LE MANS, France — If the weekend‘s 24 Hours of Le Mans is as competitive as Tuesday‘s Pit Stop Challenge at the Circuit de la Sarthe, fans will be in for an impressive race.
To the delight of the French crowd, the No. 93 Peugeot TotalEnergies car won overall — its stop of 10.067 seconds edging Toyota Gazoo Racing by 0.206 seconds. But the loudest cheers were for the Garage 56 project‘s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew, who in their Le Mans debut were fifth fastest overall — out of 62 cars — and tops among the GTE entries.
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“These guys have been training hard,” said Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports‘ vice president of competition and manager of the Garage 56 project. “What‘s amazing is everybody‘s been doing this [pit stop preparation] along with what they‘re trying to do as a real job seven days a week.
“They‘ve been training really hard as well as pitting Xfinity cars and NASCAR Cup Series cars and doing this, which is significantly different choreography on significantly different race cars. They‘ve done a really good job and I‘m super proud of them.”
A lot of the Garage 56 pit crew are first- and second-year members of the championship Hendrick Motorsports team, according to Knaus. A few others have more experience, and all of them have been training specifically for Le Mans, working the tests leading up to this weekend‘s race.
“We picked all these guys and have been training with them for eight months,” Knaus said. “They‘ve been working hard on this.”
A crew that included coach Evan Kureczka, Dawson Backus (front tire changer), Mike Moss (rear tire changer), Cody French (front tire carrier), Jarius Morehead (rear tire carrier) and Donovan Williams (jackman) got a chance to set the tone for the team.
“It‘s amazing, just to think about all the hard work we‘ve done and the guys in the shop, they started even way before us putting this project in place the last nine months,” Williams said after the champagne-drenched victory celebration.
“It‘s just a special moment to be able to represent Hendrick, represent our families, ourselves and the organization, America and NASCAR as a whole.”
The first two official practice sessions in advance of the June 10-11 “Centenary” 24 Hours of Le Mans at the 8.467-mile course will be Wednesday with qualifying at 7 p.m. French local time. The top eight cars from each class qualifying session will advance to final qualifying on Thursday to formally set pole position.