-track test — A working test mule, built in collaboration with the Action Express sports-car team, hits the track for laps at Road Atlanta. German road-racing ace Mike Rockenfeller is the test driver.

November 14-15, 2022: Testing at VIR — A Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 test car that more closely resembles the proposed Garage 56 entry is put through its paces by Rockenfeller at Virginia International Raceway. The Hendrick-built car features a more robust front splitter and rear diffuser, dive planes and underwing enhancements. | MORE: ‘Huge milestone’ in two-day VIR test | Photos from VIR

November 2022: Tire testing — The specially made rubber for the Garage 56 project is put to the test at the Goodyear proving grounds.

December 7, 2022: Seven-time seat time — Jimmie Johnson gets his first turn behind the wheel of the Garage 56 test car at Carolina Motorsports Park’s 2.279-mile road course in Kershaw, S.C.

December 19-20, 2022: Sebring scene — Johnson and Rockenfeller traded driving duties during two days of test runs at Sebring International Raceway. Heavy rain shortens the session, which marks the first usage of carbon brakes on the test vehicle.

January 28, 2023: Driver announcement — With IMSA’s Rolex 24 weekend as the backdrop, the three-driver lineup of Johnson, Rockenfeller and former Formula 1 champion Jenson Button is presented at a press conference at Daytona International Speedway. IMSA standout Jordan Taylor is added as the alternate, a test driver and a consultant for the group. MORE: Driver lineup debuts

January 31-February 1, 2023: Daytona at dark — The car’s freshly installed headlights get their first nighttime trial as the newly tapped driver quartet gets to work, practicing pit stops and driver changes for the first time. Durability was the focus of Day 2, and the car clocked 1,620 miles in total for the two-day session. MORE: Garage 56 project gains miles, experience | Day 1 recap | Photos from Daytona testing

February 17, 2023: Livery, car specs revealed — A bright blue look for the Garage 56 entry is unveiled in Daytona’s Victory Lane, and the specifications of the modified Next Gen car come into focus, with a larger fuel tank, significant weight savings and a horsepower figure in the high 700s. | MORE: A fresh look at Garage 56 | Photos: Livery from all angles

February 20-21, 2023: Endurance effect — Sebring is the setting for a 23-hour run and another major swing at the twice-around-the-clock challenge that awaits in Le Mans. The car registers 2,367 miles as the team works through its tire options, changes brakes and practices pit stops and driver changes.

February 27, 2023: Invite official — The Next Gen proposal for the Garage 56 entry was accepted by Le Mans race organizers, who released the entry list for the 24-hour event. The car will compete using a number that’s special to Hendrick Motorsports, the No. 24 that Jeff Gordon carried during his run of NASCAR success. | MORE: No. 24 lands on entry list

March 7-8, 2023: Set-up prep — The project welcomed a second Garage 56 car into the mix as the team explored set-up options in two days of testing at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. The cars also received a preliminary technical inspection by race organizers at the 3.41-mile course.

April 17-18, 2023: Final tune-up — A group photo of the team and the project’s partners on Sebring’s pit lane capped the last test before the Garage 56 entry tackles Le Mans. The final distance achieved in testing nets out to 6,834 miles. MORE: Sebring send-off on Day 2 | Final mark-up for G56 cars | Photos: Final test at Sebring

May 2023: Cars, equipment arrive in France.

June 4, 2023: On-track action — A champion’s welcome greeted the Garage 56 contingent in France, as fans especially flocked to seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. On track for the first time, the entry showed serious speed. MORE: Strides made during test-day debut

June 6, 2023: Pit Stop Challenge — NASCAR’s Garage 56 crew gets a big win by placing first in the Pit Crew Challenge for the GTE class and fifth place overall, despite being the only team in the field competing with a manual jack. MORE: NASCAR Garage 56 crew wins Pit Stop Challenge

June 9, 2023: Driver parade — The Grande Parade Des Pilotes through Le Mans could not have been more appropriate or telling for the NASCAR 56 operation. MORE: Drivers parade through center city before the race

June 10-11, 2023: 24 Hours of Le Mans. MORE: Complete recap

June 11, 2023: NASCAR’s official wrap-up of the Garage 56 project. MORE: Culmination of years of work