Wednesday, 15 December 2021 20:43

Appeals panel upholds NASCAR sanctions against team accused of testing at Rockingham Speedway

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The No. 74 Xfinity Series car driven by Mike Harmon sits under the backstretch pit shelter at Rockingham Speedway during Motorsport 4the Masses' Motorfest at Thunder Alley event on Nov. 13. The No. 74 Xfinity Series car driven by Mike Harmon sits under the backstretch pit shelter at Rockingham Speedway during Motorsport 4the Masses' Motorfest at Thunder Alley event on Nov. 13. RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — The penalties against a longtime NASCAR driver and his crew chief for violating a testing rule at Rockingham Speedway will stand.


NASCAR announced Wednesday that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel decided to uphold the sanctions against driver Mike Harmon and Ryan Bell.

Harmon was accused last month 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..

Bell had initially been fined $50,000 and suspended from the first six points events in the 2022 season, however, NASCAR announced that the fine would be levied against Harmon.

Harmon, who is the team owner as well as the driver, also lost 75 owner points and 75 driver points for next year.

According to NASCAR, Harmon and Bell have the right to appeal Wednesday’s decision to the National Motorsports final appeals officer — and they plan to.

“I want to reiterate that there was no testing being done, not a bit,” Harmon said in a statement on the team’s Facebook page Wednesday. “We are disappointed with this outcome and ruling today, we will be challenging this ruling in the near future.  

“We presented a solid case and are confident that we proved that there was no testing being done. This was not done in any way to circumvent the rules set forth by NASCAR, it was a charity event that benefited “Smiling While Sending Hope” as we at MHR do a lot for charities,” Harmon continued. “We will move forward and prepare for the 2022 season beginning in Daytona.”

According to NASCAR, Harmon competed in one Xfinity race this season, placing 39th at Martinsville Speedway in October.

Bell also issued a statement on the ruling and started a GoFundMe page.

“This has already set our team back going into the 2022 season and now leaves a large hole for the organization to battle out of,” Bell said. “While $50,000 is a large sum of money to this small family run operation, the amount of funding and potential marketing partners lost due to being so far in the hole points wise will set this team back drastically. 

“Mike is a staple in the (NASCAR) garage and has given countless individuals (an) opportunity to work in this sport. Please if you have even a dollar to spare, let's help this great organization get back on their feet and show what they can do!”

Bell added that the team would like to give back a portion of the proceeds to Smiling While Sending Hope.

As of 8:25 p.m., $975 from 14 donors had been raised toward the $50,000 goal.

Justin Jones, vice president of operations for Rockingham Speedway and Entertainment Complex, has verbally supported Harmon, both on social media and directly to the RO, and thanked the driver for his participation in the event.

Rockingham Speedway hasn’t hosted a NASCAR event since the 2013 truck race.

This year has been a busy one for the track since being purchased in August of 2018, hosting more than 15 motorsports, including several from Motorsport 4the Masses and 10 from MB Drift.