Jeff Burton announced on Wednesday that he wouldn’t be returning to the seat of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014. It’s a position he’s held since 2005. During a press conference, Burton said that he may take a step back and race only part-time next year. But other than that, he said he had no specific plans regarding what team he’d be driving for, etc.
“I don’t have any plans, contrary to reports,” Burton said. “I have not spoken to any team, you know. I don’t know what I’m going to do next year. We’re just going to have to motor our way through it a little bit.”
According to Burton, he and team owner Richard Childress mutually agreed for Burton to leave the team. The original plan was for RCR to expand to four teams, but sufficient sponsorship could not be found to warrant the expansion. Of the current stable of three Sprint Cup drivers, Paul Menard is the only one expected to return next year. Kevin Harvick, who has driven the No. 29 since 2001, is heading to Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson and RCR driver in the Nationwide Series, is expected to move up to Sprint Cup in 2014 and fill Harvick’s seat, with the car number changed back to its original 3. Speculation has Ryan Newman, who will be ousted at Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the year, moving to Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 31 that will be vacated by Burton.
Burton has won four Sprint Cup races since joining RCR, with 17 other victories coming prior to joining the organization. He also won seven Nationwide Series races with Childress.
“Jeff has also been a great ambassador for (sponsor) Caterpillar and the other partners we’ve had on the car throughout the years,” Childress said. “I can’t thank him and Caterpillar enough for how great they’ve been as we work through this transistion. We intend to finish out 2013 in a strong way,a nd I look forward to the possibility of Jeff still being part of RCR in the near future, just not driving the No. 31 car.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR