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
Oct 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Romain Grosjean can opt out of Lotus at year’s end if he so desires.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT
Johnny Sauter was fastest in both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices Thursday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
On Thursday’s NASCAR America, Rusty Wallace gave his top five drivers to watch in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas. Rusty’s pick for the winner? Jeff Gordon.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Spaniard says that his future is not his first priority, and that all of the events of the past few months have gone as planned.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Rick Allen and Rusty Wallace discussed what are Carl Edwards’ and Jeff Gordon’s chances Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Sauber team boss has long warned about the problems blighting Formula 1.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
British driver speaks about his appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show and his trip to New York City.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Lewis Hamilton politely questions double points.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
As the end of the 2014 Formula 1 season draws near, the sport ventures to the United States for one of the most popular races of the year in Austin, Texas.
Watch NASCAR America LIVE at 5 pm ET: Texas 3-step, Harvick’s 500th, up-and-coming Quiroga, lots more
Oct 30, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
Things are always bigger and better in Texas, and we live up to that with the big show we have planned for Thursday’s NASCAR America.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Date changes, date equity, and broadcast windows play key role in shaping 2015 IndyCar schedule.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
F1 is booming in the United States, but could the arrival of an American team and an American driver send its popularity off the charts?
Oct 30, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Ahead of the premiere of Road to Mercedes on NBCSN at 10p ET, here is one final teaser for the show that will see NBCSN’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales travel to Germany to visit the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Frenchman thinks he would be the best choice for Toro Rosso in 2015 alongside Max Verstappen.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT
Sergio Perez closing on in contract extension with Force India.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
The F1 community loves coming to Austin and COTA, but why?
Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT
This weekend’s race at Texas will mark the official debut of Tony Gibson and Daniel Knost as crew chiefs for Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick, respectively. How will they and their drivers fare together?
Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez appear at the event in Austin ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Get your calendars out and start marking up which series run where, when.
Video from NASCAR America
- 2014 United States Grand Prix Preview 0
- Road To: Mercedes teaser – The very first Mercedes-Benz car (VIDEO) 0
- 2015 IndyCar schedule officially revealed; 17 races including 12 on NBCSN (VIDEO) 1
- Bianchi remains “critical but stable” but continues to fight, says family 2
- Has Formula 1 cracked the U.S. market in Austin? 3
- Behind the scenes: Lewis Hamilton on TODAY (VIDEO) 0
- Krista Voda to become host for NASCAR on NBC coverage next year 2