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Tommy Kendall Still Looking For IROC Victory

February 15, 1996

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Tommy Kendall still considers himself a rookie in the International Race of Champions series.

The defending SCCA Trans-Am champion will start alongside sprint car star Steve Kinser in the front row Friday in the opening round of the 1996 IROC, the 20th anniversary year of the all-star series.

Kendall, considered a road-racing specialist, has driven in 10 races in what is now an all-oval series. His best finish, second, came in last year’s season-finale at Michigan International Speedway.

``I just want to win one of these races so I can stop explaining to people why I’m the only guy in IROC they’ve never heard of,″ Kendall said with a grin.

``I ride on these guys’ coattails a lot,″ he added. ``I’ll do whatever it takes. This may be my fourth time in the series, but I’m still a rookie on ovals. Ten races is not even half a NASCAR season.″

Kinser, a 14-time World of Outlaws series champion, is in his third IROC series after surprising the entire racing world with a victory at Talladega in 1994.

He and Kendall have spent several practice sessions working together this week on Daytona International Speedway’s 2 1/2-mile oval in the IROC Pontiac Firebirds being introduced to the series this year.

``Even though they’re new cars, they’re comfortable to drive,″ Kendall said. ``We were banging doors. It means nothing to Steve, but it’s something I’ll cherish.

``That’s one of the neat things about IROC. These are guys I’ve idolized for a long time, and just to be able to come down here and race against them is a huge honor,″ Kendall added. ``If you can beat one or two of them _ or all of them _ it’s so much better.″

NASCAR Winston Cup stars Mark Martin, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin and Dale Earnhardt, the defending series champion, line up behind Kendall, followed by IndyCar PPG Cup star Al Unser Jr., NASCAR’s Rusty Wallace, IndyCar’s Scott Pruett and Robby Gordon, reigning NASCAR Busch Series champion and Winston Cup rookie Johnny Benson Jr. and defending Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Marlin, the two-time defending Daytona 500 champion, Robby Gordon and Benson are all IROC rookies.

They will race 100 miles Friday in identically prepared Firebirds.

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