RACING

NASCAR ready to make noise with special Le Mans entry

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A NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 show car with a special Garage 56 livery is pictured in London, Britain August 17, 2022. BlackBook Motorsport Forum/Handout via REUTERS

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LONDON, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Fans of revving V8 engines and American stock cars will be delighted at next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, when NASCAR is set to join the French endurance race to mark two big anniversaries.

Le Mans celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023 while the American organization NASCAR celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Plans announced are for a modified NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, run by Hendrick Motorsports with Goodyear tires, to take the “Garage 56” entry to Le Mans for innovative cars off the main grid.

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NASCAR’s last appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe in northwestern France was in 1976 with a Dodge Charger and Ford Torino brought in by the late founder Bill France Sr.

“We have a huge opportunity here,” John Doonan, president of the Daytona Beach-based International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and Garage 56 program manager, told Reuters during a visit to London for a BlackBook forum.

“The car has a very distinct sound and that will certainly captivate fans…especially down the Mulsanne straight.”

However, there is much more at stake than noise and motorsport milestones.

NASCAR – the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing – is seeking to attract new fans away from the old stereotypical white and conservative “redneck” crowd of the southern United States.

In February, he successfully held an experimental exhibition race on a quarter-mile track inside the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Next year it will hold a Cup Series street race in downtown Chicago for the first time.

WORLD SCENE

Doonan said NASCAR president Steve Phelps said the series, still preeminent in North America despite declining attendance and viewership figures in recent years, would try to do different things and Le Mans was another example.

“NASCAR raced at the LA Coliseum, which was definitely outside of expectations, but what it produced was an opportunity for 70% of that audience to experience motor racing for the first time,” he said. he declares.

“This opportunity to bring the Next Gen car and NASCAR to Le Mans is another step in this process of bringing NASCAR to the world stage.

“We all know how passionate motorsport fans are in general, we know how passionate Le Mans fans are, and putting NASCAR in this situation…definitely gives us the opportunity to tell the story more far and wider.”

Michael Lock, general manager of AMA Pro Racing and head of marketing for NASCAR Garage 56, said motorsport is now increasingly a global game.

As Formula 1 grows in popularity and makes inroads into the key US market with three glamorous grand prix in the country next year, NASCAR is vying for eyes and relevance.

Lock suggested the series could also become a global motorsport concern.

“Geographical region is something we come from, but globalization is very interesting for the future,” he said.

“With the rise of streaming, it’s entirely conceivable that you could hold a championship in one region of the world and yet it could be a global championship.”

Le Mans is a race where the car is always the star, and this stage also attracts an American series looking for bigger brands beyond Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.

The drivers have not yet been chosen and that can wait after the formal invitation from the organizers of Le Mans, probably next January.

2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller of Germany makes his NASCAR debut in a Spire Motorsports Camaro at Watkins Glen this weekend and performed simulator testing for Garage 56.

Jeff Gordon, multiple NASCAR Cup champion, now 51 and vice president of Hendrick Motorsports, was also in the simulator.

“Getting the car to the finish will be a win in itself,” Doonan said.

“We have to go all the way. Mr. France (NASCAR General Manager Jim) said the goal is to get to the end and not finish last.”

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Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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