Race Weekend Central

Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller to Race Next Gen At Le Mans

NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports jointly announced Saturday (Jan. 28) at Daytona International Speedway that Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller and will drive the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Next Gen car in this year’s centennial edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Garage 56 entry.

IMSA president John Doonan described the driver lineup as an “All-Star Team” during the press conference.

Rockenfeller brings substantial experience at Le Mans to the team. He has 10 previous Le Mans starts, including an overall victory for Audi in 2010. He also has a third-place finish in the Audi R18 in 2012. He is also the only member of the trio with race experience in the Next Gen car. Rockenfeller drove at Watkins Glen and the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Spire Motorsports last year.

Johnson brings his decades of experience in NASCAR to the effort, but his retirement from full-time racing in NASCAR occurred before the Next Gen car entered the series. He is scheduled to race part-time in Cup this season for Legacy Motor Club, in addition to the Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing in INDYCAR. He is the only one of the three drivers who has not raced previously at Le Mans.

Button is a World Champion, winning with the Brawn GP team in 2009 before the team evolved into the present Mercedes team. In Formula 1, Button had 15 grand prix victories and 50 career podium finishes.

After leaving F1, Button dived into sports car racing, running a partial season in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class with SMP Racing in 2018. That included a start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Button’s BR Engineering BR1 failed to finish. His best WEC finish was a third at Shanghai Circuit.

Button is the only one of the three drivers with no stock car racing experience. Outside of prototypes, he has a little sports car experience from owning a team (Jenson Team Rocket LJN) that competes in the Intelligent Money British GT Championships.

Button, Johnson and Rockenfeller will be racing a modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Le Mans. The test car features additional winglets, a relocated fuel filler and hybrid technology.

Testing is ongoing at this time. Button, in particular, has not driven the car yet.

The next Garage 56 test is scheduled for Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway. That test will add headlights to the Next Gen car for the first time.

About the author

2021 Phil Allaway Headshot Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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