Ithas been quite a while since Jeff Burton didn’t know what he was going to do in racing.
“I still have a desire to drive, but I do not have the desire to drive a car that I don’t think can be successful,” Burton, 46, said Wednesday. “It’s hard enough in a car that can be successful.
“Typically, I’ve kind of had a plan like when I left the Stavola Brothers and went to Roush (Racing). When I left Roush and went to Richard Childress Racing, I had a plan. I don’t have a plan this time.”
In a joint statement with team owner Richard Childress, Burton announced he would not drive RCR’s No.31 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series next season despite having another year left on his contract.
RCR was trying to field four Sprint Cup teams in 2014, but the finances were not there.
Since Burton was planning to step away from full-time racing in 2015, he said he and Childress opened discussions about exiting early.
“Neither one of us wanted this to go down like this, but the reality of the situation required it to go down. We worked our way through this difficult situation so that we both were comfortable,” Burton said.
The organization intends to field a No.31 team – likely with Ryan Newman – and is expected to field teams for Paul Menard and Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon, who is competing in the Nationwide Series.
RCR could end up with a technical alliance next season with a single-car team. It currently has such a partnership with Furniture Row Racing.
For the time being at least, Burton – a 21-race winner in the Cup series – must accept the possibility he might not compete in NASCAR next year.
“Not racing will be difficult. I still love to race, but I will say if an opportunity that I think would be fun and could be exciting and start another chapter in my career were presented to me, I’m going to look at,” said Burton, who will miss the Chase for a third consecutive season.
One possibility could be taking another role at RCR. Burton confirmed Childress brought up the idea during the past week.
“We intend to finish out 2013 in a strong way and I look forward to the possibility of Jeff still being part of RCR in the near future, just not driving the No.31 car,” Childress said in a statement. “I have been watching his son, Harrison, and the success he’s having. Hopefully, we can have another Burton in one of our cars someday.”
Regardless of whether Burton continues his driving career next season, 11 races remain this year. He admits the road ahead will be difficult.
“The hardest part of this is that I really like my team and I am a big believer in the people that surround my team. That’s what I’m heartbroken about – we’re on the cusp of doing really good things and I think you’re going to see that,” Burton said.
“I feel like I’m walking away or leaving a situation that I think is close to where it needs to be. It doesn’t change the facts, though. If we could have found a way to work it out, we’d have worked it out.”
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.