They say Karma is a great force in the universe, rewarding those that do good deeds for people and punishing those that go out of their way to do harm to others.
If he wasn’t a firm believer in Karma previously, American road-racing ace Tommy Kendall is surely preparing to subscribe to their newsletter now.
“It’s funny how the universe works,” Kendall said. “I was hanging out with Brian Vickers and he was talking about wanting to run a bunch of different stuff, Le Mans, Indianapolis, things like that. They were doing the Viper unveiling and I took Brian down to the show and introduced him to everyone there. Soon after that I got a call from Bill Riley asking me if I was interested in possibly driving the car.”
The car that Bill Riley was calling about wasn’t just any car. It was the new SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R that was making its return to American Le Mans Series competition. The Viper program dominated the GT class at the early part of the last decade, and was gearing up for a two-race return to American road-racing in 2013.
For Kendall, the call was a chance to get back in the game after a long dormant period that had seen him go from the cockpit to the broadcast booth and then to SPEED TV as a show host.
“I was missing it (racing), but the only way I wanted to get back into it was with a team that did things the right way – and those types of teams weren’t calling,” he said. “Normally in a situation like this I would say ‘maybe’ but knowing Bill and his team works, and how strong the SRT Motorsports can be, I said yes right away. But if I was handicapping my chances of getting this ride at the beginning of the process, I would have thought that the odds were pretty long.”
The multi-time Trans-Am champion joined a number of drivers at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC and turned some laps on the road course there, but for a ambitious project such as the Viper program, SRT was interested in much more than whether Kendall could make the car go fast.
“We ran some laps in the car, but then they pulled you in a room away from everyone and really started digging,” recalled Kendall. “They wanted to know how my fitness was, how my feet were, whether I really wanted to do this and wanted to commit to this program.”
The foot question stems from a vicious 1991 crash in Watkins Glen that left Kendall with badly-damaged feet and ankles. He recovered and went on to win four Trans-Am titles, but still walks with a limp, sparking the questions.
“It might look bad, but once you get the pedals where I need them, I have no problem in the car at all,” Kendall said. “I’m heavier than I should be but it’s no secret what you have to do to get to where you want to be. I’ve dropped 20 pounds, I’m about 80 percent of where I want to be but I will be exactly where I need to be by Sebring next year.”
Kendall’s efforts in and out of the car have been a huge boon to the entire program, according to SRT Motorsports Road Racing Manager Gary Johnson.
“Tommy has really brought another level of professionalism to the program and he has been a great help on many levels,” Johnson said. “His maturity, his experience and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, has really inspired the other drivers to raise their game as well.”