NASCAR Burton is succeeding Blaney on Childress team
The 17-time race winner will move from Roush Racing.
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -- When Jeff Burton jumps into a Chevrolet for the first time next week, he expects to give Richard Childress Racing a solid effort at Michigan International Speedway.
Burton, a 17-time race winner in NASCAR's top series, will move from Roush Racing to the Childress team, where he will replace Hartford's Dave Blaney. Burton has competed exclusively in Fords since 1993, and realizes it might take some time to feel comfortable in a Chevy.
"It better not take long, they're not going to wait for us," Burton said Friday at Watkins Glen International, where he'll take his last ride Sunday for Roush. "No matter what happens, they don't wait to hold these races for you."
Childress said no time will be wasted in an attempt to reduce the severity of Burton's learning curve.
"We're going to start bright and early Monday morning," the car owner said.
Rain is forecast
But that could be delayed if Sunday's Sirius at The Glen is postponed. The forecast is for rain from approaching Hurricane Charley, which would upset the Chevy indoctrination plan.
Weather took its toll Friday, when qualifying was rained out, putting Nextel Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson on the poll. Teammate Jeff Gordon, a four-time winner on the road course coming off a victory Sunday at Indianapolis, will start second as he tries for his fourth win in seven races and series-leading sixth overall.
Rain is expected today, meaning the cars could be denied practice time. Johnson would like the seat time, but cherishes the gift pole.
"It's important to have track position here and you can't ask for anything better than the position we're in," Johnson said. "We're in good shape."
Other top starters
The rest of the top 10 starters, also set by car-owner points, will be Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.
Burton, who will start 24th Sunday, says he is approaching the GSF Marketplace 400 at Michigan as he would any other race.
"We don't have time to be goofing off," said Burton, the 1994 rookie of the year. "It's our responsibility to get in there and get going and figure out what we can do to be the best team at Michigan.
"If we got to Michigan and run poorly, we are not going to use the excuse that we haven't had time to build. This is a no-excuses deal."
Burton in demand
Childress said he always wanted Burton as a driver, worked on a deal for some time and took advantage of the opportunity to hire him.
For Roush, the release of Burton was difficult from an emotional aspect, but left him feeling good about what he did. The car owner carried the 37-year-old Virginian despite a lack of sponsorship after Citgo departed last November.
"He has been such a friend, we've been involved with him for so long and he's been such a great ambassador for NASCAR, I wasn't going to be the guy who put Jeff Burton on the street," Roush said.
Burton was grateful.
"The story deserves to be told that they spent money as if they had a sponsor," Burton said.
Roush fields sponsored cars for Kenseth, Busch, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. Now, he will put truck series ace Carl Edwards into Burton's ride.
Series champion Kenseth and Busch appear to be shoo-ins for the top-10 after five more races, when only those drivers will be eligible to compete for the title.
Not all of the top-10, who will be separated by only five points per position after the 26th race, are in favor of the points system. The old system was based on scoring the most points over the entire 36 races against the entire field.
"I would consider myself the champion in the grand scheme of things," Newman said. "But I won't be the same champion I would have been.
"A lot of people are acting like they like the format now, but a lot of people are two-faced."