RCR puts plans for four-car team on hold
September 04, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
With funding not unfolding in RCR's favor, Burton must now seek another vehicle for 2014
For Richard Childress Racing, the numbers just didn’t add up.
The organization’s hopes of expanding to four teams for the 2014 campaign hinged on sponsorship -- and there simply wasn’t enough of if to go around. So RCR will remain a three-car entity for the coming season, and Jeff Burton will step aside to make room for a new driver in the No. 31 car.
Burton had told Childress of his intention to step out of the vehicle after the 2014 season, but the team’s inability to expand to four cars accelerated that plan by a year.
"We have been working hard to try and get all the funding in place to have four Sprint Cup teams in 2014," Childress said in a statement released Wednesday. "With the date on the calendar getting closer to 2014, we just couldn't run partially funded teams next year. Knowing what Jeff's plans were in 2015, he and I worked out an agreement for him to step out of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet after this season.”
Burton’s move will coincide with the departure of Kevin Harvick, who is leaving after this year for Stewart-Haas Racing. Two drivers are set for RCR for next season -- Paul Menard, who currently wheels the team’s No. 27 car, and Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson who is a championship contender this year in the Nationwide Series.
RCR said a new driver for its No. 31 car would be announced at a later date. The highest-profile free agent remaining on the market is Ryan Newman, a 17-time winner at NASCAR’s highest level who has a victory this season and will vie for a Wild Card to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at this weekend’s regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway. A representative for Newman said Wednesday there was “nothing to report” on the driver’s situation.
Burton, though, is confident RCR will be left in good hands.
“They're just going to have a driver in place that can be competitive and win races,” Burton said Wednesday in a conference call with the media. “They'll have a full sponsorship in place that they can move the ball forward. That's good for RCR. And, again, it's not necessarily the best thing for me in the world, but I'll figure it out.”
RCR was last a four-car organization in 2011, when it fielded full-time entries for Harvick, Burton, Menard and Clint Bowyer, the latter of whom is now at Michael Waltrip Racing. Although a three-car entity this season, RCR does have a technical alliance with Denver-based Furniture Row Racing, which is also looking for a driver for next season with Kurt Busch’s looming departure for SHR.
Now, RCR’s hopes of once again fielding four cars will have to wait until 2015 at the earliest.
“Richard truly believes that four teams are what ultimately he wants to try to accomplish. I think with the proper planning and enough notice, I think that is the right thing, too. You know, they worked really hard to have a fourth team. There just wasn't enough funding for (it),” Burton said.
“You know, Richard has done a lot. … I never want to speak for Richard. But people don't realize how much Richard has sacrificed to make sure that our teams have the things that we need to be successful. For Richard to run me and the 31 car next year would have been ‑‑ the way it looked today, would have been a major sacrifice, and I don't think that's fair. I just don't think Richard should be put in that position.
“I don't think it's in anybody's best interest to have underfunded teams. Richard doesn't deserve that, and the people at that company don't deserve it. It is what it is. It gives them a chance to build and to bring a very, very good race car driver in and build around him, a guy that wants to be there for a long time.”