Jarrett will hand keys to Reutimann for majority of 2008 season

CONCORD, N.C. -- Michael Waltrip Racing lost a champion and picked up a financial partner on Friday.

Dale Jarrett announced he will step away from the Nextel Cup series after the first five races of 2008, handing the No. 44 UPS Toyota over to David Reutimann.

The 1999 Cup champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner also will run the all-star race, a non-points event, before retiring completely as a competitor to pursue a career as a NASCAR television broadcaster.

"I have nothing else to prove in this sport," Jarrett said at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where he failed to qualify for the 11th time this season on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Waltrip announced that Robert Kauffman has purchased 50 percent of his team. The founder and managing partner of Fortress Investment Group will run more of the business side of the sport, while Waltrip focuses on the racing side.

The name of the team will remain Michael Waltrip Racing.

"We think we've moved up the grid the last week or two because of this announcement," Waltrip said.

All three Waltrip cars qualified for the previous two races at Dover and Talladega, with Waltrip sitting on the pole at Talladega. Waltrip and Reutimann both made the field for Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Waltrip said it's all because of the financial boost Kauffman has given his organization that was on the brink of imploding a few months ago.

He credited his wife, Buffy, for finding Kauffman only a few months after he went and told her they were on the verge of "going broke and failing."

Waltrip said he will continue to run three full-time Cup teams in '08, with Reutimann spending the first five races in the No. 00 he has driven this season. Developmental drivers Josh Wise and Michael McDowell will likely share it the rest of the year.

Jarrett is retiring even though he has a full year left on his contract with Michael Waltrip Racing. He is expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ned, as a television commentator.

Jarrett has worked periodically for ESPN this year.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.