NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced back in March of this year, but it still feels like a fever dream. The project revolves around entering a modified version of the Cup Series’ new NextGen stock car into the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans, the centennial anniversary edition of the iconic race. Hendrick Motorsports, 14-time NASCAR Cup Series champions, are developing the Garage 56 entry with the expressed support of NASCAR itself, IMSA, Chevrolet and Goodyear.
The Garage 56 NextGen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 hit a track for the first time for a two-day test at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) earlier this week. Photos taken at the test show several significant differences between the Garage 56 Camaro and the standard NextGen Camaro seen in the Cup Series this year.
Dramatic dive planes have been added to the front fascia and the rear quarter panels, as well as side-view mirrors. Beyond the obvious changes, Project manager Chad Knaus told motorsport.com about additional modifications. He said, “From the chassis standpoint, it’s different. The engine is different. The suspension components are quite a bit different.”
Knaus, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Championship-winning crew chief, gave his thoughts on the test as a whole in a video posted on Garage 56’s official Twitter account:
“I think it’s a huge milestone for us. Doesn’t go without its challenges, of course. But, that’s why you come to the racetrack to test. I think with all the people and all the resources that have been here at VIR today, it shows the importance of this program and what a big commitment it has been for everybody.”
Knaus was obviously not the one behind the wheel out on track. Mike Rockenfeller was enlisted to be the program’s test driver. Rockenfeller has raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans ten times, famously winning the 2010 edition of the endurance classic with Audi. While not a full-time Cup Series driver, Rockenfeller has raced a NextGen Camaro twice on road courses this past season with Spire Motorsports.