By Jerry Jordan, Editor and Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
Though the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is officially classified as the only car in the Innovative Class, for the pit crew competition, and during in-race safety car periods, it is grouped with the LMGTE-Am cars. Therefore it had 16 challengers in the pit crew competition.
One staple of the NASCAR pit stop that was carried to Circuit de la Sarthe was the manual jack. The Hendrick crew was the only one to utilize the manual jack. All other teams have air jacks at their disposal.
Without an air jack, the Garage 56 car was afforded an extra crew member, the jackman, to lift the car up. Two tire carriers (as opposed to one in NASCAR), and two tire changers swapped the four Goodyear Racing Eagles in 10.364 seconds. It was the crew’s fastest stop of the day.
“This is a special moment to be able to represent Hendrick Motorsports, represent our families, America and NASCAR as a whole,” Donovan Williams, the only jackman competing in the competition, told the NASCAR Wire Service. “We just relied on our training and it came into place instinctively. I think we all just went out there and performed and didn’t think too much.
“That’s what’s special about sports – we all come from athletic backgrounds and were able to lean on that when you talk about canceling out the crowd, locking in and being in the moment. It was a special moment and we were able to capitalize.”
Unlike traditional NASCAR pit stops, the team changes the inside tires first before scrambling to the outside tires. Despite the differences, the No. 24 team ended up on top in class, beating the closest LMGTE Am competitor, Northwest AMR by 0.12 seconds.
On top of that, the Garage 56 entry finished fifth overall out of 62 entries. Only three Hypercar teams and one LMP2 team had faster pit stops in the competition. The Hendrick team was just 0.3 seconds off of the top spot.
“It was actually our fastest stop of the day, so I would say I was surprised, but also very pleased,” Hendrick Motorsports Pit Crew Coach Evan Kureczka told the NASCAR Wire Service. “You can tell the fans were very impressed with the fact that we were using a jack to jack the car up. You could see the smiles on their faces, we put on a great show for the fans.”
In addition to jackman Williams, the NASCAR Le Mans pit crew is made up of fellow Hendrick Motorsports Cup Series pit crew members Dawson Backus, front tire changer, Mike Moss, rear tire changer, Cody French, front tire carrier, and Jarius Morehead, rear tire carrier.
While the team has practiced together, this was the first competition setting for the Garage 56 entry. The biggest adjustment from NASCAR to Le Mans is that the team cannot change tires and fuel the car at the same time.
“Over the past eight months we’ve put this team together and we’ve rolled with them the entire time and knew this is what we were going to bring to Le Mans, but we had to get them up to speed together,” Kureczka said.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for Saturday, June 10 at 9:00 a.m. ET on MotorTrend TV. The race, which will feature Jimmie Johnson, Jenson Button, and Mike Rockenfeller behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet, will also be streamed on MotorTrend +.