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.

"I am feeling a lot better, but I don't want to put the race team in any compromising position this weekend," explained Labonte. "It just makes more sense to focus on my rehab one more week to ensure that I'm ready to go at Chicago with no issues. I plan to be back with the team then and back behind the wheel."

Labonte has been alternating in the #47 with AJ Allmendinger, who has been confirmed as the team's full-time selection for 2014. Allmendinger will now additionally take over the car from Labonte for Richmond.

"It's a tough situation, I do not want to get more races with the team because someone is injured," said Allmendinger. "Bobby is a guy that I believe is a Hall of Famer and he is a champion. It's tough to have that type of injury. Hopefully, he gets better as soon as possible to get back into the #47.

"We are all wishing Bobby a speedy recovery and look forward to having him back," added the c47 crew chief, Brian Burns.

Piquet, Larson penalised

Turner Scott Motorsports duo Nelson Piquet Jr. and Kyle Larson have both been fined six NASCAR Nationwide Series championship points as a result of their respective cars failing a post-race ride-height check after the Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

Larson - newly confirmed as the new driver of the #42 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Sprint Cup car for 2014 replacing Juan Pablo Montoya - finished the race in fifth place and moved up one spot to seventh position in the standings ahead of Brian Scott, while former F1 star Nelson Piquet Jr. was in 12th place at the end of the race which moved him ahead of Alex Bowman to 11th place in the title race.

As a result of the penalties handed out by NASCAR on Wednesday, Larson drops back to ninth place behind Trevor Bayne, while Piquet reverts to 12th place behind Bowman. Piquet and Larson's crew chiefs (Pat Tryson and Trent Owens respectively) have additionally both been fined $10,000, and team boss Harry Scott Jr. has lost six owner points for each of his two cars.

NASCAR also announced that Kelly Heaphy, the woman who identified herself as driver Mike Skeen's girlfriend during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, has been banned indefinitely from attending any further NASCAR events after she slapped Max Papis over a post-race on-track incident between the two drivers. Heaphy was also fined $2,500, as was Skeen's crew chief Bryan Berry who under NASCAR rules assumed responsibility for everyone connected with the #6 Sharp Gallaher Racing team at Mosport.

Reed Sorenson to replace Scott Speed

Leavine Family Racing has announced that Reed Sorenson will be the driver of the #95 car for the foreseeable future, except for races at Dover and Phoenix. He replaces former F1 driver Scott Speed who has competed in 12 of the 25 races so far in 2013 with the team. Speed had been thought to have a multi-year deal with the team, which said Wednesday that it is now in discussions with several drivers for the 2014 season.

Sorenson had been sharing the #40 Motorsports Group Nationwide Series car with Josh Wise, as well as being one of the drivers of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsport cars during Michael Annett's injury earlier in the year. He is currently in 15th place in the series standings.



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