LAS VEGAS (AP) - Jeff Burton became NBC Sports Group's first hire for the broadcast booth when the network decided the respected driver was a must-have analyst for its upcoming NASCAR coverage.
NBCUniversal has the exclusive rights to the final 20 Sprint Cup Series races, and final 19 Nationwide Series events beginning in 2015 and select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events and other live content also beginning in 2015. The network last covered NASCAR between 2001 and 2006.
The multiyear hiring of Burton was announced Tuesday in Las Vegas at the Motorsports Marketing Forum, the official kick-off of NASCAR's Champion's Week.
''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,'' said NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood.
''His insights, keen observations and many trophies have earned the respect of everyone involved with the sport,'' Flood added. ''He will be an outstanding analyst, and has everyone here looking even more forward to getting started.''
Burton's career as a full-time driver is ending in 2014. The 21-time Sprint Cup winner parted ways with Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season, and Ryan Newman is replacing him at RCR.
He's not done in the car, though. Michael Waltrip Racing said Monday Burton will be a test driver for the team in 2014 and drive in select races. Flood said Burton will split his time in 2014 with MWR and contributing to NASCAR programming on NBC Sports Network.
''This is an exciting new challenge and I am thrilled to be joining the NBC Sports family,'' said Burton. ''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.''
Known as ''The Mayor'' throughout the NASCAR garage, Burton has long taken a leadership role among drivers and has been outspoken on many topics. His opinions are found to be knowledge-based and based on a desire to do what's best for the auto racing industry.
The 46 year old said it will be a transition to the television booth, where he can speak freely about drivers he's been racing against since 1988.
''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.''