NASCAR driver charged second time in hauler theft
Authorities have charged a NASCAR driver for the second time in two weeks after a competitor accused him of taking her race car hauler. This weekend the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office again charged Mike Harmon, 59, with felony obstructing justice and seized his cell phone.
Harmon, a driver for the Camping World Truck Series, is accused of taking the 53-foot Ultra Trailer, valued at $279,000 from Jennifer Jo Cobb of JJC Racing. Cobb also races in the Camping World Truck Series. Rowan investigators released a short surveillance video a week ago taken by JJC Racing of the hauler being pulled away from the Performance Road shop in Mooresville.
A Rowan Sheriff’s investigator said Harmon acknowledged to the detective he knew the location of the trailer and promised to return it on May 14, a search warrant affidavit said. The trailer has not been returned, officials said.
According to the affidavit, a witness to the theft identified a woman, who investigators believe is Harmon’s girlfriend Sheila Rae Rice, also known as Sheila Cordell, move a tractor trailer in order to steal the car hauler.
Rowan investigators charged Rice, 38, of Hickory along with Harmon, with felony larceny and breaking and entering a motor vehicle. Harmon turned himself into authorities. Both were released May 15 from a Cleveland County jail, each after posting a $10,000 secured bond. Harmon was released from the Rowan County jail after posting a $20,000 secured bond. Investigators took Harmon’s cell phone Friday.
Investigators will use his cell to track text messages, images, numbers he dialed, emails and Internet chats or website postings.
Harmon has maintained his innocence, claiming he was at a race in Darlington, S.C., when the trailer was taken.
In the affidavit, a detective said on May 14 he spoke with Carl Long at Harmon’s shop. Long told the detective he drove Harmon’s semitrailer from Darlington and Harmon was behind him in a pickup. Long left the keys to the semitrailer as Harmon requested. Harmon was at his shop when Long left, according to Long.
This weekend in addition to Harmon and Rice, Rowan Sheriff’s investigators charged David E. Novak, 45, of Tinley Park, Ill. with felony conspiring to commit felony larceny and felony obstructing justice. Novak is Cobb’s former business partner, both of whom have been involved in an ongoing dispute.
The warrant said one of Cobb’s crew members gave investigators Novak, Harmon and Rice’s names and said Novak was someone the team had a dispute with in the past.
Novak and Cobb have disputed over who was rightful owner of the hauler and other racing equipment. They parted ways last December and remain in litigation.
In February, Novak made news when he had a team van confiscated from Cobb in Daytona Beach, Fla., while she was making a public appearance with her race team, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. According to the report, Novak claimed he was the rightful owner to the van and supplied police with documents showing he had made payments and held the insurance on the van. Harmon said he is in the middle of the quarrel because he helped set up the joint venture between Cobb and Novak in 2010. Harmon said he helped Novak retrieve the trailer from Cobb last December and it was taken to a site in Denver, N.C.
In January, Cobb said she took the trailer back and brought it to her shop because she was the rightful owner. She’s been using it ever since.
Harmon told a detective, according to a search warrant, he would tell the detective where the hauler was located if the detective “promised him it would not be returned to the victim.”
The detective said when he arrived at Harmon’s shop on May 13 he saw a black semitrailer that appeared identical to the truck used in the theft as seen on security surveillance.
The next day when Harmon did not deliver the hauler, Harmon said he “changed his mind and was prepared to be arrested if necessary,” the warrant said.
Cobb said she was not in a court battle with Harmon, but with Novak. She also said she never accused him of taking the hauler. Harmon is probably best known for a horrific crash during practice at Bristol in 2002. His car was demolished when it hit Bristol’s crossover gate, nearly splitting his car in half.
The AP contributed to this story. Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.