Skip to content

Tommy Kendall retires from driving, but will still be active in other roles

Jan 5, 2014, 11:11 AM EST

Jonathan Bomarito AP

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.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR considers unveiling 2016 rules at Sprint All-Star Race in May

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:45 PM EST

    NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

    NASCAR heavily is considering using the May 16 showcase as a trial run of the rules package for the 2016 season and has begun informing Sprint Cup teams of the possibility.

  2. Indy Lights: Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones top 1st day of Homestead road course test

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:33 PM EST

    IndyLightsLogo

    Quick recap for Day 1 of 3 in South Florida for the Indy Lights contingent.

  3. Kyle Busch says Toyota teams are “idiots” by not working close together

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:06 PM EST

    34th Annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona 34th Annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona

    Kyle Busch say that he doesn’t see Toyota partners Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing working closely together and that “we’re idiots” for not doing so.

  4. Kyle Busch has a message for those confusing him with his brother

    Jan 26, 2015, 7:04 PM EST

    Kyle Busch Kyle Busch

    Kyle Busch is not pleased with those who have confused him with his brother in reporting on Kurt Busch’s recent court matter.

  5. NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing prepares for new era as 4-car team (VIDEO)

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    NASCAR Sprint Media Tour  - Day 1 Getty Images

    Will its expansion help or hurt its hopes of a Sprint Cup title?

  6. Cast your vote: Which Joe Gibbs Racing driver will have the best season in 2015?

    Jan 26, 2015, 4:54 PM EST

    Joe Gibbs Racing's roster for 2015 (from left): Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Xfinity Series driver Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch. AP

    Which Joe Gibbs Racing driver will have the best season in 2015? Newcomer Carl Edwards, or Matt Kenseth, or JGR stalwarts Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin?

  7. Brian France: State of NASCAR is in a good place and getting better

    Jan 26, 2015, 4:38 PM EST

    bzf media day 2015 Getty Images

    After last year’s exciting Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR chairman Brian France painted a very positive state of the sport Monday. There are still challenges, but NASCAR is working at fixing those.

  8. NASCAR not looking to expand four-car limit for teams

    Jan 26, 2015, 4:05 PM EST

    Brian France News Conference Brian France News Conference

    NASCAR Chairman Brian France says series officials are not looking to eliminate the four-car limit for teams.

  9. NASCAR: No early exit expected for title sponsor Sprint

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:58 PM EST

    Sprint All-Star Race Getty Images

    The wireless communications company already has announced its departure after the end of its contract in 2016

  10. NASCAR: Drive For Diversity class of ’15 announced; update on Daytona Rising

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    nascar logo 2014 Getty Images

    Devon Amos, Jay Beasley, Collin Cabre, Natalie Decker, Kenzie Ruston, and Dylan Smith part of this year’s D4D program; an update on Daytona Rising renovation project.

  11. Hendrick Motorsports pit coach leaves sport

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:22 PM EST

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Greg Morin, a pit coach overseeing the crews of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., is leaving his position after January.

  12. NASCAR outlaws the practice of flared fender side skirts

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:08 PM EST

    NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell Getty Images

    NASCAR has outlawed the practice of teams manipulating — or flaring out — of rear side skirts to produce an aerodynamic advantage.

  13. F1: Bottas, then Massa in new Williams FW37 at Jerez test

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:25 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Getty Images

    The Grove gang reveals its lineup for the first F1 preseason test of 2015.

  14. NASCAR: GameStop in for 10 races on Erik Jones’ XFINITY ride with Gibbs

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans Getty Images

    Video game retail company continues support of Joe Gibbs Racing’s XFINITY Series program.

  15. F1: Ferrari reveals official name for 2015 car – the SF15-T

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:30 AM EST

    Italy F1 Ferrari Vettel AP

    Official launch of the new car is set for Friday.

  16. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett to join NASCAR coverage on NBC, NBCSN

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:09 AM EST

    Dale Jarrett Getty 2014 Getty Images

    NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett will join NBC and NBCSN’s coverage of NASCAR in 2015, it was announced Monday.

  17. National Motorsports Press Association honors Lynda Petty, Kevin Harvick and others for service, achievement

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:31 AM EST

    Richard and Lynda Petty AP

    Richard Petty’s late wife, Lynda, and 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick were among those who were honored during Sunday’s National Motorsports Press Association annual awards banquet.

  18. F1: Lotus releases images of its new Mercedes-powered E23

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    Credit: Lotus F1 Team Credit: Lotus F1 Team

    Lotus hopes to put a less-than-competitive 2014 to rest with the help of its new car.

  19. NASCAR Media Tour begins today, but drivers still in idle

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:36 AM EST

    GoDaddy Bowl - Toledo v Arkansas State Getty Images

    A long layoff has drivers such as Danica Patrick ready ‘to take out this aggression somewhere right now.’

  20. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ponders a 24-hour NASCAR race

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Dale Jr. TaxSlayer Bowl 2015 Getty Images

    A big fan of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. posed a rather interesting question to his Twitter followers: Could NASCAR ever do — let alone consider — a 24-hour race?

Video from NASCAR America

Gordon hesitant to call it 'retirement'
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Grala (1531)
  2. M. Waltrip (1477)
  3. B. Scott (1449)
  4. B. Vickers (1425)
  5. M. Lira (1414)