Xfinity: Mike Harmon Racing loses appeal of testing violation penalties

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The National Motorsports Appeals Panel announced Wednesday that it has upheld NASCAR’s recent penalties against Xfinity Series team owner Mike Harmon and crew chief Ryan Bell, but with one modification.

On Nov. 22, NASCAR originally penalized Harmon 75 driver and owner points that will apply to the 2022 season for violating the sanctioning body’s testing rules. Bell was also fined $50,000 and suspended for the next six points races over the violations.

Following Harmon and Bell’s appeal Wednesday, the Panel said it would affirm and uphold those penalties, but with the modification that the $50,000 fine be levied against Harmon, not Bell.

The team issued a statement Thursday that noted “we will be challenging this ruling in the near future.” Appellants have the right to appeal the Panel’s decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer in accordance with the NASCAR rule book.

The team was specifically penalized for violating Sections 5.1.a.c.d of the vehicle testing guidelines in the Xfinity Series Rule Book. The team had been at Rockingham Speedway and posted about it on social media.

In announcing their initial appeal of the penalties, MHR said the use of its car for what it called an “exhibition charity event” at Rockingham was “not an intentional attempt to circumvent the rules that NASCAR has in place to ensure the integrity of the sport.”

On Dec. 8, Bell made a lengthy post on his personal Facebook page. Along with writing that he couldn’t ask Harmon to pay what was his fine at the time, Bell also detailed his career in the sport, as well as health issues that he said led to him attempting to take his own life in 2017.

He then focused on the penalties, stating that “if Mike Harmon Racing participating in a charity event is what ends my career then so be it.”

“If they want me out of this sport so bad that trying to support Autism, a condition my 7-year-old son has, then I’ll walk away,” he continued. “If this is what our community has come to, that big teams literally try to do everything they can to cheat and get minimal repercussions and they want to destroy a small team because they are embarrassed by us then so be it!”

On Wednesday, he re-posted Mike Harmon Racing’s announcement that it had lost the appeal and added a more succinct message: “Tough day.”