Jan 5, 2014, 11:11 AM EST
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
Dec 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
A quick roundup of who’s where at the moment in Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:19 AM EST
IMSA’s Scot Elkins joins MRTI as race director.
Dec 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
The New Year’s Eve IndyCar is revealed.
Dec 22, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
In interview, Carl Edwards sets some high goals for himself in first year with JGR.
Dec 22, 2014, 9:29 AM EST
Bullins up to the Cup level as crew chief of Blaney’s No. 21.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
Junior speaks highly, already, of new crew chief Greg Ives.
Dec 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
Ex-Sauber driver Adrian Sutil calls out F1 pay-driver situation, although it could just be a case of sour grapes.
Dec 21, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
A number of tweaks are coming for the global sports car racing series.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:58 PM EST
Going back to his dirt track roots, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished eighth in the fifth annual Great Clips Battle at the Center in DuQuoin, Ill., on Saturday.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
The XFINITY Series driver for Richard Childress Racing marries girlfriend Haley Carey.
UPDATED — Highway to Hell(cat): Owner wrecks 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat one hour after buying it
Dec 21, 2014, 2:54 PM EST
With just 40 less horsepower than a 2015 Sprint Cup car, the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is VERY powerful. One new Hellcat owner, who bought it just one hour earlier, found out the hard way about all that power.
Dec 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
The Outlaw takes on the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Vickers made his full-time return to Sprint Cup action in 2014, which in itself was a victory.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:26 PM EST
Paul Menard had a decent season at times in 2014, but fell short of making the Chase in the final qualifying race.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:42 PM EST
New York State’s Empire Racing took the three fastest spots as ARCA completed a two-day open test at Daytona International Speedway.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EST
See NHRA great John Force like you’ve never seen him in this video, shot mainly through the eyes of his grandsons Jacob and Noah.
Dec 20, 2014, 8:16 PM EST
Dr. Dick Berggren will receive yet another prestigious honor in his career. He’ll be inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame in April 2015.
Dec 20, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
The staff at New Hampshire Motor Speedway got into the holiday spirit, caroling with a unique NASCAR twist in a newly-released video.
Dec 20, 2014, 6:29 PM EST
Matt Henderson, Henderson Motorsports, and local businesses deliver presents and gifts to family in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Dec 20, 2014, 5:29 PM EST
Times Square’s ‘ball drop’ will have nothing on Indianapolis as it lowers an Indy Car as the final seconds of 2014 tick off.
Video from NASCAR America
- Carl Edwards: “I plan on winning 10 races and the championship” 0
- NASCAR: Dale Jr. expects even more performance in 2015 1
- UPDATED — Highway to Hell(cat): Owner wrecks 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat one hour after buying it 53
- John Force like you’ve never seen him: ‘Papa John’ the grandfather (video) 0
- Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Jr., has ‘secret’ F4 test 3
- Report: The Sprint Experience will not return in 2015 4
- Vergne joins Ferrari as a test driver 1