right - Kim Burton, Jeff Burton, Richard Childress
Credit - NASCAR
his team’s inability to land a full-time sponsor, Jeff
Burton finally decided the time was right for a change.
After nearly nine seasons driving the #99 Ford for Roush
Racing, Burton will leave Roush Racing following this
weekend's race at Watkins Glen to take the driving duties of
the #30 America Online Chevrolet for Richard Childress
Racing for the remainder of the 2004 season.
“With what we've gone through this year and the sponsor
struggles that we've been part of, to me this feels like a
new beginning,” Burton said. “Leaving Roush was a difficult
decision but going to Richard Childress Racing was an easy
“This decision was not a snap decision. There were a lot of
things that were weighed out from a competition standpoint.
A lot of things were weighed out. At the end of the day I
made the decision that I thought gave me the best chance to
be in this sport at a high level for as long as possible and
to compete at the highest level.”
According to Richard Childress, an RCR-Burton partnership
has been in the works for some time.
"This is something that we've been looking forward to for a
long time,” Childress said. “We go back to the day that Dale
Earnhardt even started talking about retiring, maybe '98 or
'99, not so much about retiring but who was going to get in
the 3 car. Jeff’s name kept coming up.
“To have him in an RCR car today means a whole lot to me
personally. I'm looking forward to the things we can do.
He's a championship caliber driver.”
"The opportunity to drive for Richard Childress Racing is
certainly something that would always interest me for sure,”
Burton said. “I feel like I've joined an organization that
is a top caliber organization that has a chance to win
championships and win races.”
Burton, 24th in points with just one top 10 finish this
season, had been without a full-time sponsor since the end
of last season, surviving this year out of their own pocket
and on a series of one-race deals.
A potential sponsorship deal with Crown Royal was nixed
earlier this season because of a NASCAR policy prohibiting
sponsorship from hard liquor companies.
The prospect of running the rest of the season without a
sponsor made it difficult for Burton to focus on racing.
“There's a huge psychological undertaking that goes on when
you look at that car and it's white or it's black and
there's nothing on it,” Burton said. There was so much going
on that it was hard to really focus on the racing. That's
something that I think I was letting the team down with. It
was just such a huge distraction.”
After joining Roush Racing in 1996, Burton emerged as a
championship contender, finishing in the top ten in points
for six consecutive seasons from 1997 to 2000 while scoring
a career-high third in points in 2000.
All of Burton’s 17 NASCAR Nextel Cup victories have come
behind the wheel of Roush Racing’s #99 Ford, but he’s gone
winless since 2001 – a total of 97 races.
Burton said he had no regrets in his decision to leave Roush
Racing and has no animosity towards his former team.
"I think we left on good terms,” Burton said. “I think it
really goes almost unspoken, the relationship that Jack and
I have had and the things he has done for myself and my
family. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jack. I've
worked exceptionally hard at Roush Racing. I have a lot of
blood, sweat and tears in that company. I don't regret it. I
don't regret it one minute. I also don't regret moving to
Richard Childress Racing and putting my blood there too. I'm
real excited about it. I'm excited for the opportunity. It's
bitter and it's sweet all at the same time.
“One of my closest friends is Mark Martin. He was supportive
throughout this whole process. I have no animosity towards
Roush Racing. Roush Racing has done everything in their
power to do the things that were good for Jeff Burton. I've
tried to do the same for them. I don't know if I've done it.
I leave with no animosity. I wish them only success.”
Childress now hopes Burton can bring a wealth of experience
and stability to RCR and new teammates Kevin Harvick and
“That's one of the great things that I see in Jeff Burton.
He can bring a lot stability,” Childress said. “For us we
need someone that these guys can lean on. I think he can
bring a whole lot in general to RCR. I think we've been
The author can be contacted
to discuss this article