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June 10, 2023

Garage 56: Recap all the updates, notes from 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is on track in the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Clive Rose
Getty Images

LE MANS, France — Bonjour! Below is our live coverage of the Garage 56 project’s run at the 100th-anniversary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which ran Saturday through Sunday at the 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. provided periodic updates through the day, night and next morning of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, with driver changes and other news and notes from the 24-hour race, with the newest posts at the top of the page. For reference, Le Mans is six hours ahead of the United States’ Eastern Time zone, so the race began at 4 p.m. Saturday and ended 4 p.m. Sunday local time — 10 a.m. ET.

RELATED: Full coverage of Garage 56 | At-track photos: Le Mans

The Garage 56 car — a collaborative effort among NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear — is classified in the Innovative Car category, a single-car class among the 62 entrants.

All times listed are Eastern.


11:56 a.m.: This will conclude live coverage of the 100th-anniversary running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the efforts of the Garage 56 project. The initiative was a special project brought on by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France, who was animated after adding to the legacy of his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and his brother, Bill France Jr.

“That was unbelievable,” France said. “That was thousands of hours of hard work by hundreds of people that went into making this thing happen. And then the way the team and the pit crews and everybody performed all week, it was just fantastic. I hope my dad and my brother are somewhere up there looking down and smiling, but the goal when we set out was to try and finish the race running at the end and not be last. And we accomplished that.”

Jimmie Johnson and his wife, Chandra, embrace in the Garage 56 paddock at Le Mans
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

11:30 a.m.: Back from the trackside celebration at the end of the Le Mans pit road, the collaborative partners involved in bringing the Garage 56 project to life shared embraces, cheers and clinked glasses of champagne. There was elation, relief and tears at the end of the initiative to put NASCAR on the global stage, and the team received a special greeting from the international fans gathered outside the paddock.

Overall, Ferrari made a victorious return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a 50-year absence Sunday afternoon, its No. 51 entry ending Toyota’s win streak in the 24-hour classic at five consecutive titles. Other class winners were the No. 34 Inter Europol Competition team in LMP2 and the No. 33 Corvette Racing group in LM GTE Am.

10:03 a.m.: Mission accomplished. The Garage 56 contingent completed a years-long journey just after 4 p.m. local time in Le Mans, France, by doing exactly what it set out to: complete the 24-hour endurance race in a modified stock car. Jimmie Johnson steered the No. 24 across the start/finish line at the end of it in 39th place of the 62-car field. All told, the Garage 56 entry completed 285 laps – or 2,413.1 miles.

9:22 a.m.: Thirty-eight minutes from the end, and the Garage 56 No. 24 Chevy just finished its 275th lap — 2,328.425 miles.

9 a.m.: Twenty-three hours down and just one to go. Jimmie Johnson is set to finish out the car’s time on the course, and the lap counter just reached 270 (2,286.09 miles). The No. 24 Chevrolet shows 39th on the overall board after its extended stop.

8:30 a.m.: Jimmie Johnson is back aboard the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and the car is completing its 262nd lap. That most recent driver change marked the car’s 25th pit stop in the race, which has just 90 minutes remaining.

The No. 51 Ferrari has more breathing room at the head of the Hypercar pack after the second-running No. 8 Toyota crashed just 10 minutes earlier.

8:12 a.m.: Less than two hours to go, and Rockenfeller has pushed the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro’s lap total to 260 — which translates to 2,201.42 miles.

7:38 a.m.: Mike Rockenfeller climbed back on board the Garage 56 No. 24 entry, and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 added a lap to bring its total to 255 before heading back to the pits for an assessment. The Hendrick Motorsports outfit indicated that repairs are complete, and that the car will be shaken down “for a couple laps.”

Out front, it’s still the No. 51 Ferrari in the lead with the No. 8 Toyota in pursuit. Two hours, 12 minutes left in the race.

6:45 a.m.: The Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has parked in the paddock having completed 254 laps, after Jenson Button drove the car back to the attention of the Hendrick Motorsports crew earlier in the hour.

“We have a drive line issue and the team is working to repair it now,” said Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition in a statement. “The goal remains to finish the race.”

Three hours, 15 minutes remain, and the No. 51 Ferrari still holds the overall top spot.

6:10 a.m.: Lunchtime here in France, early breakfast on the USA’s East Coast, and the Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 continues to lap the Circuit de la Sarthe. The No. 24 entry in the Innovative Class has clocked 253 laps thus far, with just less than four hours remaining. The time spent on a brake change has moved the group to 34th place in the overall order, in the middle of the LM GTE Am runners still on the track. Jenson Button remains in the car, which now claims 2,142.151 miles achieved in the endurance classic.

Up front, the fight for the overall honors is a tight contest between the No. 51 Ferrari AF Corse entry and the No. 8 from Toyota Gazoo Racing, which has won the last five overall Le Mans crowns.

5 a.m.: With almost exactly five hours left, the Garage 56 Next Gen car has crossed the 2,000-mile barrier by completing its 237th lap — putting it at 2,006.679 miles at the stripe. The No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is not nearly as pristine as when it started the event Saturday afternoon, showing 19 hours’ worth of road grime on the body panels.

Driving duties have been a fairly even split so far, according to car statistics on the No. 24 Chevy by the FIA-WEC. Mike Rockenfeller has driven the most laps (84) but has the fewest stints at six. Jenson Button is currently in the midst of his ninth stint with 80 laps in the books, and Jimmie Johnson has seven stints with 73 laps recorded.

The big odometer number puts the Garage 56 car into the beyond in terms of regular NASCAR events, reaching the equivalent of four Daytona 500s and still counting up the miles.

“The engine is doing great. The powertrain is looking good,” said Scott Meesters, director of special projects for ECR Engines. “The engine and all of its vitals are meeting what we’ve observed on all our durability runs at ECR in our shop. So right now we’re feeling really good about it. Honestly, other than the off the wall things that you can’t control, we felt really good coming into this race. Especially after all the testing and validation we’ve done. But at this point in time, in the race, we’re feeling really good right now. Anything could still happen, but to be able to get this far. It checks a lot of boxes and we know the product is good. It’s what it should be.”

Jenson Button checks out the monitors in the Garage 56 paddock
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

4:50 a.m.: The Garage 56 Chevy Camaro ZL1 heads to pit road for a driver swap, subbing Jenson Button into the car to spell Mike Rockenfeller. The No. 24 Chevrolet was briefly eased back into the garage stall for a necessary brake change.

The switch comes in between a pair of lead changes atop the overall leaderboard, with the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing entry slipping by the No. 51 from Ferrari AF Corse during a pit-stop shuffle and then the Ferrari regaining it in a spirited scrap up front.

3:40 a.m.: A pit stop without driver change occurs for the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with 6 hours, 20 minutes remaining in the event. Mike Rockenfeller, who started the race for the Garage 56 project, stays in the car.

Ferrari No. 51 still leads overall, and Inter Europol Competition No. 34 (LMP2) and Iron Dames No. 85 Porsche 911 RSR (LM GTE Am) are the other class leaders.

2:42 a.m.: Mike Rockenfeller has hopped in the Garage 56 Chevy, taking the reins from Jimmie Johnson and peeling out back onto the circuit.

After the stop, the No. 24 Camaro ZL1 ranks third among the LM GTE field, and 31st on the big board. The No. 51 Ferrari AF Corse leads overall, with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 8 next — some 18 seconds behind.

“When we saw that we were in the hunt to be leading the GT class is when we switched from a bit of ‘let’s just cruise here’ to ‘all right, we can actually race a lot of these guys,'” said Jordan Taylor, the project’s reserve driver and coach. “It feels like even though we’re not fighting them for a position it’s kind of nice to have that carrot to chase and a goal to beat them. This is when you see all the guys at Hendrick come to life and all their years of experience come into play.”

2:10 a.m.: Chalk up 200 laps for the Garage 56 No. 24. That’s the equivalent of 1,693.4 miles on the board.

2 a.m.: Two-thirds of the way through in the 24 Hours of Le Mans — 16 hours in and eight left to run. The international broadcast is spotlighting fans conked-out asleep on the grounds of the Circuit de la Sarthe, which seems a touch cruel.

The Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is still motoring, with Jimmie Johnson just crossing the line for the car’s 197th lap in at 3 minutes, 53.355 seconds. That’s 1,667.999 miles total, and the car is slotted 29th on the overall leaderboard.

1:15 a.m.: Jimmie Johnson is pressing on with his morning stint in the Garage 56 Camaro ZL1, and the car shows P27 with 48 of the 62 cars still running. Evan Kureczka, Hendrick Motorsports’ pit development manager, said the No. 24 team had made 18 pit stops, changing all four tires for all but one stop. The outlier was a quick trip down pit lane for an aerodynamic adjustment.

Kureczka said the pit crew’s involvement in the Garage 56 testing process has helped them get some seasoning for the challenges of this race.

“We had the opportunity to do some testing before, so this isn’t their first rodeo doing this,” Kureczka said. “We did a roughly 30-hour test in Sebring, so we have some experience on our side. We’ve been working on making sure these guys are hydrated, eat well and actually get a little bit of sleep overnight so they would be sharp in the morning. I think catching a little bit of sleep and taking care of their bodies is going to put us in a pretty good position to finish the race strong.”

Roughly 8 hours, 45 minutes are left to run.

12:45 a.m.: Creeping closer to nine hours remaining in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Garage 56 car has crossed the 1,500-mile mark — 1,515.593 miles to put a finer point on it. Jimmie Johnson is taking the wheel from Jenson Button in overcast conditions, with weather as cool as it has been since the start.

The No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar continues to lead, with the No. 51 Ferrari and the No. 2 Cadillac running second and third. Attrition has claimed two of the 16 Hypercar entries, while four LMP2 cars have retired, and eight of the 21 LM GTE entries are out of the race.

11:45 p.m.: Starting to see the first signs of daybreak here at Le Mans, and Jenson Button remains behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet. Earlier in the race week, Button had issued a pre-emptive apology to the fans trying to sleep through the night, saying that the V-8 sound likely would be disruptive, waking the revelers who are trying to sleep off a full night of Carlsbergs in the fan village. Either way, the engine note is still distinctive; a full-bodied experience that’s resonating through the circuit. Button said he got new ear molds to help offset the sound.

The pit crew is finding moments to rest in between stops for service and driver changes. But those checking the monitors can see that stats so far — 169 laps completed by the Garage 56 car, 1,430.923 miles and showing 28th on the overall scoreboard with just one LM GTE car ahead of it — the class-leading Kessel Racing No. 57 Ferrari.

Hendrick Motorsports crew members rest in the Garage 56 paddock in the early morning hours at Le Mans
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

10:50 p.m.: Jenson Button continues to drive through the night, and it’s now 1,295.451 miles traveled for the Garage 56 Chevrolet. The crew revealed that just before the driver change, the team noticed a slow leak on the right-rear tire — an air-pressure hazard flagged by the real-time “SightLine” tire intelligence on the Next Gen Camaro ZL1’s Goodyear rubber.

“We were monitoring the tire pressure sensors and our engineers happened to see that the right-rear tire was starting to lose some pressure,” said Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition. “It was great timing, they did a great job catching it. The team was able to react and get it in here and get some new tires put on the car. It was awesome.”

Approaching the 13-hour mark — 5 a.m. local time in France — much of the media center has cleared out with several in the press corps getting some shut-eye. The main grandstands — packed for the pomp and circumstance before the race’s start — are now virtually open seating.

10 p.m.: Halfway home in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Mike Rockenfeller still making time here, with 141 laps — 1,193.847 miles — on the board for the Garage 56 No. 24 Chevrolet team. The No. 51 Ferrari AF Corse team has cycled back to the overall lead at the race’s midpoint, and the No. 30 Duqueine Team Oreca (LMP2) and the Project 1-AO “Rexy” Porsche 911 RSR (LM GTE Am) are the other class leaders.

Barely a minute past halfway, Jenson Button has returned to the Garage 56 seat.

9:30 p.m.: Quick pit stop for the Garage 56 No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car, which is closing in on a driver change to put Jenson Button back in the seat to get the team to dawn. That’s 132 laps on the chart, 1,126.111 miles complete, and 36th place in the order.

Big developments in the most recent moments as the overall leader — the No. 94 Peugeot — sustained serious front-end damage with a shunt in the first Mulsanne chicane’s tire barrier. That briefly handed the overall lead to the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing team in the Hypercar class. Other class leaders nearing the halfway mark are the No. 30 Duqueine Team Oreca (LMP2) and the Kessel Racing No. 57 Ferrari (LM GTE Am).

8:30 p.m.: That’s now 119 laps on the board for the Garage 56 No. 24 Chevy, which puts it over the 1,000-mile plateau — 1,007.573 miles, to be more precise. Rockenfeller clocked a lap of 3 minutes, 51.881 seconds last time by, and the car is shown 38th in the running order with 13 1/2 hours to go.

7:47 p.m.: The No. 24 Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has completed 111 laps — 939.837 miles. After his last stint, Jimmie Johnson said that the team was caught by a safety car deployment, losing a lap in the process. Still, the car is shown in 36th place in the overall 62-car field, as we’re currently under a full-course yellow.

Even with all the activity, the team is keeping an eye on the goings-on from the NASCAR weekend at Sonoma Raceway, nine time zones away. Kyle Larson put the Hendrick Motorsports No. 17 on the pole for the Xfinity Series race (8 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM), and some of the crew members in Le Mans assist with the organization’s Xfinity group.

The crew wrote up a makeshift schedule on a piece of tape on the paddock wall, showing the local translation of the start times. That’s right, the Xfinity Series race sets sail at 2 a.m. Le Mans time, with a 9:30 p.m. start Sunday for the Cup Series.

Hendrick Motorsport crew watch Xfinity Series qualifying at Le Mans
Zack Albert | NASCAR Digital Media
Schedule taped up on the Le Mans paddock
Zack Albert | NASCAR Digital Media

7:25 p.m.: The Garage 56 team has executed its most recent driver change, putting Mike Rockenfeller back in the car and giving Jimmie Johnson a breather. Johnson said that conditions were adverse — the early part of his stint was marked by downpours, but he said he noted the fireworks after things cleared before his time was up.

“And what was frightening, especially the way it took place,” Johnson said. “There was an awful shower at the start of the lap and it was just pouring, so to come around the corner on slicks and hit just a downpour was pretty gnarly. Really to get the car around, get wets on it, and then really kind of understand how the wets would perform. We probably ran two or three laps too long on the wets. They really, really fell apart once the track started to dry. Put the slicks back on, and as fast as GT cars are on track and running the guys down.”

Johnson said he was soon off to bed and aiming to resume his driving duties around 6 a.m. local time — in 4 1/2 hours. But first he signed an autograph for a fan, putting his signature on a Jimmie Johnson shirt worn by a firefighter from Le Mans. “May the force be with you,” he said.

A firefighter from Le Mans meets Jimmie Johnson at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

6:10 p.m.: Jimmie Johnson’s double-stint continues after a pit stop and the race — 16 hours to go — is under a full-course yellow for a crash involving the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar driven by Kamui Kobayashi, who is now out of the race. The No. 94 Peugeot leaves overall, which would turn this place into pandemonium if the French automaker were to win Le Mans for the first time since 2009.

Mike Rockenfeller, who began the event for the No. 24 Garage 56 team, is on deck to go in, roughly a half-hour from now. Button is set to follow in the middle of the morning, then a return to the cockpit for Johnson, which should time with the sun rising over the French countryside.

Johnson has seen a little bit of everything this go-round, including nighttime racing, wet-weather conditions and a massive fireworks and drone show on the Circuit de la Sarthe’s grounds.

The clock has swept past midnight here in France, but the party atmosphere hasn’t slowed in the fan village.

Jimmie Johnson awaits his next stint in the Garage 56 car at Le Mans
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

4:25 p.m.: The race has progressed past the quarter-pole for the full distance, by the six-hour mark. Jenson Button is out of the No. 24 Chevrolet after a lengthy stint, and Jimmie Johnson is in, scheduled to do a three-hour bit. Button immediately grabbed a snack, and his effort drew a high-five from Garage 56 crew chief Greg Ives, who told the veteran driver, “Great job!”

Johnson scooted away from the pit box just as rain began to fall again. The ever-changing weather has played havoc with portions of the race, with precipitation heavier in some places than others.

That’s 71 laps in the books for the Garage 56 Camaro — 601.157 miles, nearly equivalent to the Coca-Cola 600 run two weeks ago, but still going.

3:30 p.m.: Make it 60 laps for the Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which equals 508.02 miles and another threshold passed. A driver change is approaching, and Ferrari runs 1-2 at the top of the Hypercar pack with 18 1/2 hours remaining.

The No. 24 Garage 56 Chevrolet rounds a bend at the Circuit de la Sarthe
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

3:10 p.m.: Jenson Button remains in the Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Le Mans, extending his stint after a prolonged safety-car period. His most recent stop was for an aero adjustment and to switch out tires; the British driver briefly came in for the Hendrick Motorsports crew to affix intermediate wet-weather tires during rain showers, but the group has switched back to slicks with the cloud cover beginning to dissipate.

Justin Fantozzi, Goodyear’s operations manager for global race tires, said his group expected some degree of precipitation at some point in the 24-hour event.

“We were able to do a lot of testing with the vehicle before we got here, and we recognized it was going to rain in June in France, but you never know where it’s going to rain or how much it’s going to rain,” Fantozzi said. “The intermediate tire is really good when it’s starting to dry out or when you only have a little bit of precipitation, and the wet tire is for when it is going to rain for a while. Everything looked really good (with the intermediate tire). Jenson was quite pleased with the balance of the car, and everything was nice.”

Jimmie Johnson remains on deck for the No. 24 team’s next driver change, which would provide the seven-time champion a chance to navigate the course under a setting sun.

2:25 p.m.: Back to green after a lengthy safety car, the Hypercar battle up front is heating up, but the Garage 56 car is running its own race and still motoring. The track appears to still be damp in areas, but on the cloud-covered main straight, the umbrellas have been put away.

Jenson Button is still the pilot of record, and the No. 24 Chevrolet has logged 47 laps — 397.949 miles. Jimmie Johnson is scheduled to take over at the next driver swap.

1:30 p.m.: Under a safety-car period here at Le Mans. With showers moving in, the Garage 56 team has swapped to intermediate wet-weather tires for Button.

The No. 24 Chevy is currently circulating on the track — “under caution” for the statesiders — ahead of the No. 50 Ferrari AF Corse, which is currently third overall behind the leading Peugeot No. 94.

12:55 p.m.: The 24 Hours of Le Mans has already had several crashes and incidents, but the Garage 56 entry keeps chugging along with 33 laps in the books and Jenson Button still behind the wheel.

Jimmie Johnson made 12 laps in his stint — just under an hour at 58 minutes, 54 seconds — his first laps in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and he’s already savoring the fan reaction. The No. 24 crew added fuel and four fresh tires during their stop.

“It was incredible,” Johnson said after emerging from the Next Gen Garage 56 car. “I had slow zones that took place with two or three big crashes on track. It was a totally different experience to work through those areas and take back off. All in all, just an amazing experience. One of the slow zones, it was a very crowded area with the fans — they were waving at me so I was waving back. It was really really fun. I want every lap I can get. As long as they can keep me in the car, I’ll take it. Jenson is going to do a double, I’ll come back and do a double and then we’ll work from there.”

Recent developments have stirred up the overall race. Rain has moved in, heavy in places, and it’s turned the southern end of the course into a treacherous area. Moments before the skies opened, the No. 94 Peugeot moved into second place to the delight of the adoring French crowd. The No. 50 Ferrari AF Corse with pilot Antonio Fuoco leads overall.

12:15 p.m.: Jenson Button has thundered past the start/finish line here at Le Mans, loading in for his first stint — which is scheduled to be a double. The car has recorded 26 laps (220.142 miles). Remarks from Jimmie Johnson after his first laps are coming soon.

Noon: The two-hour mark is here, and Jimmie Johnson continues to power the No. 24 Chevrolet along the Circuit de la Sarthe. No. 2 Cadillac (Earl Bamber aboard) is the overall leader, with Penske Porsche Motorsport running second and third.

Rockenfeller’s opening stint was 14 laps (1 hour, 13 minutes, 13 seconds) to start the race. The team added four tires and refueled during that stop for service.

“It was a tricky stint with the first chicane down in Mulsanne completely wet,” Rockenfeller said. “I just tried to make no mistakes, stay trouble free. It’s a long race so you don’t want to waste it in the first lap. The car feels good, balance-wise we have some issues because we thought it was going to rain more, so we adjusted the balance. But we will react to that later in the race and adjust tire pressure. I think the track will grip up again and I think we can go a bit faster from now on.”

11:25 a.m.: Jimmie Johnson is now in the No. 24 Chevrolet, turning his first laps in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car just roared by with its distinctive sound, putting its 17th lap — 143.939 miles — in the books. Ferrari No. 50 has retaken the lead, but the No. 2 Cadillac Racing entry is the new second-place challenger in Hypercar and overall.

11:10: a.m.: The Garage 56 Chevy Camaro ZL1 reached the one-hour and 100-mile mark, putting 12 laps (101.6 miles) on the race-day odometer. The team is readying for its first driver change with Jimmie Johnson about to climb aboard in place of starter Mike Rockenfeller. The team had indicated that it would make shorter single stints earlier in the race to get each driver some time, then shift to double stints later.

The weather remains cloudy but less so now, with some sun peeking through. Because of the size of the course, the circuit will sometimes experience different weather conditions in its various sections.

10:41 a.m.: Most of the race has been conducted under safety-car conditions for repairs to the chicane barrier after a Lap 1 accident. We are back going with just six laps on the clock so far for the Garage 56 No. 24 Chevrolet. Back green, the two Toyota Hypercars have supplanted the Ferraris at the front.

The pit crew — champions of their class in the Le Mans Pit Stop Challenge — is already taking a break, resting while they can with a projected 25-30 stops due up for the full distance. Seen reclining on the garage-stall floor in the TV broadcast was Evan Kureczka, Hendrick Motorsports’ pit development coach and pit-sign holder for the Garage 56 car. He said pre-race that his group is aiming to be even-keeled for the 24 hours, instead of letting the ups and downs shake them. More on the Hendrick pit crew and the differences in Le Mans pit stops vs. NASCAR pit rules was detailed earlier in the week here.

10 a.m.: With “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss (Ric Flair fans, you know what this music is) finishing the formation lap, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has begun at Circuit de la Sarthe. The Garage 56 entry is away, and there’s action already in front of it. Sebastien Buemi has put the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar ahead of the front-row starting Ferraris, and the No. 311 Action Express Racing entry driven to start by Jack Aitken has sustained significant nose damage in a shunt at one of the backstraight chicanes on Lap 1.

9:55 a.m.: The formation lap is under way, and LeBron James gave the command for cars to roll off the grid.

The pre-race ceremonies at 24 Hours of Le Mans
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

9:45 a.m.: A jammed-in crowd sang along to the playing of French national anthem, and LeBron James is headed to the starter’s stand. Mike Rockenfeller is suiting up for his first stint in the No. 24 Chevrolet, which — as expected — was a big draw on the pre-race gridwalk.

9:10 a.m.: Fifty minutes until the start time of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Garage 56 entry currently sits at the head of the LM GTE Am grid, and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was the first driver to arrive at the car. Kamui Kobayashi and other members of the Toyota Gazoo Racing stopped over to wish Chad Knaus and the rest of the team good luck.

A monumental energy is buzzing on the pre-race grid. Honorary starter LeBron James has arrived and was whisked away in a sleek Porsche safety vehicle as pre-race ceremonies continue. NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton took the front seat of another pace vehicle as parade laps draw nearer here at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Other celebrities on the grid include NFL legend Tom Brady and Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc.

7:40 a.m.: The Garage 56 entry has left its garage stall on the end of the Le Mans pit road, ready to take its place on the starting grid. The No. 24 Chevrolet will start ahead of the LM GTE Am class and behind the LMP2 cars.

Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that Mike Rockenfeller is scheduled to do the first stint, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Jenson Button.

More visitors have made trips to the Garage 56 paddock area during pre-race, among them FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and actor Patrick Dempsey, who is co-owner of the Dempsey Proton Racing team, which will field the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR in the 24-hour race.

6:35 a.m.: The Garage 56 car participated in the race-day morning warm-up, completing three laps with Mike Rockenfeller behind the wheel. The best lap in the 15-minute tuning session was 3 minutes, 59.403 seconds.

From left: Rick and Linda Hendrick, and Chad and Brooke Knaus pose or pictures in the Garage 56 pit stall.
Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

6 a.m.: “Good morning, Le Mans!” was the public-address system’s greeting at the circuit’s official opening at 9 a.m. local time. Weather this morning is overcast with occasional showers expected through the day — the first rain in nearly two weeks for the region. So when Hendrick VP of Competition Chad Knaus asked Goodyear CEO Rich Kramer if he had any questions, he added: “Looks like we’re going to have the opportunity to run some wet-weather tires, too.”

Other dignitaries have already made their way to the last stall on the pit lane for a morning check-in with the team: NASCAR CEO and Chairman Jim France, executive vice chair Lesa France Kennedy, vice chair Mike Helton and senior VP of racing development and strategy Ben Kennedy. Rick Hendrick posed for pictures with his wife, Linda, and Knaus’ wife, Brooke, also joined in for a group photo in front of the No. 24 car.