Jeff Burton had revealed his plans for the future, after having decided to exit his full-time race seat with Richard Childress Racing at the end of this season.

Burton had told team owner Richard Childress that he was looking to scale back to a part-time presence in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and came to a mutual decision to end his time at RCR earlier than expected in order to make way for Ryan Newman to join the team. At the time of that decision Burton said that he had no idea what he would end up doing next year, but this week he was able to announce that we would be moving to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2014 as a part-time and test driver.

"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," said Burton, a veteran of 691 starts at NASCAR's top level.

"We were extremely fortunate to have a driver as experienced and respected as Jeff Burton come available," said Rob Kauffman, who along with Michael Waltrip is a co-owner of the team. "He will be able to have an immediate impact as we continue to strive for that last one percent that separates champions from contenders."

It isn't immediately known which races Burton would compete in the #66 Toyota or even how many, although he later said that he hoped it would be between six and 14 races and that the first would be at Las Vegas, the second race of the season after Daytona.

Burton's bigger role is to apply his considerable experience as a test driver for the team to help the team's full time line-up of Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, in a similar way that Mark Martin had been an 'elder statesman' assisting the team for the last two seasons. In particular, Burton will be handling the pre-season testing on behalf of the #55 while Vickers recuperates from issues with blood clots that sidelined him at the end of the 2013 season.

"That really gets me back to what I'm good at," said Burton. "I think my strengths are in trying to help a team move forward and trying to do more than just be a driver. Being able to go do a lot of testing, being involved real heavily in the test team and trying to help the move the teams forward in just speed issues, those are things, historically, when I've been able to focus on those I've had good success."

"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," added Kauffman.

Burton's deal with MWR is for one year only, with the driver announcing on Tuesday that he would then be moving into a full-time media pundit role with NBC. The network is taking over the broadcasting rights for the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, as well as the final 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series events and select NASCAR Regional and Touring Series events in 2015. Burton is the first big-name signing to be announced as part of the on-air team NBC is putting together, with both parties describing it as a "long term" deal.

"He's articulate, he's bright and he's passionate," said Sam Flood, the executive director of NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, adding that Burton had been "the one guy that I wanted" from the start as the cornerstone of the network's new look planned for NASCAR. "He says what's his on his mind."

"I am 100 percent committed to being in the booth and doing my job for NBC. ... It would be unfair for me to treat this as a part-time gig," insisted Burton. "It took me a while to really get myself in a place to say, I'm not going to drive in '15,"

"That to me was the big step; was I willing to commit to that," he admitted. "Internally, that was my battle. And I came to that conclusion early this year, May or June. I didn't publicly say it, but I told Richard that I was not going to drive in '15. I had come to that conclusion. And, of course, that led to all the things that happened later. But it took me a while to get to that point."

Media work will be new to Burton, but he said he was confident and looking forward to the new challenge. "I think it's important that you understand what you're talking about. As long as you understand what you're talking about and you've spent time researching it and looking at the video and making sure you call it the right way, then I think you're okay.

"When you screw up, say you screwed up," he added. "There's no harm in that. No one is perfect. I learned that wrecking race cars. I get out of the car and say I screwed up and I wrecked - they saw it, why don't you just say it? People aren't stupid. They know you screwed up, so just say it!"

Burton will begin transitioning to media work in 2014 with a role in a new racing show that NBC is planning as part of the build-up to taking over the Cup rights.

Swan Racing expands to two-car line-up

The Swan Racing team has announced that it is expanding to a two-car line-up for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and that it was giving full-time Cup rides to Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt.

"The team is expecting steady improvement and we are in good position to deliver," said Kligerman. "Personally, I am looking forward to working with Cole as a team mate and as a competitor for Rookie of the Year honours."

"I am really impressed by how everything is coming together for Swan Racing. This is the place to be and we are going to truly take the next step in 2014," said Whitt. "Parker and I will learn a lot from each other next year while racing hard every lap of every race. I'm ready to get started!"

Swan Racing completed its inaugural season in NASCAR in 2013 under the leadership of team owner Brandon Davis, with David Stremme the team's main driver through the regular season races before Whitt took over for the majority of the Chase play-offs.

"When we launched Swan Racing we pledged to race hard every lap of every race. That's what we have done and what we will continue to do," said Davis. "We learned a lot this year and now is the time to plan for the long term future by adding more resources to be more competitive."

Dollar General increases Kenseth sponsorship

Retail chain Dollar General is to increase its sponsorship of Matt Kenseth's #20 Joe Gibbs Racing car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 17 to 27 races in 2014, the company announced this week in the wake of Kenseth's impressive first season with JGR that saw him finish as runner-up in this year's championship.

"We are excited to build on our successful partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing and sponsor more races with Matt next year," said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General's chairman and chief executive, confirming that the company would be Kenseth's primary sponsor at the first race of the season in February at Daytona.

"NASCAR is a key to connecting with our customers, many of whom are loyal race fans. We look forward to a continued partnership with JGR to further our business," he added. ""Having the talent and passion in a driver like Matt and the way he represents our brand is a dream come true. The excitement and professionalism he brings to the sport is exceptional."

"We're very excited about our expanded partnership with Dollar General," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "Dollar General is a fantastic partner, and it's great to see how well the company uses the motorsports platform to support its branding and marketing efforts."

 

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