Jan 5, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT
Somewhat quietly – in fact, based on a fan’s inquiry on Twitter – was the other half of the SRT Viper endurance race driver announcement broached. The announcement Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rob Bell would serve as SRT Motorsports’ endurance drivers in 2014 meant that Tommy Kendall, a sports car legend and veteran of the sport, will be retiring from driving. Ryan Dalziel, SRT’s other 2013 endurance driver, will race full time with the Extreme Speed Motorsports outfit in the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Kendall, 47, attended the production car’s launch in April 2012, and then won in a shootout over some other qualified drivers to be named one of SRT’s race drivers for its return to racing with the new Viper. The car premiered at the Mid-Ohio American Le Mans Series race in August 2012.
“Talk about out of nowhere. When asked before, ‘Would you ever drive again,’ it was always a ‘qualified yes,’” Kendall explained to me in a 2012 interview. “I’d say, ‘Well no, I miss it, and I enjoy it, but I’m not missing it so much I’ll drop everything I’m doing to put it all together.
“Since that call (from Bill Riley), I’ve been working on my fitness, now here we are,” he added. “There’s the chance and it’s funny how things like that work. I pinch myself because here I am driving, arguably, the most beautiful sports car out there right now with a team like Riley, and the backing of SRT.”
Kendall drove the balance of the 2012 season and served as endurance race third driver at Sebring, Petit Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013. All the while, Kendall continued to attend most events in an ambassadorial role for the SRT brand; that’s a role that is likely to expand going forward.
Kendall explained the decision in a phone call Sunday morning.
“I don’t look at it as bittersweet. You’d love to stay 25 forever and ever,” he said. “Last year I almost stopped. It was difficult to only drive every 3 months. So really it was best for all involved, to get someone super sharp in there, it was a win-win really.”
He also called his last start at Le Mans “kind of a victory lap” but expressed how fortunate he was to have that opportunity.
In his most successful and memorable race season, Kendall swept the first 11 races of the 13-race 1997 Trans-Am season en route to his third straight championship. His No. 11 All Sport Ford Mustang remains one of that series’ most iconic cars, and that 11-win total remains a series record.
Kendall was also a pioneer as one of the “NASCAR road race ringers,” making 14 career Sprint Cup starts from 1987 to 1998. His 1996 Sonoma start came in place of an injured Bill Elliott. An eighth place at Watkins Glen in 1990 marked his career best finish.
He’s also served as a color commentator to various broadcasts, primarily American open-wheel and some sports car races. His wit, insights and sense of humor have made him a fan favorite.
We wish “TK” well in all his new endeavors going forward, and we know we’ll still see him at a track.
— Tommy Kendall (@TommyKendall11) January 5, 2014
Jul 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Sirotkin claims his first pole in the GP2 Series on Friday ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Richie Stanaway.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Foust seeks another win, Speed looks for bounce back from tough Daytona at MCAS.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
The street and road course specialist gets his first taste of an oval in Iowa this week.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Wolff finishes eight-tenths of a second behind regular Williams driver Felipe Massa in FP1 on Friday.
Jul 3, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
British driver switches back to the old setting on his Mercedes after struggling in the past four races.
Jul 3, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Raikkonen hits back at questions about his motivation as rumors of a possible driver change at Ferrari begin to circulate.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Rosberg’s car was covered over following a stoppage in FP1.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:32 AM EDT
Two red flags interrupt running in FP2, but it is Nico Rosberg who leads the way once again.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
Can Nico Rosberg top the timesheets once again in second practice at Silverstone?
Jul 3, 2015, 4:46 AM EDT
First practice at Silverstone kicks off at 5am ET on Friday.
Jul 2, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT
The way his season had been going, two-time NHRA Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon was threatening to become a “Whatever Happened To?” question.
Jul 2, 2015, 10:18 PM EDT
New NHRA Peter Clifford has the experience and apparently plenty of ideas already to get the sport of drag racing moving forward and out of neutral.
Jul 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT
Today, Iowa. Next year, Indianapolis? That’s what Matthew Brabham is hoping for, after completing his first full IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport Thursday at Iowa Speedway.
Jul 2, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT
At the same time that James Hinchcliffe was seriously injured while practicing for the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe didn’t have a ride for either the 500 or for the season.
Jul 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
The same ten teams from season one, albeit with a few name changes.
F1 Strategy Group pushing through technical revolution for 2017, other changes planned as early as Belgian GP
Jul 2, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
F1 Strategy Group met with the FIA and Formula One Management in England on Wednesday to discuss future changes to the sport.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Red, white and blue in time for the British Grand Prix weekend.
- Rosberg fastest once again in second British GP practice 0
- Rosberg tops FP1 at Silverstone after gearbox change 0
- NHRA: Tony Pedregon hopes to keep momentum going in Norwalk 0
- NHRA: New president Peter Clifford full of ideas to get drag racing back on-track 8
- Ryan Briscoe making most of filling in for James Hinchcliffe 0
- F1 Strategy Group pushing through technical revolution for 2017, other changes planned as early as Belgian GP 6
- 2015 British Grand Prix Preview 1