Johnson’s Thoughts on the Le Mans NASCAR Camaro ZL1

News, Racing I By Justin Cornelison I June 05, 2023

Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, recently took part in testing the Le Mans NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, ahead of the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The NASCAR driver, who will be competing as part of the Garage 56 NASCAR effort in the 100th anniversary of the legendary race, was not only excited about his first-ever laps at the historic 8.467-mile road course but also captivated by the atmosphere and the warm reception he received from the fans.

“The atmosphere is insane,” Johnson said of his first full-day at track. “I was chatting with someone yesterday, a fan, that said Americans have always been loved at Le Mans. He said our reputation is very accommodating, hospitable, very kind to the fans.”

Wherever Johnson went at the Circuit de la Sarthe, fans flocked to him, seeking autographs, handshakes, and photographs. The American driver was humbled by the warm welcome and expressed his gratitude for the fans’ hospitality. Even in Europe, thousands of miles away from his home country, Johnson found that fans were familiar with him and his accomplishments in NASCAR. He signed autographs on championship memorabilia and engaged in conversations with fans who admired his racing career.

During the NASCAR Le Mans test session, Johnson and his Garage 56 teammates, former Formula One champion Jenson Button and former Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, kept a close eye on each other’s performances. Button set the pace in the opening session, while Rockenfeller topped the timesheets in the afternoon. Additionally, Jordan Taylor, a four-time IMSA champion and Johnson’s teammate, joined the team as the reserve driver.

Greg Ives, the crew chief for the Garage 56 team, expressed satisfaction with the progress made during the test. He mentioned that the team had achieved the expected lap times and had a good balance in the car. Although there were a few hiccups along the way, Ives believed they were in a decent position and focused on getting as many laps as possible to ensure the drivers’ comfort and work through any issues with the car.

Regarding the driver order for the race, the team had not finalized their decision yet. They planned to run double stints for most of the race, allowing each driver sufficient track time. With the top speed being posted by the Hypercar Class No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, the Garage 56 team recognized the challenges ahead but remained optimistic about their performance.

After the final session, Mike Rockenfeller expressed his satisfaction with the day’s progress, emphasizing the team’s ability to drive without any problems and their competitive speed. He commended the team’s efforts and the impressive performance of the NASCAR Le Mans Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the track.

As the team heads into the race week, Johnson reflected on his first day on the Le Mans track. He expressed his excitement about being part of the event and his satisfaction with the car’s performance. Johnson acknowledged the concerns about the car’s performance on straights and high-speed turns but mentioned that they could optimize their performance in those areas. He believed that the test had been a great start, acknowledging that there was still a long week ahead with 18 hours of practice and the race itself.

With a sellout crowd of over 300,000 spectators expected for the weekend’s “Centenary” race, the anticipation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is palpable. Johnson, along with his Garage 56 teammates and the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports team, is determined to make their mark on this historic event.

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