By Jerry Jordan, Editor
Unless he is successful with an appeal Mike Harmon Racing will begin the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season with a 75-point deficit in owner and championship points and the team’s crew chief, Ryan Bell, will be $50,000 lighter in his checking account and be forced to sit out six races. But the underfunded team owner feels he has done nothing wrong and was only trying to help out at a charity event being held at Rockingham Speedway.
“It just dumbfounded me. I thought he (NASCAR official) was joking. I seriously thought he was just picking on me when he called,” Harmon told Kickin’ the Tires. “We went to help out a charity with cars and they had cars as old as 1949 to now. I had no idea we were doing wrong. No earthly idea. That’s obvious because we even put it on our Facebook.
“Yeah, I am going to appeal it, absolutely.”
Harmon is accused of violating sections 5.1 a, c and d of the NASCAR rulebook, which lays out what constitutes a testing violation, “Vehicle Testing, 5.1 a. Unless otherwise authorized, and a test voucher has been approved by NASCAR, it is strictly prohibited to use a NASCAR National Series vehicle or its equivalent, as determined by NASCAR (See Section 5.5 Stock Car Equivalent), for testing, practicing, qualifying, or racing other than in a NASCAR Series Event or as outlined in Section 5.2 NASCAR National Series Unified Testing. This applies to any team, employee, driver, contractor, affiliate, associate, subsidiary, or surrogate. C. Prohibition of vehicle testing will be in effect throughout the calendar year and applies to any facility, irrespective of whether they are race tracks or not … d. NASCAR, in its sole discretion, will determine what constitutes an authorized vehicle test. In general, only tests conducted under the NASCAR National Series Unified Testing policy are considered to be authorized vehicle tests.
Harmon explained he was participating in an event called, “Motorfest at Thunder Alley” on November 13 and brought one of his cars as part of the exhibits. He said the No. 74 Dodge that he used to drive was also there but that he had already sold that car to someone as Dodge bodies are no longer permitted in the Xfinity Series.
According to the website promoting the event, “Vintage/current stock cars are invited to Rockingham Speedway for exhibition laps in conjunction with ‘Motorfest at Thunder Alley’ on November 13, 2021. Exhibition cars must be former NASCAR/ARCA/IMSA/SCCA/Weekly Racing stock appearing cars. Modifieds, Late models, even street stocks are welcome.
Cars were given 15-minutes per hour to make laps but Harmon explained the drivers were limited to the speeds they were allowed to run for safety reasons.
“I mean, 75 to 80 percent max is all we could run,” Harmon said. “They didn’t want anyone to crash. The guys there wanted to meet somebody from NASCAR. They even had the 1949 Oldsmobile that Buck Baker raced at Darlington (Raceway). There was absolutely no testing. We ran 15 laps and there was a hot rod show in the infield. You know, they are trying to bring the racetrack back and thought I was doing a good deed., helping them and the charity.”
Harmon said it is laughable to think his team was testing.
“The idea of us testing is a joke,” Harmon said. “We can’t afford to race much less test. We were there with a generator to prime the oil and a jack to change tires if we had a flat. We didn’t have nothing there to test with. And we couldn’t test because you could only run 75 to 80 percent.”
Harmon said he has already had some people in the sport reach out to him about the situation and he is hopeful that his appeal is successful. For a team like Mike Harmon Racing, a $50,000 fine is significant to the point that it could hinder efforts to race next season.
Rockingham Speedway is not currently a track used by any of NASCAR’s top three series. The last time an Xfinity Series or NASCAR Cup Series event occurred at Rockingham Speedway was in 2004. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ran two years at Rockingham Speedway in 2012 and 2013 but has not returned. ARCA ran four years at the track from 2008 to 2012 and the NASCAR K&N Series raced there from 1987 to 1992 and then once in 2012.
Rockingham Speedway has had a rocky history from a financial standpoint over the years but is a historic track loved by most in the stock car world. Its roots are deep in NASCAR and past winners at the track include Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Steve Park and Jeff Burton, to name a few. This past week, the state of North Carolina announced that it had earmarked $9 million to revitalize the facility. It is hoped the funding will be a step to bring NASCAR back to the track.
“I hadn’t driven a car all year,” Harmon said. “Testing never entered my mind.”