Notes From The NASCAR Nation: Taking Care of Business
By Dave Grayson
The 2013 NASCAR silly season took a rather interesting turn following the September 4th press conference that said veteran Cup driver Jeff Burton will not be returning to the #31 Richard Childress Racing, (RCR), Chevrolet in 2014. Apparently available sponsorship had a lot to do with this decision and also hampered the RCR effort to expand to a four car operation.
During that press conference, Burton said: “I strongly believe in the #31 team as to what we can achieve this year, and for the team in seasons to follow. However, the financial realities for next year were obvious to both Richard and me. So, we talked about it and both made the decision to make this move for the team’s future.”
From that same press conference, Richard Childress said: “we have been working hard to try and get all the sponsors in place to run four Sprint Cup teams in 2014. 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 #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet after this season. Jeff has been nothing but a professional driver, an asset to RCR and a great person for our organization since coming on board in 2005.”
Regarding Burton’s future in NASCAR, there were some rampant rumors, back on September 1st, that said he may be heading to Swan Racing, and their #30 Chevrolet, which would become a RCR satellite team. However, the very next day, another rumor sprang up that said David Stremme, Swan Racing’s driver and more importantly part team owner, had plans to complicate the deal. Yet another day past that, Swan Racing General Manager Bray Pemberton said they haven’t talked to Burton about joining their team. There were also rumors that said Burton might be heading to Tommy Baldwin Racing to driver either the #7 or the #36 car with RCR providing the chassis and engines. So far, nothing further has generated from that rumor.
Burton himself later said that he has had zero discussions with any team management. Burton has also said recently that he would like to back off his schedule after 2014 and run a part time deal in 2015 similar to the format used by Mark Martin.
So, where exactly does that leave RCR’s status for 2014? First off, driver Paul Menard will be back in the team’s #27 with full sponsorship from his family owned retail chain: Menards Home Improvement Stores.
You can bet the farm, and some of the livestock, that there’s going to be an announcement any day now that says Ryan Newman will be taking over Burton’s #31 RCR ride with sponsorship from Caterpillar. There’s also rumors that says Newman will be bringing some sponsorship from the Stewart Haas Racing ride he will be vacating at the end of this season.
Also on RCR’s list of potential revelations is an announcement that says Austin Dillon, Childress’ Grandson, will be graduating from the Nationwide to the Cup series next year to take over the ride that will be soon vacated by the departing Kevin Harvick.
The question here is: will Dillon be driving the #29 Chevrolet or will we see the return of the black #3 for the first time since the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr drove the RCR #3 back in 2001? All summer long we have been hearing rumors that says the RCR #3 may be coming back to the Cup Series. During a June 29th interview with Sirius XM radio’s NASCAR Channel, Childress said “only a member of his family or the Earnhardt family would race his #3 in the Cup Series”. He also said that he wouldn’t use the famous car number in Cup racing on a partial basis. In a very classy move, Childress recently sought, and received, the blessings of the Earnhardt family to bring the number 3 out of retirement.
In other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series speculation, Joe Garrone, General Manager for Furniture Row Racing, confirmed that driver Juan Pablo Montoya paid a September 3d visit to their Denver-Colorado race shop. Montoya is also looking for a ride in 2014 following the recent announcement that said he would not be returning to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s #42 Target Chevrolet.
Following that team announcement came rumors that said Montoya may be returning to the IZOD IndyCar Series to drive for the prestigious Andretti Auto Sport team. However this move was reported to be based on Michael Andretti’s ability to find a sponsor to support the move. The fact that Montoya was visiting Furniture Row’s NASCAR shop suggests that the potential Indy deal may be on hold for at least awhile.
Add the name of driver Scott Speed to the list of NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who will be seeking a ride for 2014. Leavine Family Racing, (LFR), announced that Speed will be replaced by driver Reed Sorenson for the bulk of the remainder of the current racing season. The exceptions are events at Dover and Phoenix. LFR is reported to be in discussions with multiple drivers regarding their 2014 plans.