Will Busch, Harvick behave at Michigan?

Will the end of probation mean ‘game on’ for Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick?

It really depends on the driver and his agenda.

Regardless of the status — probation or not — Busch says it will not affect his racing style on the track.

“I try to race the best I can each and every week, as hard as I can and as clean as I can,” Busch said. “Sure, sometimes there’s a time where you get into somebody or you get loose and you get into them and you spin them and they’re mad at you. It wasn’t intentional. There’s no malicious intent involved in it. It’s just a product of racing. Hopefully we can keep racing that way.”

For Harvick, probation did not change his attitude whatsoever.

“You still go out and you race as hard as you can and do the things that you need to do,” Harvick said. “And I’m going to just keep doing most of the same things that we’ve been doing and just keep racing hard.”

Although Busch hasn’t discussed last week’s incident, he honestly believes Harvick will not retaliate against him, despite the Richard Childress racer cautioning the driver last week at Pocono Raceway that he “has one coming.”

“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. You saw how I raced.”

Harvick said probation “ties your hands a little bit on certain things,” but that didn’t stop him from gigging Busch in the early laps during last Sunday’s 5-hour Energy 500. Busch found the behavior reminiscent of Homestead last November when Harvick “was racing me like a clown all day and then he parked me.”

Still, Busch remarkably maintained his composure throughout the race — or at least it appeared that way by the driver’s third-place finish at Pocono.

But the threat still exists that Harvick will strike back to even the score from Darlington Raceway, when the drivers’ on-track antics carried over to post-race — there’s just no telling when that might be.

“A lot of these things, you go out on the race track and things happen and you do what you think is right at the right time,” Harvick said.

Their fellow competitors will be waiting and watching as well. Certainly, there’s the sense that a driver could be a casualty in Harvick and Busch’s drama.

“We’ll definitely keep our eyes open with our other competitors down the road,” Jimmie Johnson said. “I’ve been aware of them being around one another. 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 a while 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.”

Johnson isn’t the only driver who found the feud amusing. Jeff Gordon has enjoyed the ongoing grudge between Busch and Harvick.

“You thought it was funny, didn’t you? Well, I did, too,” Gordon said with a laugh. “It’s entertainment at its best.”

NOSE JOB

David Ragan posted the fastest lap in the first Sprint Cup practice Friday at Michigan Speedway, which will earn him the last qualifying position Saturday — if the weather holds out.

“There is a chance for rain tomorrow, and the time slot for tomorrow’s qualifying falls in line with that first practice, so we spent time in qualifying trim,” said Ragan, who posted a lap of 186.601 mph.

Ragan said the earlier lap was “fast,” but he was curious how it would hold up during the second practice. His quick lap (183.814 mph) in Happy Hour was 12th on the speed chart — posted on his first lap.

However, Ragan’s practice session ended early after he slammed into the back of Jeff Burton’s No. 31 Chevrolet 40 laps into his run. Ragan’s Ford sustained minor cosmetic damage.

WORKING OVERTIME

At the start of the season, Chad Knaus held a pit crew combine to select several interchangeable squads for the No. 48 team.

As the program has evolved, driver Jimmie Johnson said it’s not about having a first or second string of crewmen, but choosing the best performers through tryouts on a weekly basis.

“You earn your position during the week in practices and prove that you’re the fastest guy that week and can do the best job that week going over the wall,” Johnson said. “I know every guy on the team; I train with them now and am in there on Tuesdays working out with them so that we can form a tighter bond together.

“I see a lot of good things happening, and I know that they’re working very hard for that coveted position to go over the wall and change or carry or jack the car.”

NUMBERS GAME

121: Points Kurt Busch has amassed over the past three races — more than any driver in Sprint Cup

20: NASCAR wins for Roush Fenway Racing at Jack Roush’s hometown track (11 Cup, 4 NNS, 5 truck)

6.3: Average Michigan finish for Carl Edwards

5: Career wins Mark Martin has at Michigan — most among active drivers

SAY WHAT?

Michael Waltrip on driving at LeMans last week:

“You go down a straightaway that’s a mile long and, he said, ‘First, you’ll pass a guy’s driveway, then there’ll be a grocery store, and then there’s a billboard with a cow. You have to get to that before you let off.’ That was too much information for me to try to digest and think about as I race toward those turns.

“But what a great experience that was. It was so cool to be able to run 127 miles an hour through town and not get in trouble.”