An eclectic all-star mix of drivers will pilot the joint Rick Hendrick/Chevrolet Garage 56 Project at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Seven-time NASCAR champion and IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button, and sports car ace and 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike “Rocky” Rockenfeller will drive the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 at the centenary event this June.
Led by legendary crew chief Chad Knaus, the Garage 56 project is a partnership between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, and Goodyear.
“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 who was honored with the Spirit of Le Mans award last year. “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 racecar to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”
After making his name in NASCAR driving for Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson started a second career in sports cars and the NTT IndyCar Series. A regular in the 24 Hours of Daytona and other endurance races in recent years, Johnson is eagerly anticipating driving at Circuit de la Sarthe.
“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.”
Button, whose history in F1 includes 15 wins and 50 podiums, has been making his mark as an announcer for the sport in recent years. He’s no stranger to Le Mans, having competed in the race in 2018.
“This is a total surprise. I was on the way to Disneyland and took the wrong road,” joked Button before getting more serious. “It’s really, really special to be here. I’ve always thought of myself as a racing driver, and I finished my F1 career and I looked for new challenges. And this is definitely an exciting challenge to work alongside these two.
“As you can see already, there’s some good banter here. I think it just shows that teamwork that we all need to go to Le Mans and to perform as we would like. So I’m very excited to work with this all-star team, and I think we can achieve something very special.”
Rockenfeller has been driving alongside Johnson in the No. 48 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi in recent years, and won the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, plus a 2005 GT win, victory in the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 2013 German DTM championship. Rockenfeller has served as the lead test driver for the Garage 56 project driving the car at every on-track test and spending countless hours behind the wheel in the simulator.
“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”
Corvette Racing driver, four-time IMSA champion and 2015 Le Mans winner in GTE Jordan Taylor will be offering assistance to Button, and the others, as well as serving as reserve driver.
All three drivers will participate in next week’s two-day test at Daytona International Speedway, the first time the car will run in the darkness with lights. While Johnson and Rockenfeller have had time in the car, Button will be getting his first laps in it during the test. Details about the car and what’s gone into it to make it suitable for Le Mans will be forthcoming.