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
Mar 7, 2014, 6:05 PM EST
“It’s not 100,000 from Las Vegas that will be sitting in these grandstands.” – KB
Mar 7, 2014, 4:55 PM EST
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver says that right now, he’s more focused on working with the new aero rules and qualifying format.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:20 PM EST
Crew chief Rodney Childers, driver Casey Mears, and the impact of the new rules package at Las Vegas are all part of today’s show.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:13 PM EST
Kurt Busch’s quest to become the first NASCAR driver in a decade to attempt the “Double” – racing in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, and then flying to Charlotte to compete in that evening’s Coca-Cola 600 – just became even more challenging.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:47 PM EST
Edwards and his Roush Fenway teammates pick up the pace after a slow Thursday test.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:43 PM EST
For the next month or so, don’t be surprised if Greg Biffle starts to act a little like Dracula — a good Dracula, mind you.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:30 PM EST
With a full-season ride in the NASCAR Euro Series, 33-year-old Mathias Lauda is set to add to his eclectic resume.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:12 PM EST
If you’re fortunate enough to spend any length of time around him, you’ll quickly find Matt Kenseth has a very dry wit. Think of a cross between comedians Steven Wright and the late George Carlin – just not so over-the-top as Carlin was.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
SBJ report says Verizon will back series for 10 years.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
“I’m sure there’s going to be more tension…But that’s what it’s all about. That’s why these drivers and teams are the best in the world.” – Graham Rahal
Mar 7, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Qualifying format change falls in line with other moves made by IMS/INDYCAR the last several months.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
Out go Korea and India, in come Austria and Russia, changes made to the running order, a different season finale – and a new night race!
Mar 7, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
With all but two teams making changes to their line-up and three new rookies, the F1 grid is looking very different in 2014.
Mar 7, 2014, 12:52 PM EST
TV times and talent for Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 in 2014.
Mar 7, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
What are going to be the main themes for the new Formula 1 season? Be it noses, double points, Bernie or Kimi, it promises to be an exciting one.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
F1 tire supplier confirms eight testing days with teams in 2014, thus avoiding the ‘testgate’ scandal of 2013.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:37 AM EST
Two attempts for Indy qualifying required: one to get in, one to set starting order.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
First target for Hulkenberg is to make it past the first lap at Albert Park, having failed to do so in three attempts.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
CEO refuses to accept knock-down price for title sponsorship following McLaren’s worst season since 1980.
Mar 7, 2014, 7:00 AM EST
No change in the F1 legend’s condition as he remains in a medically-induced coma.
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