Ward Burton has finally left the Haas CNC Racing team after a season littered with disappointment and mechanical problems and will be replaced by former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion Mike Bliss for the final two Nextel Cup races of the year.

Burton's driving future has been the subject of many rumours this year, with the driver indicating he may hang up his helmet if a competitive drive cannot be found.

In their second year as a full-time team, the Haas team has suffered a chronic lack of reliability, forcing Burton out of eight races this year. Following Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix, Burton sits 29th in the NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers standings while team owner Gene Haas is 30th in Owner points.

"We've made a lot of changes at Haas CNC Racing this season and our performance still isn't where we think it should be," said Joe Custer, General Manager of the team. "We feel like we are capable of a lot more and putting Mike in the car will give us an opportunity to assess another aspect of the team. We appreciate everything Ward has done for us during the past year and wish him the best. He has tremendous talent and heart and was an excellent spokesperson for Haas CNC Racing and for NetZero.

"We saw this change as a necessity to further our race team, look toward the future and bring it to the level at which we think we should be."

"This is a great opportunity for me," commented Bliss, who won the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship. "I'm looking forward to finishing out the year in the NetZero Chevrolet and then we'll see what happens after that. I know this was a hard change to make and I appreciate the team s confidence in my abilities to help with its program. Hopefully I can come in and help the team build for the future."

Bliss currently holds down sixth place in the NASCAR Busch Series standings driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. He scored his first career Busch Series win several weeks ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway and has also earned three pole positions this year.

Earlier this year Bliss also recorded his career best Nextel Cup result in one of his occasional big league starts for Gibbs, finishing fourth in the Chevy Rock 'n Roll 400 at Richmond.

39 year-old Bliss has no less than 33 NASCAR Cup starts, dating back to 1998.