As the Winston Cup reaches its closing stretch, Jeff Burton and Jack Roush can now fully devote their attention to the Championship battle after one of their biggest worries, sponsorship, was resolved.

The news that Exide Batteries would no longer back Burton's #99 Ford came as a major shock to the team as the Virginia native was in the middle of his most successful Winston Cup campaign to date. The search for a new sponsor threatened to detract from their Championship push but thankfully a new deal was put in place for 2001 last week with CITGO and the two decided to begin their association this weekend and not wait until Daytona next February.

Roush and Burton unveiled their new livery to the world earlier this week and the #99 CITGO Ford took to the track for the first time on Wednesday in preparation for Bud Pole Qualifying at Low's Motor Speedway. Sunday's UAW-GM Quality 500 will mark the first start for the combination and if they are to get off to a winning start Burton will have to battle his way up from a provisional starting spot after a poor Bud Pole effort.

Despite the initial set-back, Burton is relieved to have a new sponsor on board and he believes that the decision to begin the new association in the middle of the year will help his Championship chances. "I don't think CITGO has ever won a championship," said the South Boston based driver. "We are going to do our best to put the CITGO Superguard race car in the championship circle, not only this year, but next year too."

CITGO Petroleum is one of the most loyal sponsors in the Winston Cup and their individual red and white paint scheme has been a permanent fixture on the WC scene since the early 1980's. The company have spent much of their time in NASCAR backing the Wood Brothers team, who scored their 1000th Winston Cup last Sunday at Martinsville with driver Elliott Sadler.

CITGO will continue to sponsor the #21 Ford for the rest of the 2000 season before moving to concentrate solely on Roush Racing. Wood Brothers meanwhile have negotiated an enviable deal with legendary brand Motorcraft who will return to the Winston Cup for the first time in six years.

Motorcraft was one of the biggest sponsors in NASCAR throughout the 1980's with Bud Moore's eponymous team and the brand, which is the leading Ford components supplier, had been looking for an avenue back into Winston Cup racing ever since Moore's operation ceased to run a full schedule at the end of 1995.

Team co-owners Glen and Eddie Wood will be hoping that Motorcraft will be the backer who gives the team their 100th Winston Cup victory. The team have notched up 96 career wins in the category although they are yet to break into the winners circle with current driver Elliott Sadler. Sadler will once again be the sole driver for the team when the partnership begins officially at Daytona next year.