But according to Binks, things nearly took a different turn.
“Frankly, I was ready to quit after his accident. I thought I needed to do something else and I was devasted. Tommy said, ‘Go home and make another car for me and we’ll go racing.’ Thank God he did. Both of us had amazing careers after those races,” Binks said.
Jack Roush came calling and offered a saddle in a Ford Mustang for the 1994 Trans-Am season.
“The second half of my career was with Jack (Roush),” Kendall said. “They were well established in road racing when he came to the team, but Jack was more interested in NASCAR. He gave us what we needed, but we didn’t have a lot to do with Jack. Other than the Rolex 24, I think he only came to one other race.”
Kendall’s greatest season came in 1997 when he won 11 consecutive races to start the campaign, and sailed to his fourth series title.
No team had anything for the black-and-green All Sport pony car. Kendall explained why.
“It was the best of all worlds and we were left to do our thing,” Kendall said. “The whole time we were there, we had a shot at a win. We did the same thing every year and there was no turnover, so we just got better and better. Toward the end, the last two years we built that new car. Each week we were the ones to beat. If we executed well, no one could beat us.”
Kendall identifies the 1995 Rolex 24 At Daytona as his most memorable race. He, Mark Martin and Michael Brockman teamed with 70-year-old actor and Indy car team owner Paul Newman. After his last stint, Newman climbed out of the Paramount funded Nobody’s Fool Ford and headed for the motor coach, relieved he hadn’t crashed the race car.
However, Roush stopped him and told Newman he would ride that horse to the checkered flag. The crowd went wild when Newman finished the race, putting the lid on Roush Racing’s 10th consecutive class victory at Daytona during an 11-year span.
It turned out that 1997 was Kendall’s final full season of racing, as he ran sparingly in IMSA and SCCA competition during the first half of the 2000s. His last serious effort was with the Dodge Viper team for the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I’m proud that we did so much in such a short period. My career was 12 years long from GTU in ’86 to the end of ’97. That’s 12 seasons. I won nine championships in 12 seasons,” Kendall said. “A lot of people don’t win nine championships in 35 seasons. I didn’t know it would be that short when I stopped in ’97. I didn’t know I was retiring per se. Ford was pulling out of Trans-Am. I had a chance to go NASCAR Cup, but I really liked the Trans-Am stuff.”
Kendall, who is now 56 years old, won 28 Trans-Am races during his career and since stepping out of the car has worked in various capacities on television and hosts a popular podcast with fellow driver Townsend Bell.
Kendall was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2015.
This story appeared in the March 8, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.