Skip to content

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

Jan 5, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

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. As NHRA closes in on 100 wins by female racers, it all started with one of the greatest, Shirley Muldowney

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT

    Shirley Muldowney. (Photo courtesy: NHRA) Shirley Muldowney. (Photo courtesy: NHRA)

    The NHRA is just two wins away from recording 100 victories by female drivers in the sport’s all-time annals, which could happen in this weekend’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway. And while all eyes this weekend will be on drivers such as Alexis DeJoria and Courtney Force (Funny Car), Brittany and Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) as potential candidates to set that significant milestone, it’s also time to reflect back on who started it all, the legendary Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney.

  2. Check out highlights of first day of Mecum Kansas City auction

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT

    012214_Mecum

    If you like vintage cars, collectors cars, muscle cars — pretty much anything that looks great and is on four wheels — you owe it to yourself to check out some of the fantastic rides that were up for sale Wednesday during the first day of the Mecum Kansas City auction.

  3. IndyCar: James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden are happy Space Campers (VIDEO)

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Credit: INDYCAR on Instagram Credit: INDYCAR on Instagram

    The two IndyCar pilots have a blast at U.S. Space Camp before getting down to business this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra).

  4. Brad Keselowski: Changes overdue to Sprint Cup schedule; offers his ideas

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT

    Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard Getty Images

    Brad Keselowski had a dream season in 2012, winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Now Keselowski wants a dream schedule on the Cup circuit – and some of his ideas make sense.

  5. Patrick Carpentier returns to race Quebec’s famed Circuit Trois-Rivieres for first time in nearly 20 years

    Apr 24, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

    Patrick Carpentier

    It has taken him nearly 20 years, but Patrick Carpentier is going back home to race. A veteran of several race series in his career including CART (5 wins), GP3R (2 wins), IndyCar and NASCAR, the Quebec, Canada native will return to the Circuit Trois-Rivieres street course for his first-ever FIA World Championship Rallycross race August 7-8.

  6. Ryan Blaney is directionally challenged in latest episode of Penske Files

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Kentucky 300 Getty Images

    Don’t ask Ryan Blaney for directions, period. That’s the message in the latest edition of the Penske Files, in which a Team Penske member asks Blaney for directions to the nearest Discount Tire outlet (Discount Tire is one of Blaney’s primary sponsors in the Nationwide Series this season).

  7. Richard Petty to return at Richmond, first race since wife Lynda’s death

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Richard Petty AP

    According to driver Aric Almirola, team owner Richard Petty is expected to attend Saturday’s NASCAR Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. It will be the first time that Petty has been at a racetrack since the death of his beloved wife Lynda on March 25.

  8. NASCAR VP: 2015 Sprint Cup engine package to be revealed before All-Star Race

    Apr 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    GoBowling.com 400 Getty Images

    Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations, says that the process of finalizing the ’15 engine package is underway.

  9. Too much, too fast, too soon: The sad saga of Swan Racing

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Brandon Davis, majority owner of what is now the essentially defunct Swan Racing. (Photo courtesy Swan Racing) Brandon Davis, majority owner of what is now the essentially defunct Swan Racing. (Photo courtesy Swan Racing)

    Brandon Davis did all he could to keep Swan Racing afloat. But even a multi-millionaire oil and gas industrialist can only bleed so much money before deciding to throw a red flag on the operation. When anticipated funding and sponsorship failed to materialized, the two-team operation sank so fast that Davis had no other choice but to essentially go out of business.

  10. McLaren set to carry out aggressive series of upgrades

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    Team racing director Eric Boullier says that upgrades to the MP4-29 have been planned out to the British Grand Prix in July.

  11. RLL seeks to conquer Barber’s flowing nature, and improve qualifying

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    Rahal Getty Images

    Improved qualifying will likely yield greater results for RLL Racing at Barber this weekend.

  12. KV pair looks for results in Barber

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    BourdaisBarber1 Getty Images

    Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Saavedra seek their best weekends of the year at the Barber Motorsports Park event.

  13. Indy 500 car count update: Four more driver/car combos needed for 33

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

    Dale Coyne’s team, plus a handful of others will need to assemble programs shortly to bring the Indianapolis 500 car count number up to 33, and perhaps beyond.

  14. Andretti Autosport seeks big rebound weekend at Barber

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    RHR-Barber Getty Images

    After Long Beach debacle, Andretti Autosport looks to right the ship, get second straight Barber win this weekend.

  15. Unfinished business for Newgarden at Barber

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    NewgyLB Getty Images

    Looking for a second straight fast, solid weekend, Josef Newgarden and the SFHR team seek an improvement on P9 in 2013 at Barber.

  16. IndyCar: Will high grip and high tempers equal high drama at Barber?

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Barber-Preview Getty Images

    Round 3 of the Verizon IndyCar Series could be a humdinger at Barber with high drama, high tempers possible after Long Beach.

  17. NASCAR Minute: Marcos Ambrose happy with 2014 start (VIDEO)

    Apr 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 - Practice Getty Images

    RPM’s Marcos Ambrose on his start to the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

  18. NHRA drag racing superstar John Force goes on vacation — at a dragstrip, of course

    Apr 23, 2014, 6:53 PM EDT

    AP Photo/John Force Racing, Elon Werner AP Photo/John Force Racing, Elon Werner

    John Force is your classic workaholic.

    Even when he’s on vacation and supposed to be resting and relaxing and taking things slow, the record-setting 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ never stops working. Force was on vacation with his family last weekend in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, a prelude to his upcoming 65th birthday on May 4.

  19. Swan Racing restructures, splits up two-car Sprint Cup operation

    Apr 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Food City 250 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Swan Racing has restructured its two-car Sprint Cup team, the organization announced Wednesday afternoon. Minority owner Anthony Marlowe has merged his ownership stake in the No. 26 Toyota driven by Sprint Cup rookie Cole Whitt with BK Racing, which now expands to a three-car operation. Meanwhile, the No. 30 team has been sold to John Cohen, owner of XxxTreme Motorsports.

  20. Three-year extension for IndyCar at Long Beach approved by City Council

    Apr 23, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT

    Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Getty Images

    IndyCars confirmed to “roar by the shore” through 2018 after Long Beach City Council meeting.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

Ambrose happy with start of season
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. P. Kligerman (1582)
  2. C. Whitt (1459)
  3. B. Jones (1343)
  4. J. Boston (1213)
  5. B. Myers (1179)
  1. T. Hessert (1175)
  2. A. Seuss (1088)
  3. B. Loftin (1073)
  4. J. Myers (1064)
  5. L. Fleming (978)

Featured video

Lewis Hamilton thanks his 'angels'