Jimmie Johnson to Head All-Star Driver Lineup for NASCAR's 24 Hours of Le Mans Entry
NASCAR today announced its driver lineup for its Garage 56 entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, set for June 10-11.
Driving the NASCAR/Hendrick Motorsports/Goodyear Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be seven-time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, 2009 Formula 1 champion Jenson Button and past Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller.
The NASCAR entry is still awaiting final approval for the l'Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). Garage 56 is a classification given to experimental or exhibition cars entered in the race.
This will mark the first time since 1976 that NASCAR will race at the world's largest sports car race. In 1976, Herschel McGriff and Junie Donlavey brought the roar of the stock car to France.
“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” said Jim France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, in a press release on Saturday. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of—three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”
Johnson, who is back in NASCAR this season as a driver/co-owner of Legacy Motor Club Cup Series team after a two-year run in the NTT IndyCar Series, will race in next month’s Daytona 500.
Johnson tested the Garage 56 car at Sebring in December.
“I’m super thrilled—it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come—and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup—is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”
Rockenfeller, whose sports car accolades include winning the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans GT Class, the 2010 ROLEX 24 at Daytona and the 2013 German DTM championship, has served as the lead test driver for the Garage 56 project. He has driven the car at every on-track test and spent countless hours behind the wheel in the simulator.
Button finished his F1 career in 2017, amassed 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 F1 titel.
“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world."
All three drivers will participate in next week’s two-day test at Daytona International Speedway.
Four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who currently competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Corvette Racing, will serve as the backup driver and help coach the drivers. Taylor won the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Class and has finished on the podium four times..