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
Sep 16, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Also coming up today: What’s more important in winning a Sprint Cup title: Experience or Drive?; rookie phenom Kyle Larson on dealing with the hype; NASCAR pioneer Wendell Scott to be honored next month.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
The Russian driver will continue his rehab work in Indy after sustaining multiple injuries in a practice crash on Aug. 29 at Auto Club Speedway.
Sep 16, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
The three-time NASCAR champion responds that he intends to “continue to provide my full cooperation.”
Sep 16, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT
OAK Racing to return to FIA WEC for three of last four races.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Sprint Cup driver David Ragan and Camping World Truck Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. will sport special paint schemes honoring Scott during the Martinsville Chase weekend in October.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Videos from the Pirelli World Challenge championship celebration highlight 25 years, and the 25th year (2014) of the championship.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as NASCAR enters the second race of the Chase’s Challenger Round.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Reports from Australia peg the season-opening race having posted an A$60 million loss in 2014.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
CFH Racing reveals logo and will reveal a part of its 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series program on Wednesday.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Corvette Racing and Corvette DP teams look for Austin win encore this weekend.
Sep 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Expect the 100 kg fuel limit to enter the equation this weekend, says Renault’s head of track operations.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT
Sergio Perez looks to go 4-4 in Singapore scores.
Sep 16, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT
Michael Waltrip and partner Emma Slater look to avoid being eliminated after first dance effort on DWTS.
Sep 15, 2014, 10:54 PM EDT
Tony Stewart is expected to learn later this week if he will not face charges or may be indicted in last month’s Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy. A noted attorney with extensive experience in death and catastrophic injury cases explained to MST the legal process in Stewart’s case.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
In his first-ever race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Aric Almirola suffered a blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway for the first time in his three-year career.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we recap how Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson struggled in the first race of the Chase.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
Monday’s edition of NASCAR America recaps all the highs and lows of Sunday’s opening race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, from Brad Keselowski’s win to Aric Almirola’s heartbreak.
Sep 15, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
John Paul Jr. keeps fighting despite Huntington’s disease.
Sep 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Parker Kligerman recaps his Indy Lights test at IMS.
Sep 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT
Aric Almirola came into Sunday’s opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with high hopes of being perhaps the Cinderella of the playoffs, someone who would fly under the radar all the way to the final four season-ending battle at Homestead.
Video from NASCAR America
- WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA has the latest on Tony Stewart saga at 5 p.m. ET 0
- IndyCar’s Mikhail Aleshin released from Indianapolis hospital 0
- DA will submit evidence from Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. case to grand jury 12
- Renault’s Taffin: Fuel consumption could well be an issue in Singapore 1
- Jeff Gordon makes strong ‘Drive For Five’ start, also has high praise for Kyle Larson in Chase opener 2
- Keselowski surges between Harvick, Larson to win Chase opener at Chicagoland 0
- For 16 Sprint Cup drivers, the time is here: ready, set, Chase 0