LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #24 NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet ZL1 prepares to drive during the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe June 10, 2023 in Le Mans, France.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson Helped Make History at Le Mans—But He's Still 'Bummed'

The legendary driver has mixed feelings after NASCAR's 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.

The historic venture by NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race was a major feat for the sport as a whole. It was even more special when the No. 24 crossed the finish line Sunday at the end of 24 hours, in the 39th spot out of a 60-car grid total.

While a number of cars were forced to retire from the grueling endurance race, the Hendrick Motorsports car toughed it out to the end and completed the marathon event.

For everyone involved with this historic project, it was an important achievement. Yet, following the centennial event in France, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said he felt a little "bummed" as he spoke with the media.

Johnson told The Associated Press how he felt about being able to race with the Garage 56 car and that he also has hopes of coming back.

"We're not the same category, but we are the same type of car, and our own estimations we thought we'd be a mid-to-back pack of the GT cars and you use that for motivation. We were laughing at ourselves when they were changing the transmission because the goal was only to finish," Johnson said. "And then after the first laps on the track, we thought, 'Maybe there's more for us' and over the course of the week. We started the race with the desire to win the GT race."

Once the car suffered a drive-line issue in the closing hours of the race, their hopes of beating all of the other GT cars were dashed, but they were fortunate to get the car back on track to finish the race. Johnson shared his disappointment that the experience was over.

"We are bummed. I wish we could come back and do it again," Johnson said. "This moment, like with everybody, I hate that it is over. Like, I hate that. We had such a good time. I hope to come back without a doubt and do this race again. But at this moment in time, this group of people, it won't happen again. It's just impossible."

No matter if Johnson thinks they could have done more, they already proved that a NASCAR Next Gen car — even with a lot more bits and pieces on it — can handle itself in a 24-hour race.

Johnson and fellow drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Jenson Button have plenty to be happy about. The NASCAR world should be very appreciative of what they have accomplished.