Garage 56 can power next generation developments

Front splitter and fender detail for the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 test car on the track at Virginia International Raceway

Zack Albert | NASCAR Studios

The Garage 56 project is being built off of NASCAR’s next-generation platform, but with more freedom to make modifications as it prepares for its proposed Le Mans run next June. But the program is being watched closely for potential developments that could make their way into the NASCAR Cup Series.

NASCAR CEO Jim France, Vice Chairman Mike Hilton and IMSA President John Doonan were among the investing observers during last week’s two-day session at Virginia International Speedway, where the latest version of the Le Mans Stalker test hit the track.

Related: Garage 56 VIR Test Summary | Pictures of test days

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief operating officer, indicated last week on the “Stacking Pennies” podcast that wind tunnel results from the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 test car could undergo a test run in next-generation testing at Richmond Raceway.

“I think there will be some good ones,” O’Donnell said. “At least from what we’ve already seen in the wind tunnel and a lot of the sim data, it looks really good in terms of eliminating some of the challenges as we’ve seen, especially on short tracks.”

Hendrick Motorsports’ Greg Ives, who joined the Garage 56 effort after the Cup Series season, said the nature of Le Mans’ special entry gave the team a larger window to develop the car outside of the Cup Series playbook structure. That spirit of innovation was even more apparent this week with the test car’s advanced aerodynamic additions – snorkel jets on the front and rear fenders, a larger front splitter and a different rear diffuser.

NASCAR has experimented with more aggressive aero options before, adding snorkel jets to the body panels of its sixth-generation Cup Series cars in 2014 testing at Michigan International Speedway. These aerodynamic improvements were among the six configurations tested at the time but never shown in competition.

Ives said that similar aerodynamic measures seem unlikely as the NASCAR Cup Series heads toward year two with its next-generation racer, but gains can be found when it comes to the durability of the car’s systems. More variety, Ives said, could attract more interest outside of NASCAR’s traditional followers.

“There’s always a shift, especially when the majority of the car is so similar,” Ives said. “I think some additional aerodynamic bits to be able to adjust and change the balance, probably not something we’re going to look at, but maybe. You have tremendous track dynamics on the NASCAR Cup circuit, you probably see that variance, but some of the mechanical stuff, you certainly can see even With the mechanical issues that we have in such a different environment, to be able to apply some of that to make cars a little bit more reliable from an engine, fuel systems, oil systems and electrical point of view.

“I mean, it’s hard because you can be much more creative in this environment without the rules. NASCAR is here, Goodyear is here, Dallara is here, the heads of NASCAR and IMSA and there are a lot of people who are very important, but also people who are very passionate about racing to put a better product on the racetrack so Anything is possible. Even other OEMs are here, so collectively we can work through creating a better product on Sunday, but maybe get people outside of the standard NASCAR Cup Series even more excited about what this car can be.”

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