This weekend’s 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours will see the NASCAR Cup Series next-generation Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the starting line.
The NASCAR Camaro runs in the experimental Garage 56 category, demonstrating what the newest Cup Series cars are capable of.
It’s also part of a celebration celebrating the 100th anniversary of Le Mans and the 75th anniversary of NASCAR.
Compared with the diminutive Le Mans hypercars and GT cars, the hulking Chevrolet NASCAR is certainly easy to spot on the track. If the V8’s noise hadn’t come to light first…
Demonstrating Next Generation NASCAR Capabilities
Launched at Le Mans in 2012, the Garage 56 “Innovative Cars” category promotes new technologies and initiatives. Previous entries include the aggressive DeltaWing and the hybrid Nissan ZEOD RC race car.
The Garage 56 contestants were not qualified for the championship, although they were classified based on their actual race results.
It doesn’t matter to Hendrick Motorsports. The highly successful American racing team is driving the Camaro with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear.
Driving duties are seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button and two-time Le Mans champion Mike Rockenfeller.
all star team
The car heading to Sarthe Raceway has changed little from the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 used in the NASCAR Cup Series.
That means a 358-cubic-inch (5.8-liter) small V8 engine combined with a five-speed paddle-shift transmission.
Necessary modifications included the addition of functional headlights and taillights for night racing. Road-spec windshield wipers were also fitted, along with a larger fuel cell, allowing the Camaro to get the job done for longer.
Custom Goodyear Eagle racing rubber is used, while carbon brake rotors ensure the Chevrolet can stop repeatedly at high speeds.
Create the Complete NASCAR Experience
“From the start of this program, it’s important to us that the cars we bring to Le Mans are true NASCAR stock cars,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France.
“While some adjustments have been made to allow the car to compete in the 24 Hours, Le Mans fans will have the full NASCAR experience,” he added.
However, this isn’t NASCAR’s first foray into Sarthe Raceway. In 1976, the Dodge Charger and the Ford Torino competed at Le Mans as part of a “swap of courses” between the two events.
Both NASCAR races failed to finish in 1976 due to mechanical problems caused by lack of preparation.
go all out
This time, extensive testing has been carried out since the project was announced in March 2022. These include a 24-hour simulation in Sebring in February.
Chevrolet’s performance in Le Mans practice was already impressive, lapping faster than the fastest LM GTE car. It also has a top speed of 185 mph. Team Garage 56’s victory in the annual Pit Stop Challenge is also proof that Team Hendrick has succeeded.
However, just reaching the finish line at the end of Sunday’s race could well be the ultimate prize in heinous NASCAR.
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