When the season came to a close, a lot of fans were asking – would they see Jeff Burton behind the wheel of a racecar again?
Those questions have been since answered as the Virginia native will be running a part-time schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, behind the wheel of the No. 66 Toyota Camry.
“I’ve heard all good things from the drivers who raced at MWR over the last couple of years, and I certainly have seen how fast their cars have been,” Burton said early December. “These are great people who have dedicated themselves to become winners at the highest level. Michael and Rob are so committed to success and I wanted to be a part of that. I’m excited to do something new and will work hard to help the other two teams compete for wins and a championship.”
He will also be doing testing for the team. His first test with the team will the Charlotte Motor Speedway this week as he fills in for Brian Vickers, who is currently sidelined with blood clots. He will also be filling in Vickers at the January Daytona test.
“Michael Waltrip Racing has two teams and drivers racing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2014 and our third team will play a very important role in that pursuit,” team co-owner Rob Kauffman said. “We were extremely fortunate to have a driver as experienced and respected as Jeff Burton come available. He will be able to have an immediate impact as we continue to strive for that last one percent that separates champions from contenders.”
After running three cars this past season, MWR is shrinking down to two full-time cars with Vickers and Clint Bowyer as a result of loosing NAPA Auto Parts due to the Richmond scandal. Waltrip will run the No. 66 in the Daytona 500 with Burton’s first MWR start coming at Las Vegas Speedway.
Beyond that, Burton will be joining the list of drivers to hit the broadcast booth.
NBC Sports will be broadcasting the final 20 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule beginning in 2015. They have announced that Rick Allen will lead the group as play-by-play announcer with Burton as one of the two analysts.
“Jeff Burton was always the first person we would seek out when there was breaking news or an issue that needed to be covered throughout our previous contract with NASCAR, so he was the first person we called for this role,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said.
“His insights, keen observations and many trophies have earned the respect of everyone involved with the sport. He will be an outstanding analyst and has everyone here looking even more forward to getting started.”
For the driver known as the ‘Mayor of the Garage’, it seems like a perfect fit as Burton has led and expressed concerns in the garage over a series of topics. He also has been involved in the sport for a long time so that wealth of knowledge won’t hurt.
“This is an exciting new challenge and I am thrilled to be joining the NBC Sports family,” the 46-year-old said. “I will prepare for each race as if I were driving in it, and I look forward to sharing my experience, views and insights with all the dedicated and passionate NASCAR fans.”
Burton added that he is prepared to say what needs to be said and ‘call it as he sees it’.
“I’m used to having to be a little more diplomatic … because when you’re racing against people, you essentially live with them,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you can get along, and I think that’s still got to continue. But at the same time, you’ve got to call it the way you see it.”
The only questions that remain is how he will come across on air and whether he’ll fit the role as other drivers have in the past.