Just because Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are off probation doesn’t mean they plan to behave.
The drivers were put on notice for four races following their post-race problems at Darlington, S.C., on May 7 when Harvick attempted to punch Busch on pit road and Busch avoided the punch by striking Harvick’s car and driving away.
Since their problems have been longstanding, their just-completed probation will have little effect on how they react to each other in the future.
“I’m going to just keep doing most of the same things that we’ve been doing and just keep racing hard,” Harvick said.
The rift actually goes deeper than the two drivers. In fact, drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing have had several difficulties. Busch, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin work at JGR; Harvick and Clint Bowyer work at RCR.
Last year Harvick roughed up Logano in the third turn at Pocono, Pa., prompting Logano to say Harvick’s wife, DeLana, “wears the fire suit in the family.”
At Dover, Del., Hamlin had harsh words for Bowyer after his car flunked post-race inspection a week earlier at New Hampshire. That triggered another war of words between the two companies, and it also led to Harvick bumping Hamlin during a practice session.
Then at the season-finale at Homestead, Fla., Harvick knocked Busch into the wall, saying he intentionally “parked” him because “he raced me like a clown all day.”
Their problems boiled over at Darlington last month when Busch bumped Harvick during the restart. Bowyer also was involved in the crash. Harvick wanted to continue their feud on pit road after the race, but all that happened was his unmanned car wound up rolling down pit road and into the wall.
Then at Kansas, Childress was fined $150,000 for putting Busch in a headlock and punching him after the truck race. Busch bumped one of Childress’ trucks on the cool-down lap.
“I’m not expecting anything at any time, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen,” Busch said. “It’s fine with me. It’s not my problem. I race my race car and he drives his.
“There’s no difference in being on probation or off probation for me because I race the same whether I’m on or whether I’m off. There’s no difference there.”
Others are keeping an eye on both teams so they don’t become innocent victims in their on-going battles.
“I think I’ve been aware of them being around one another period,” Jimmie Johnson said. “Now that they’re off probation, I don’t see it being much different. I don’t see anything a lot different. I’ve had my eye watching those two for awhile like everyone else has so I don’t see it being a lot different than that.
“I don’t know where Kevin’s mind is and what he has or if he mentioned that he had one coming. I have no clue what’s going to happen, but I’m sure we’ll all be very entertained.”