Tommy Kendall is an American former racing driver who won four IMSA GT championship titles during the 1980s and three Trans-Am titles during the 1990s. He also tried to race in other racing series, recording twenty starts in different NASCAR competitions. He participated twice in 24 hours of Le Mans and had one drive at Bathurst 1000. Since 2000, Kendall was working for different TV stations as a race analyst and a host. In 2015, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Tommy is a son of a racing driver
Tommy Kendall was born on October 17, 1966, in Santa Monica, California. As a son of a racing driver Charles Kendall, young Tommy was also interested in racing and he started his career in 1985, entering the IMSA GTU Championship with his own #00 Mazda RX-7. In his debut season, he participated in four races, scoring two class podiums.
In February 1986, he competed for the first time at Daytona 24h race, driving two cars. He was a member of two crews, driving the #11 Lola T616 of Kendall Racing and #75 Mazda RX-7 of Clayton-Cunningham Racing (CCR), but both crews retired from the race.
1986 - first championship title with Mazda RX-7
In the 1986 IMSA GTU Championship, Kendall continued to drive the #75 Mazda RX-7 for CCR, taking his first championship title in a career. He scored twelve podiums in sixteen races, including four wins. In almost every race he was driving alone, except at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road America, where he shared the car with Bob Reed, John Hogdal and Irv Hoerr.
Back-to-back championship title in 1987
The season of 1987 started with one more unsuccessful visit to Daytona. The #75 Mazda RX-7 didn't reach the finish again. On the other side, in the 1987 IMSA GTU Championship, Kendal was pretty good, scoring fourteen podiums in seventeen races, including five wins. He was a champion again.
At the end of the year, he debuted in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He participated in the Winston Western 500 race at Californian Riverside International Raceway, driving the #76 Buick for Spears Motorsports. He retired after 26 laps because of an engine failure.
1988 - third GTU title with Chevrolet Beretta
Third consecutive IMSA GTU title came in 1988 when Kendall was driving the #1 Chevrolet Beretta for C&C Inc. He won six out of eleven races, dominantly taking the title ahead of Amos Johnson. At Sebring 12h, he was sharing the car with Max Jones, but the duo didn't reach the finish. In June 1988, Kendall returned to Riverside International Raceway and participated again in the NASCAR Winston Cup race with the #76 Spears' Buick, this time, he finished 18th.
Driving Chevrolets in 1989
After three consecutive IMSA GTU title, Kendall switched to GTO car in 1989, participating with Skoal Bandit Racing's Chevrolet Camaro at Daytona 24h, together with Max Jones, Buz McCall and Jack Baldwin. They finished 17th overall and 6th in GTO class. Later in the season, Kendall reached the podium with Skoal Bandit's Chevrolet, finishing second at Miami.
In 1989, his main competition was SCCA Corvette Challenge, in which he finished fifth in the points after ten races. He again had a one-off participation in NASCAR Winston Cup, driving the #18 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports at Watkins Glen, crashing out after 79 (out of 90) laps.
Expanded NASCAR program in 1990
In 1990, Kendall switched to the highest class in the IMSA Championship, driving the GTP-spec Spice SE90P for Spice Engineering. Without podiums and wins, he finished low in the points, in 36th place.
In 1990, Kendall expanded his NASCAR program, starting three Winston Cup races and one Busch Series race. He failed to qualify for two Winston Cup races. In August, at Watkins Glen, he finished 8th in the #40 Chevrolet of Reno Enterprises, which remained his best result in twenty NASCAR races, mostly as the road course ringer.
Two podiums and serious crash in the 1991 IMSA GTP Championship
In 1991, Kendall made a progress in the IMSA GTP Championship, reaching two podiums and finishing seventh in the points at the end of the season. He competed with two cars, the Spice SE89P of Jim Miller Racing and the Intrepid RM-1 of MTI Racing. He was second with Spice at Miami and third with Intrepid at Mid-Ohio. In 1991, Kendall participated for the first time in the International Race of Champions, against many American and international legends, finishing 11th (out of 12).
In June 1991, Kendall suffered serious leg injuries after crashing at Watkins Glen with his Intrepid. He returned to racing in February 1992, spending one more season in the IMSA GTP Championship. He was driving MTI's #12 Intrepid RM-1 and finished 10th in the points, scoring only one podium (Road Atlanta) in eight races.
1993 - Daytona 24h class victory and one more title with Ford Mustang
For the 1993 season, Kendall joined Roush Racing which was a good decision. The #11 Ford Mustang, driven by Kendall, Wally Dallenbach Jr., Robby Gordon and Robbie Buhl, took the GTS class victory at 24 hours of Daytona. Later in the season, Kendall added six more podiums in GTS-1 class, becoming the IMSA champion for the fourth time in a career.
During 1993, Kendall participated for the first time in the SCCA Trans-Am Series, driving Roush Racing's Ford Mustang. In 1994, he completely switched to Trans-Am, winning four races and finishing third in the points, behind Scott Pruett and Ron Fellows.
Three consecutive Trans-Am titles from 1995 to 1997
In 1995, he won one race and took the title ahead of Ron Fellows. In 1996, he won four times and beat Dorsey Schroeder in the title fight. In 1997, Kendall was absolutely dominant in the Roush Racing's Ford Mustang, winning 11 out of 13 races.
In February 1995, Roush Racing's Mustang won the GTS-1 class at 24 hours of Daytona. The #70 car was driven by Kendall, Mike Brockman, Mark Martin and the famous actor Paul Newman. During his championship-winning years in Trans-Am, Kendall regularly competed in the annual International Race of Champions, finishing best in 1995.
Kendall competed at Bathurst 1000 in 1996
In 1996, he traveled to Australia to compete at famous Bathurst 1000, sharing the #18 Dick Johnson Racing's Ford Falcon with Steven Johnson. They finished 8th, three laps behind the winners.
After three successful Trans-Am seasons, Kendall joined Matthews-Colucci Racing to drive Riley & Scott MKIII prototype in the 1998 US Road Racing Championship and one race of the World Sportscar Championship. In 1998, he also participated for the last time in NASCAR Winston Cup, driving for Joe Falk at Sonoma and for Felix Sabates at Watkins Glen.
Le Mans 24h debut in 2000
In 1999, Kendall decided to slow down, participating in two races of the American Le Mans Series with Doran's Ferrari 333 SP and two races of the Grand American Rolex Series with Matthews-Colucci Racing's Riley & Scott prototype. In 2000, he raced even less, participating in only one ALMS event, at Laguna Seca, with Allen Speedlab's Saleen S7-R.
In June 2000, Tom Kendall participated for the first time at 24 hours of Le Mans, driving the #60 Porsche 911 GT2 for Konrad Motorsport, alongside Charles Slater and Jurgen von Gartzen. The trio finished 14th overall and 7th in GT2 class.
Tommy became TV star in the early 2000s
In the early 2000s, Kendall had a few arrangements on TV stations, so he paused from racing for three seasons. He returned to the cockpit of the race car in 2004, entering the Trans-Am Road Racing Series with Rocketsports Racing's Jaguar XKR. He won two races and finished as a runner-up, tied in points with the new champion and his teammate Paul Gentilozzi.
In 2006, Kendall appeared in two ALMS events, driving Pontiac GTO-R for Pacific Coast Motorsports and Sigalsport. After that, he again focused on his TV career, hosting the Setup show at Speed TV. Another return to racing followed in 2012, when Kendall joined SRT Motorsports in four races of the American Le Mans Series, sharing the SRT Viper GTS-R with Marc Goossens.
Hall of Fame inductee after 30 years of sports career
In 2013, he competed with SRT Viper at two classic endurance races – Sebring 12h and Le Mans 24h. In both races, his partners were Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito. At Sebring, they were 10th in GT class, at Le Mans, they finished 9th in GTE Pro class.
In 2014, Kendall returned one more time to Trans-Am, the series where he spent glorious years during the 1990s. He joined Miller Racing and participated in four races of TA2 class, driving Dodge Challenger and finishing 15th in the points. A year later, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, honoring the end of a 30-year long career.