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 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Gabby Chaves to get new teammate in form of Ryan Phinny for Sonoma, at Indy Lights weekend finale.
Aug 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
NBA legend Dominique Wilkins tours Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 team during the Milwaukee IndyCar weekend.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Le Mans champion Andre Lotterer confirmed for surprise Formula One debut with Caterham at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
Last year, reliability was the problem for Toyota’s engines, not power. This year, the situation has been reversed, and Toyota Racing Development’s president says they’re hunting for more performance ahead of the Chase.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:07 PM EDT
Alan Gustafson may not be as well-known as other crew chiefs, but it’s clear that he’s played a big role in Jeff Gordon’s success this season. The NASCAR AMERICA crew breaks down what’s made them such a good pair together.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA talks about Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing – and the impact of their new sponsor, telecommunications equipment company ARRIS.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Coming up today: Reaction from 2015 JGR drivers Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez, and current JGR Cup drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch; No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson on the team’s win at Michigan; the Michigan edition of “Scan All 43.”
Aug 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Four days after racing in Michigan, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series faces the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway in Wednesday night’s UNOH 200.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
This weekend, Red Bull GRC drivers will compete on a .924-mile layout at Daytona International Speedway that’s the longest they’ve faced so far this year. Catch Saturday’s final at 2:30 p.m. on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT
Gibbs, who won two Sprint Cup titles with Stewart in 2002 and 2005, believes that his former driver has the courage to overcome his grief and eventually come back to racing.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:16 PM EDT
e.dams-Renault’s Sebastien Buemi puts up a lap of 1 minute, 31.792 seconds to lead the final day of testing at the UK’s Donington Park.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Eight years ago, the son of Michael and grandson of Mario broke through on the Northern California circuit.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
A final report from MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno on how the Milwaukee IndyFest went off.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
After success in Mexico and in the U.S.-based NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Suarez will take on the Nationwide Series next season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
NASCAR’s Chase Grid Live sweepstakes open until August 29; provides fans potential VIP trip ahead of Chicagoland Chase opener.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Carl Edwards was almost destined to move to Gibbs, and it’s time to see whether his new opportunity will yield as much success for him as other switches have for others.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT
Carl Edwards confirmed at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2015 and beyond.
Aug 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
10 Sprint Cup squads tested various configurations today at Michigan as NASCAR looked to nail down its rules package for the 2015 Cup season. Today on NASCAR AMERICA, NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan gave a full report on the proceedings.
Aug 18, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT
Under very difficult circumstances, NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton went back behind the wheel this weekend at Michigan. Today on NASCAR AMERICA, the Sprint Cup veteran talked about his experience subbing for Tony Stewart.
Aug 18, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Coming up today: Breaking down Jeff Gordon’s win at Michigan; Jeff Burton and his weekend with Stewart-Haas Racing; Kyle Larson’s Chase hopes take a hit; teams test potential 2015 rules changes.
Video from NASCAR America
- Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa 1
- NASCAR: Joe Gibbs hopeful for eventual return of Tony Stewart 12
- The 2014 Milwaukee IndyFest weekend high on promise, with more positives than negatives 5
- NASCAR’s worst-kept secret is official: Carl Edwards joins Joe Gibbs Racing from 2015 4
- Report: Comcast’s Xfinity, NASCAR closer to series sponsorship deal 0
- Toro Rosso names Max Verstappen for 2015 race seat, to become youngest driver in F1 history 3
- Chase outlook brighter for some, cloudy for others after Michigan 0