HAMPTON, Ga. - Veteran Jeff Burton will remain at Richard Childress Racing in 2005 but move with much of his crew from the No. 30 to No. 31 Chevrolet to replace Robby Gordon.
Burton, who has 17 victories and 149 top 10s in 363 starts, was displaced from Roush's No. 99 Ford in August to make room for prospect Carl Edwards. Burton then replaced Johnny Sauter in the No. 30, scoring eight top 15s and a top 5 in 10 starts with RCR. "I'm as upbeat about my career as I've ever been," said Burton, 37. "There's a renewed sense of energy, a new sense of urgency.
"(Crew chief) Kevin Hamlin and I have immediately hit it off. Where we have started off is very acceptable, but I think our goals are higher and we're going to go hard next year to go for that championship. I think we're close right now."
In conjunction with Burton's move, Cingular has extended its sponsorship of the No. 31 through 2007. Gordon and RCR announced an amicable split last week as Gordon hopes to own a Nextel Cup team.
Childress said he will field at least three full-time cars for 2005 but said an announcement about a sponsor still needed to be worked out.
It has been widely speculated that Jack Daniels will take over for America Online as sponsor of the No. 30. That would require NASCAR relaxing a rule against hard liquor sponsorships.
Childress was coy when asked if the announcement of his third car's sponsor was pending NASCAR approval.
Nodding, he said, "We're just waiting."
SUIT YOURSELF: It was hard to tell who felt more awkward during a news conference to announce a promotional tie between the Jeff Gordon Foundation and the Jan. 14 movie release of Racing Stripes.
First there was comedian Steve Harvey dressed in a brown double-breasted suit, wing tips and matching fedora.
"When they told us we were going to go promote the movie, they didn't tell us we were going to a real racetrack," said Harvey, who is the voice of a horsefly in the movie about a racing zebra. "Me and my entire crew are dressed like pimps. I never wanted a T-shirt badder in my life."
Then there was Gordon, in a zebra-striped firesuit.
No matter the wardrobe, Harvey said he considered Gordon's job a lot tougher than his.
"In mine, people may boo you," he said, "but ain't nobody ever run me up into a wall. If that was me, we'd be fighting on pit road after the race."