NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton has announced that he's to leave Richard Childress Racing at the end of the current season, citing "financial realities" for the decision.
The 46-year-old has driven for the team since 2005 and has claimed four of his 21 Cup victories with the team as well as seven wins in the Nationwide series. He hasn't missed a Cup start since March 1996. Burton's exit is the third departure from the driver line-up in the last two years, following in the wake of Clint Bowyer (who moved to Michael Waltrip Racing at the start of 2012) and Kevin Harvick (who will join Stewart-Haas Racing this winter.)
Burton insisted that he had already decided that as of 2015 he would only be interested in a part-time schedule or even focussing on opportunities outside NASCAR, and after discussions with team owner Richard Childress it was decided to advance those plans by a season and call it a day on the current arrangement at the end of the current year.
"We have been working hard to try and get all the funding in place to have four Sprint Cup teams in 2014," said Childress. "With the date on the calendar getting closer to 2014, we just couldn't run partially funded teams next year.
"Knowing what Jeff's plans were in 2015, he and I worked out an agreement for him to step out of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet after this season. Jeff has been nothing but a professional driver, an asset to RCR and a great person for our organisation since coming on board in 2005."
"The financial realities for next year were obvious to both Richard and me," confirmed Burton. "We talked about it and both made the decision to make this move for the team's future."
Burton said that he didn't know what he would be doing in 2014 and has had no talks with any other teams at this stage. A statement from RCR said that a new driver for the #31 would be named in the future, with the speculation being that Ryan Newman is favourite to join Paul Menard and Childress' grandson Austin Dillon at the team next year.
"We intend to finish out 2013 in a strong way and I look forward to the possibility of Jeff still being part of RCR in the near future, just not driving the #31 car," said Childress in the meantime. "I have been watching his son, Harrison, and the success he's having - hopefully, we can have another Burton in one of our cars someday."
Labonte out of Richmond
Bobby Labonte will sit out a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in succession as a result of breaking three ribs in a cycling accident last week. Labonte missed last week's race in Atlanta, and will now also be out of action for this coming weekend's event at Richmond where he had been due to return to the wheel of the #47 JTG Daugherty Racing.