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
Aug 1, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT
One year ago, Kahne effectively put himself into the Chase with a win at Pocono. Another win on Sunday at the Tricky Triangle could do it again.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Is his first career Sprint Cup win not too far off? Larson’s lap of 183.438 mph is enough to earn pole position for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Coming up today: Kasey Kahne on his hunt for a Chase-clinching win; expectations for Denny Hamlin’s interim crew chief; Dale Jr. and IndyCar’s Graham Rahal visit National Guard soldiers; the many nuances of Pocono Raceway; Ty Dillon looks back on an extraordinary weekend at Indy.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:43 PM EDT
Larson and Peters go 1-2 in the first Truck practice, then flip-flop in the second practice at Pocono.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Former Pocono winner Kyle Petty explains the aspects that set Pocono apart from the rest of NASCAR’s tracks.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT
Toronto winner leads second practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series on Friday.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Kenseth’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, does not have regular crew chief Darian Grubb behind him this weekend, as Grubb has begun serving his six-race suspension.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
In the final part of our 2014 mid-season review, we look at the storylines that have defined the season so far and take a look at what we may be talking about come the end of the year.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Ives has won multiple Sprint Cup titles as an engineer for Jimmie Johnson, but will be making his Cup debut as a crew chief when he joins forces with Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
NASCAR drivers are known for trading paint, spinning out rivals and are seemingly always ready for a fight. And those are just some of the same elements that NASCAR drivers share with CEO’s of some of the best middle-market companies, according to a new story.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Busch posts a lap of 180.353 mph around the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Much like a frequent flier or frequent hotel guest program, JTG Daugherty has created the first ‘rewards program’ for fans to earn awards and prizes using engagement with the team and its sponsors through social media.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
In part two of our mid-season report, we look at the drivers: who has excelled and who has floundered in 2014?
Aug 1, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Multi-motorsports team owner Chip Ganassi will be honored August 7 in Corning, N.Y., for more than a quarter-century of contributions to the auto racing world.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Austin Dillon isn’t skating through his rookie season in Sprint Cup. Everything he achieves, he earns. But Dillon did try skating of a different kind and took to it like a natural.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:07 AM EDT
The American goes P1 with a lap of 1 minute, 6.5316 seconds in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
We grade the eleven teams for their seasons so far as F1 embarks on its summer break.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:10 AM EDT
Should NASCAR consider shifting to a format that features timed races instead of hundreds of miles or laps? Let’s get your take in our poll.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Brazilian driver confident that tracks such as Spa, Monza and the Circuit of the Americas will suit the FW36 car.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
The DeltaWing team makes new shop upgrades as it plans for the future.