ROCKINGHAM — A veteran NASCAR driver is facing a fine from NASCAR after the sanctioning body accused him of testing at Rockingham Speedway.
Mike Harmon, driver and owner of the No. 74 Chevrolet in the Xfinity series, was fined 75 owner points and 75 driver championship points, according to NASCAR.com. Crew Chief Ryan Bell was also fined $50,000 and suspended from the next six points events.
The penalties for both Harmon and Bell will be applied next season.
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.”
Harmon had two cars at Motorsport 4the Masses’ Motorfest at Thunder Alley on Nov. 13.
Officials with M4TM released a statement Monday evening saying that it held exhibitions — not testing or racing — that day, adding that Harmon was a late addition.
“The purpose was to let people see stock cars gracing a historic speedway again,” officials said in a statement.
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 M4TM statement continues:
“He did not ask or discuss his reasons for being at our event beforehand, he was treated as all other participants.
We did not know what car he was bringing beforehand, and quite honestly, until someone told me it was an Xfinity car he still drove, I had assumed he was retired based simply on how long ago he had started racing.
He did make a comment to me when (as I say to all drivers at our events), ‘I hope you had a good day and enjoyed yourself.’
His comment was ‘Y’all run a good event. It is nice to just drive with friends with no pressure and enjoy it every now and then.’
As for whether he was testing or not, only he knows that answer but he, like all participants honored my instructions in the drivers meeting to “drive slow enough it would take a blown tire or oil on the track to lose control, please stay off the ragged edge.”
We did not know he was in violation of any NASCAR rules nor did we see him as anything but another participant.
We only wish the best for him and NASCAR going forward.”
According to NASCAR, Harmon competed in one Xfinity race this 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.
The RO reached out to Harmon for a statement Monday evening, but had received no response in time for this story.
However, Harmon told kickinthetires.net that he plans to appeal.
“It just dumbfounded me,” Harmon told Kickin’ the Tires about the penalty. “I thought he (NASCAR official) was joking. I seriously thought he was just picking on me when he called…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.”
Harmon also told the website that he brought one of his Chevrolets for the exhibit and had sold his old No. 74 Dodge that was at the event.
Mike Harmon’s old No. 74 Dodge Challenger sits on a trailer in the infield at Rockingham Speedway Nov. 13.
He also told the website that the idea of his team testing “is a joke.”
“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.”
Justin Jones, vice president of operations at Rockingham Speedway and Entertainment Complex, seems to be in agreement with Harmon.
“In my opinion, there was not testing planned and there was no testing done,” Jones told the RO Monday evening. “He did charity laps and we’re grateful for his participation.”
Rockingham Speedway hasn’t hosted a NASCAR event since the 2013 truck race.
After being in legal limbo from 2014-2016, the track was purchased in 2018 and has hosted more than 15 motorsports events this year, including several from Motorsport 4the Masses and 10 from MB Drift. Both organizations were at the speedway this weekend.
Gov. Roy Cooper last week signed the state budget, passed by the General Assembly, which appropriates $9 million — going to the Richmond County government — for water and wastewater and other infrastructure improvements at Rockingham Speedway. The budget also includes funding for similar improvements at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the long-idle North Wilkesboro Speedway.