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
Mar 9, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
March 16th 2014 will be an important date in Daniel Ricciardo’s diary. Having made his debut mid-way through the 2011 season for HRT, the Australian driver will finally get the chance to prove his worth as he makes his first appearance for Red Bull. The defending world champions promoted Ricciardo from sister team Toro Rosso…
Mar 9, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
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Mar 9, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
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Mar 8, 2014, 10:19 PM EDT
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Mar 8, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
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Mar 8, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
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Mar 8, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
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Mar 8, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
The Nationwide Series driver is the first NASCAR racer to take part in a major anti-bullying program.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
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Mar 8, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Although a number of Sprint Cup drivers were quite vocal Friday about NASCAR’s new “knockout” qualifying system, particularly when their cars enter pit road and how to keep their motors cool, NASCAR will likely keep the format as is for the time being.
Mar 8, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
Neither Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski have ever won at Las Vegas.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT
Jamie McMurray was the fastest driver in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. McMurray’s best lap was his first of the final session, covering the progressively-banked 1.5-mile surface at 186.942 mph. A close second was Daytona 500 pole sitter Austin Dillon at 186.896 mph. Third through fifth were Clint…
Mar 8, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
The F1 supremo and the Russian president talk in Sochi, site of this fall’s Russian Grand Prix.
New online network prepares to launch, will feature lower-tier NASCAR series, sports cars, motorcycle racing
Mar 8, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
A new online-only network that will focus on some of NASCAR’s lower-tier series, as well as similar series in sports car and motorcycle racing, will make its debut this Wednesday, March 12.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
The 2012 Sprint Cup champion writes about perhaps the most critical opportunity of his career.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
Ty Dillon will pace the field in this afternoon’s 2014 Boyd Gaming 200 Nationwide Series race, having earned his first career NNS pole Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
First his truck made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Now, NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace hopes someday he’ll be reunited with the truck if he is fortunate enough to make the Hall of Fame as an inductee.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
The cars mark the 25th anniversary of the partnership between the department store giant and the legendary race team.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT
Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer were fastest in Saturday morning’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
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