Bob Pockrass, Sportingnews.com
NASCAR drivers Jennifer Jo Cobb, Mike Harmon in bitter dispute over missing team hauler
CONCORD, N.C. – With only one hauler parked between them, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Mike Harmon tried to go about their business as racecar drivers Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But their business has turned ugly the last few days.
Harmon was arrested Wednesday on charges of breaking and entering and felony larceny in connection with the alleged theft of Cobb’s race team hauler. The hauler — which former Cobb business partner David Novak claims is his in a federal lawsuit — has not been found.
Vowing his innocence, Harmon said he was on his way home from Darlington Raceway on Friday night and doesn’t even have a license to drive an 18-wheeler. The hauler was stolen at approximately 3 a.m. Saturday, according to police reports.
Harmon turned himself in to Cleveland County (N.C.) officials Wednesday and was released on $10,000 bond. He has a court date Friday morning in Salisbury, N.C., and said he would not run from the charge because he is not guilty.
“The truth has got to come out,” Harmon said prior to Camping World Truck Series practice Thursday. “It is not me. She’s got animosity against me. … I’ve never been in any kind of trouble.
“You don’t wake up in your mid-50s and say, ‘I’m going to go steal somebody’s hauler today.’ It don’t work that way.”
Harmon, who has made 192 starts in the Nationwide and Truck series, practiced Thursday and was not expected to face any NASCAR discipline.
Cobb borrowed a hauler and equipment from former team owner Daisy Ramirez, whose company Koma Unwind is also a sponsor of Cobb’s, for the race this weekend. She planned to practice Thursday afternoon.
“I absolutely feel endangered,” she said. “I heard some of the things that he’s been saying to the media. … If somebody is looking at a felony theft, what means would they go through?
“I don’t know. I’m uncomfortable. I have to be a big girl. I have to buck it up. I have to come here. I have to do my job, and I have to get past it.”
Cobb was adamant that she did not accuse Harmon of taking the hauler but said police used video evidence and witness statements.
“I am a racecar driver, I’m not a law enforcement officer,” she said. “I don’t control who makes arrests. … I have not accused anybody. I have handed all of the information over to the detectives. I’m letting them do their jobs.”
Cobb believes this all stems from her battle in federal court with Novak, who owns the hauler. Cobb also confirmed that she was romantically involved with Novak but said the two had not been in a committed relationship for a few years.
The hauler was stored at Harmon’s shop, and Cobb took it in January, she said. Harmon said he called police at the time but they said it was a civil matter. He said the hauler belongs to Novak.
After Cobb and Novak split in 2012, she set up a different company to run her race team. The dispute in court is now over which company owns the trailer. Harmon, who was her team manager and her driving coach in 2010, said he has paperwork that shows that Novak paid for the truck.
“It’s he-said, she-said who it belongs to,” Cobb said. “You have to go by the law. And when you go by the law and you look up the owner of these items, it comes back to me.”
Harmon said he helped Novak get some of his stuff from Cobb earlier this year.
“She’s got a lot of animosity to me because Dave has helped me some this year and because I helped him retrieve his stuff,” Harmon said. “She thinks it’s her stuff.
“But if you go to Walmart, you’ve got to pay for stuff before you leave. She did not pay for it. She did not sign a contract.”
In the Novak lawsuit, it states that Novak put more than $1 million into the race team but never had a business agreement with Cobb, who is 27th in the truck series standings, with one career top-10 in 60 starts.
Harmon, who has 153 career Nationwide starts and 39 truck starts, competes part-time in both series. He is best known for a wild wreck at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2002.
He has continued for most of his career on a shoestring budget but hopes to make Cobb pay for what happened this week.
“You guys know when I hit the wall at Bristol, I could have wrote my own check and I didn’t do it,” Harmon said. “But I’m not that type of guy. But I promise you I’m going for the jugular vein (legally) when this is over.
“My family and myself, my mom, don’t deserve this.”
Both drivers hoped for no drama this weekend on the track.
“I don’t want to be in the news for this,” Cobb said. “I don’t want this attention. We don’t perform very well because we lack funds to run up front. I like racing under the radar.”
Harmon said Cobb loves the attention and the drama.
“I’m not going to make eye contact with anybody,” Harmon said. “I’m here to race. I just want her and Dave to get their stuff over with, get me out of the middle of it and let’s move on. … People I talk to (think) it’s just a joke.
“It’s not a joke to me. It’s my reputation.”