ROCKINGHAM — A NASCAR driver who was accused of testing during a charity event at Rockingham Speedway late last year won’t have to cough up any cash.
NASCAR announced Thursday that a $50,000 fine against Xfinity Series driver and team owner Mike Harmon — as well as a six-race suspension for crew chief Ryan Bell — was rescinded by National Motorsports Final Appeal Officer Roger Werner.
Harmon was accused in late November of violating a section on testing from the NASCAR Rule Book while taking the No. 74 Chevrolet for a few exhibition laps at Motorsport 4the Masses’ Motorfest at Thunder Alley on Nov. 13, which served as a fundraiser for Smiling While Sending Hope, a Youngsville-based organization that “benefits people from birth to age 26 with chronic illness and special needs,” according to its Facebook page.
The exhibition included several vintage stock cars, including Buck Baker’s Oldsmobile 88. (See the RO’s Facebook page for photos from the event.)
Two days later, Harmon’s team posted two photos to social media of the cars making laps around Rockingham.
The NASCAR rulebook prohibits using a “NASCAR National Series vehicle or its equivalent, as determined by NASCAR … for testing, practicing, qualifying, or racing other than in a NASCAR Series Event.”
Bell had initially been fined $50,000 and suspended from the first six points events in the 2022 season, but NASCAR announced in December that the fine would be levied against Harmon.
However, Werner upheld the deduction of 75 driver points and 75 owner points against Harmon for the upcoming season, which kicks off Feb. 19 in Daytona.
Harmon had insisted that there was no testing at the event.
His team released a statement following Thursday’s ruling.
“We respect the final decisions of the National Motorsports Appeal Officer and look forward to moving past this and prepare for the 2022 season,” the statement from Mike Harmon Racing reads. “We respect all aspects of rules and regulations in NASCAR and will continue to work with NASCAR and their partners to ensure the series is successful.”
The statement went on to read that the MHR crew was working to prepare for the Beef It’s What’s for Dinner 300.
“We want to thank our amazing fans, supporters and great partners as we enter the 2022 season.”
Bell was also relieved.
“It’s been a very stressful couple months and lots of sleepless nights but today I finally feel like I can breathe for the first time since (Phoenix),” Bell said in a Facebook post, thanking those who supported him and the team.
When the fine was transferred to Harmon, Bell started a GoFundMe page to help support the team and make up the $50,000 that would have been lost. As of Thursday night, the team had raised $1,542.
Bell had said he planned to give a portion of the proceeds to Smiling While Sending Hope.
According to NASCAR, Harmon competed in one Xfinity race in the 2021 season, placing 39th at Martinsville Speedway in October.
RacingReference.com shows that Harmon first drove in the Xfinity series in 1996, but didn’t return until 2001 and has been listed as a driver in the series every year except 2006. Although listed as a driver in 2010, the stats website shows Harmon didn’t enter any races that year.