NASCAR has revealed the car it will be taking on a European vacation next June.
The stock car racing series is entering a car in the 2023 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of its experimental Garage 56 program.
The modified Next Gen Cup Series car will appear in an exhibitive capacity and not be in contention for any class victories.
The Chevrolet Camaro is being prepared and will be run by Hendrick Motorsports, who put it through on Virginia International Raceway’s road course this week.
Changes from the standard Cup Series car include a new front chin splitter and rear spoiler designed to provide an aerodynamic profile optimized for road racing. Its body has also sprouted several “dive planes” sticking out of its sides that help create downforce.
NASCAR competes on several road courses with the car, which features the first independent rear suspension on a Cup Series car, but with only minor bodywork changes compared to the oval track configuration.
Le Mans veteran Mike Rockenfeller was behind the wheel and told NASCAR.com that the car has had its transmission converted from a manual with a gear lever on the center console to the type that uses steering column-mounted paddle shifters that’s more common on road racers.
Rockenfeller said the car is lighter than the one its based on and has different power, which is either 510 hp or 670 hp in the Cup Series, depending on the type of track its being driven on.
No one at the test confirmed it, but the car is expected to use some sort of hybrid powertrain as the Garage 56 program is primarily designed to showcase future technologies, and has previously featured the needle-nose lightweight Nissan Delta Wing and a car built with controls for drivers with disabilities.
Rockenfeller did reveal that it lapped the 3.27-mile long circuit about 10 seconds quicker than when the standard Cup Series car was previously tested there. Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition, called the car an infant at this stage of its development.
“Well, this is a first step and over the course of the next six months or so there’s going to be a huge amount of iterations,” Knaus said.
“Obviously, always trying to get yourself more margin from a pace standpoint, so we want to continue to try to push and make the car faster from a weight and performance standpoint. Downforce, get some more aero efficiencies put into the car, Goodyear has done a really good job of starting to get some construction and compound combinations put together, and we’ll start to get that really rolled up into what the tire is going to be. So an awful lot of work from this point forward.”
The driver lineup for the race has not been finalized, but Rockenfeller is almost a sure thing. Former Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson, who has raced in the IMSA sports car series, has also shown interest, but it’s not known how his new ownership stake in rival NASCAR team Petty GMS will affect his chances. Jeff Gordon, who is vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, has also indicated he’s interested in taking a seat.
Hendrick Motorsport’s active full-time Cup Series drivers, including Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, are unlikely to be involved as the series has its own road course race in Sonoma, California, the same weekend as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.