Future Unclear for Burton

Jeff Burton

"This is a tough business. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made. And the tough decision was made, and we're all going to live with it." (Photo: Getty Images)

The only thing certain about Jeff Burton’s career is he won’t be back with Richard Childress Racing in 2014. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess what lies ahead for the veteran driver.

Burton was his usual candid self when he addressed the news he would leave the RCR No. 31 Sprint Cup ride at season’s end insisting he has no idea what will come next.

“I don't have any plans, contrary to reports,” Burton during a national media teleconference. “I have not spoken to any team, you know. I don't know what I'm going to do next year. We're just going to have to motor our way through it a little bit.”

Burton has registered four of his 21 career Cup wins as a member of RCR but he’s struggled in recent years. Since being in the title hunt in 2008 when he won twice, Burton hasn’t finished higher than 19th in the standings. He’s 22nd coming into Saturday night’s regular season finale at Richmond.

Burton, who was signed through 2014 with the team, expressed his desire to dial down from full-time driving in the near future, which led to an agreement to part ways.

“I had gone to Richard a while ago and told him that at the end of 2014 that I was going to step back and probably not run full schedule anymore and look at maybe running some partial schedules or look at other opportunities,” Burton explained.

“So we're just accelerating it a year early to give the team a chance to and I'm not going to talk about my replacement, that's not my place to do. But to give Richard Childress Racing an opportunity to continue to move that team forward, which I think is an exceptionally strong team, to put the funding in place with a really good driver that can go out and be successful.”

The decision to part ways with the Childress organization, where Burton has raced since 2004, also came down to sponsorship. RCR will again field three cars next year with the returning Paul Menard and current Nationwide Series regular Austin Dillon stepping up to the Sprint Cup Series. It is speculated Ryan Newman will be added to the roster leaving Burton the odd man out since the organization can’t field four entries even with current sponsor Caterpillar remaining with the team.

“So at the end of the day, a lot of this is financial,” said Burton. “It's, you know, there is only so much money that can go around.

“But there just wasn't room for everybody. With what I expressed about my long term future, Richard and I sat down and had a conversation and worked it out. It is what it is. Am I 10% happy about it? Of course not. Is he 10% happy about it? Of course not. But this is a tough business. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made. And the tough decision was made, and we're all going to live with it.”

Burton hasn’t ruled out continuing his driving career and his name has been associated with Swan Racing as a possible next step to help that single car effort grow. While he’s not ruling anything out, Burton is being realistic about what opportunities may actually be available to him.

“I still love racing. I still have a passion for it,” he said. “You know, part of the realities are what opportunities are going to be there? I'm just going to have to see what comes in front of me. I don't anticipate doing something that I don't think will be competitive. I don't mind building something. Actually, I enjoy that. But at 46, that's probably not something I look forward to.”

There is more speculation a career in television awaits Burton, one of the most articulated and respected speakers in the garage area. With NBC set to take over NASCAR television rights in 2015, could Burton wind up in the broadcast booth?

“As far as TV, yeah, I'm interested in it,” he admitted. “It's one of the options that everybody around me, you know, the times I've done it, everybody around me seems to think I've done a good job. I don't know if I do or not, but I enjoy it. It's fun to do. It's a way that I can stay involved in the sport and hopefully contribute to the sport.”

Burton insists he is ending his RCR tenure on good terms with Childress. While things may not have ultimately turned out the way either had wanted, there is no ill will as Burton readies for his departure.

“But I leave there knowing Richard did everything he could to make a bad situation as good as he could, and I hope he believes that I left there making a bad situation the best I could, and I'm sure he would say the same thing,” said Burton.

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