Knaus, who is Hendrick Motorsports’ vice-president of competition, oversaw the program to bring a modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the centenary Le Mans event, to honor NASCAR’s 75th season.
He said the effort required to get the stock car to the start of the race was a huge achievement, regardless of it finishing the 24 hours in 39th position and completing 285 laps.
The car qualified ahead of the pace of all the GTE Am contenders and ran as high as 27th until it suffered a transaxle issue on Sunday morning, leading to a lengthy repair.
“I feel like we had already captured the trophy right when they dropped the green flag,” said Knaus. “The thing I’m most proud of is that this wasn’t really anybody but a few people’s full-time job.
“Everybody accepted this task as a passion project and something that they wanted to participate in. And when you get people like that put together, you can do anything.”
#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
The car was driven to the finish by seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, along with 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button and former Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller.
Button drove 97 laps in the race and said: “What amazing people. To take their Cup car and turn it into an endurance car for Le Mans, it’s staggering.
“It’s difficult because there’s so much emotion, we’re all tired. And this is it – you know what I mean? This is it. This is the last time this car is racing.
“So, it’s kind of sad, but then you’ve just got to think about living in the moment.”
Rockenfeller, who conducted the majority of the testing and simulation work for the car, started the race for the team.
“It’s amazing to finish the race, that was priority number one,” Rockenfeller said. “I think it’s something I will look back to later on with my kids and always will be high on my memory in terms of high-level races I did.
“It has been such a great team, not only my team-mates, but everybody on the team. The full journey, I mean, what can I say? I made a lot of friends. And I think we did a good job.”
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