Veteran NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton has joined Michael Waltrip Racing as a test driver and driver of the No. 66 Toyota entry for the organization in select Sprint Cup races in 2014, according to an official announcement from MWR on Monday.
“I’ve heard all good things from the drivers who raced at MWR over the last couple of years, and I certainly have seen how fast their cars have been,” Burton said. “These are great people who have dedicated themselves to become winners at the highest level. (Co-owners) Michael (Waltrip) and Rob (Kauffman) are so committed to success, and I wanted to be a part of that. I’m excited to do something new and will work hard to help the other two teams compete for wins and a championship.”
As of now, Burton is scheduled to begin testing for the team at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Dec. 9. He’ll test the No. 55 car for regular driver Brian Vickers until Vickers is medically cleared to return to the seat. Vickers is expected to be cleared in late January. Vickers and Clint Bowyer will be Michael Waltrip Racing’s two full-time drivers in 2014, with Vickers in the No. 55 in Bowyer in the No. 15.
Burton’s competitive debut in MWR’s No. 66 is scheduled for March 9 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Other events are expected to be added. Michael Waltrip Racing plans to field the No. 66 in the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 23, but team co-owner Michael Waltrip will drive the car.
“Michael Waltrip Racing has two teams and drivers racing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2014, and our third team will play a very important role in that pursuit,” MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said.
Burton has 21 wins to his credit at the Sprint Cup level in 691 race starts, with most of his time at the Cup level being spent at Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing. He left RCR at the end of the 2013 season and was replaced there by Ryan Newman.
“We are extremely fortunate to have a driver as experienced and respected as Jeff Burton come available,” Kauffman said. “He will be able to have an immediate impact as we continue to strive for that last one percent that separates champions from contenders.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR