Jeff Burton kicks off his 2014 farewell tour of sorts Sunday, beginning his final season as an active driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, in the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The veteran Sprint Cup driver left Richard Childress Racing following last season and agreed to run a part-time, limited schedule of races for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014.
Sunday will be the first of a still unspecified number of race events for Burton this season.
That’s as a prelude – some might say weaning himself away from behind the wheel on his own terms – to Burton moving to the announcing booth next season, where he’ll be one of the key analysts on NBC’s telecasts of NASCAR.
“I am really looking forward to getting back in a race car this weekend,” Burton said. “We spent a lot of time testing this winter.
“I really like the direction that Michael Waltrip Racing is heading. I really like my team and I am excited to see how our off season testing worked for us. I am excited to work with everyone at MWR and I am really excited to see what we have for them in Vegas.”
Burton was originally slated to run a series of races solely for Michael Waltrip Racing. But a recent agreement between MWR and Jay Robinson Racing formed a joint effort that will run the full Sprint Cup season.
MWR team co-owner Michael Waltrip drove in the season-opening Daytona 500 (finished 41st due to a crash), Joe Nemechek finished 40th this past Sunday at Phoenix and now Burton will make his debut in the No. 66.
Nemechek is expected to drive the majority of races in the car, with Burton the next most and then Waltrip.
But as for who will drive when and where, that is still being worked out.
“We have a hard schedule – Vegas being very hard,” Burton said in a recent interview with MotorSportsTalk’s Chris Estrada. “And there are other ones we feel pretty sure about that we’re going to run, but we haven’t really talked about it yet so we might change our mind.
“We’re going to run where it makes sense. Having more teams doesn’t make us better, right? So, what we have to do is run when it’s smart. We got to run where it make sense to run and not just run because we want to run. It’s got to be part of a plan and if it’s not, we’re making a mistake.”
Sunday will mark Burton’s 692nd career Sprint Cup start. He comes into Las Vegas with 21 wins, 134 top fives, 254 top 10s and six poles.
Sin City’s fast 1.5-mile track has been very good to Burton in his career. He finished second in the first Sprint Cup race there in 1998, and then won back-top-back events in 1999 and 2000, all with Roush Fenway Racing.
His highest finish recently was third in 2009, with finishes of 11th, 21st, 14th and 26th in the four most recent races at LVMS.
His average finish there is an impressive 11.9.
He also has 27 career wins in the Nationwide Series, with three of those coming at Las Vegas.
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