NASCAR driver faces more charges in car hauler dispute

Published: May. 20, 2013 at 7:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2013 at 3:22 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Two days after racing in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR driver Mike Harmon found himself being charged, again, by Rowan County Sheriff's detectives.

Harmon is accused of stealing NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team owner Jennifer Jo Cobb's race hauler. On Friday night he had his cell phone confiscated by deputies as they investigate the crime. Cobb has not been charged with any crime.

On Sunday, Harmon was charged with obstruction of justice and released on $20,000 bond.

WBTV has learned that authorities with the Rowan County Sheriff's Officer took driver Mike Harmon's cell phone around 4:30 p.m. on Friday after obtaining a search warrant.

Deputies are reportedly using his cell phone to track Harmon's GPS, text messages and phone calls.

Another man, David Novak, is charged with conspiring to commit felony larceny and obstructing justice for admitting to deputies that he knew the location of the trailer but did not tell investigators. Novak is the former business partner of Cobb, and was arrested Monday. Authorities say Novak posted a $100,000 bond.

Authorities also say Sheila Rae Rice, a friend of Harmon, is charged with felony larceny and breaking and entering a motor vehicle. Authorities say she helped Harmon steal the trailer.

Harmon, a driver in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, was arrested on Wednesday May 15th and charged with charged with breaking and entering a motor vehicle and felony larceny after investigators say he stole Cobb's race hauler from a Rowan County business park over the weekend.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to view the surveillance video

WBTV spoke with Harmon moments after he left jail.

"I've been around for a long time, but I've never stolen so much as a piece of bubble gum and to be arrested for a felony is ridiculous," Harmon said.

Harmon told WBTV that he has a strong alibi - he wasn't even in the state. He says he was in Darlington, SC for the race over the weekend, watching a friend drive his car in the Darlington 500.

"I did not take her hauler, I've not been to her shop and how they convince the law to put a warrant out after me, I don't know," he said.

Harmon told WBTV that he and Cobb have had problems in the past and they are currently going to court over, what he calls, business disagreements.

Cobb told WBTV on Thursday that she doesn't believe Harmon should be able to race this weekend because of the incident.

"Absolutely not, of course but that's not my call," she told WBTV. "I absolutely feel in danger, absolutely. I've heard some of the things he's been saying to media. I heard that was a quote about going for the jugular, what does that mean? What does that mean?"

Cobb later was unable to qualify for Friday night's truck race due to equipment failure.  Harmon qualified in spot 36, of the 37 racers who qualified.

"I want to apologize to NASCAR and my fans because this has been blown out of proportion and the true story hasn't been told," Harmon said.

The trailer, was taken from a shop on Performance Road in Western Rowan on May 11, according to the report. Deputies say the value with the contents included is well over $250,000.

Deputies say Steven Kuykendall, an employee at JJC Racing, called 911 to report the theft.

"Well, they say they got a video of me being there," Harmon told WBTV. "They can't have 'cause I have not been there."

Cobb hit social media on Thursday morning for what she called a "very important clarification."

"I have not accused or alleged any person in this crime. Arrests have been made based on evidence and eye witness accounts," she posted on Facebook and Twitter. "Now... Lets go racing!"

At the Speedway on Thursday, Cobb told WBTV she doesn't know who took her hauler.

"I have not accused anybody of taking my hauler. I know that my hauler was there Friday night and Saturday morning it was gone so I called the police," she said.

"The police have followed leads, eyewitnesses, video surveillance, and conversations in order to decide how to make arrests," she continued. "I am a race car driver not a law enforcement officer, I don't control who makes arrests."

She says the biggest clue that led a detective to Harmon was a license plate that an eyewitness provided on the scene.

Harmon says he also wants to know who was behind the wheel of the stolen trailer.

"People that know me, know that I didn't do this. It's ridiculous. I mean, you know that everybody's shop is under surveillance - our shop is under surveillance," he said. "Why would you put yourself in harm's way like that? I mean, I don't have to do anything like that. There's no reason, I have nothing to gain."

Investigators told WBTV on Thursday morning that they are still working to recover the stolen trailer.

Harmon has attempted to get the trailer back in the past, through the court system, but the ruling went against him, investigators say.

The Rowan County Sheriff's Office want the public to know that if someone is hiding the trailer until the situation gets sorted out, they could be charged with receiving stolen goods - a felony charge.

On Thursday, Cobb's team and equipment arrived at practice at the Speedway in a hauler borrowed from another team.

"I'm uncomfortable. I have to be a big girl, I have to buck it up," Cobb told WBTV on Thursday. "I have to come here, I have to do my job and I have to get past it."

Harmon says that's ridiculous, that he wouldn't do anything on the track.

NASCAR officials responded to the incident on Thursday morning.

"Unfortunately this is a dispute among two of our teams," said spokesman Kerry Tharp. "All questions or requests for comment should be directed toward the parties involved. NASCAR is not a party in the dispute."

Harmon says he's working to regain trust of the NASCAR community.

"I would like to thank everyone for their support & faith in myself & my team," he tweeted late Wednesday night. "You guys are the best & exactly what this sport is about!!"

Any leads can be directed to the lead investigator, Detective Carl Dangerfield 704-216-8711, or Salisbury-Rowan Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.

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