EDITOR’S NOTE: The references in this article are only allegations. At this time there have not been any criminal charges brought. The criminal justice system holds that all individuals are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
By Jerry Jordan, Editor
An investigation by NASCAR and Pennsylvania law enforcement into explicit text messages seeking to meet for sex with what was purported to be an underaged male, has resulted in the termination and indefinite suspension from NASCAR for Micah Horton, who once served as car chief and then as a mechanic on the No. 18 Xfinity Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
This past Sunday evening, Horton’s wife posted on Facebook stating her husband’s phone had been “hacked.”
“Asking for prayers right now for my family. My husbands (sic) phone was hacked and someone impersonated him by using pics from his cloud on an unknown app to solicit a (sic) minors,” she wrote publicly before changing it to allow only friends to see the post. “He was asleep during the incident. The police did do an interview and investigated the situation. He fully cooperate (sic) and no charges have been filed. Since he is in racing, he is gaining attention for it. There is proof of his phone being hacked and compromised. I ask that you don’t believe everything on social media and please respect our privacy. Thank you and please never assume your electronics are safe and secure.”
Before that post, NASCAR and law enforcement met with Horton at Pocono Raceway after information came to light early Sunday in a Facebook group, Fox Sports Victory Lane. The post stated, “hey guys. (sic) we have sort of a problem going on in Pocono atm. it’s not me. but there is a gentleman who does the lords (sic) work by exposing pedophiles up in Pennsylvania. well tonight he got some provocative messages from a crew member of Kaulig racing along with this picture. does any know the crew members (sic) name?”
It turned out Horton was no longer a part of Kaulig Racing but had joined JGR earlier this year in January. Horton’s Facebook page stated he joined JGR in January as the Car Chief on the No. 18 Xfinity Series team and was listed as such on NASCAR’s official rosters until the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. At that point, his position was changed to “mechanic.”
His Facebook page is no longer available.
“It is a police matter that is under investigation,” was the response to Kickin’ the Tires via telephone from law enforcement officers at Pocono Raceway on Sunday morning.
A spokesperson for JGR said, “We are aware of the situation and working with the authorities.”
A follow-up request for information confirmed Horton’s employment with JGR had been terminated.
“I can confirm he has been terminated and is no longer an employee,” the JGR spokesperson stated.
On Tuesday, the sanctioning body released its penalty report at 4:30 p.m. stating that Horton had been indefinitely suspended from the sport for violations of Sections 12.1, 12.8.a and 12.8g of the NASCAR Rulebook.
12.1 GENERAL PROCEDURE
- a. If NASCAR/NEM observes or is made aware of an act or omission by a NASCAR Member that constitutes a violation of the NASCAR Rules or that is detrimental to stock car racing or NASCAR, and if NASCAR/NEM determines that the act or omission is sufficiently serious to warrant the imposition of a Penalty, the Official shall report the violation to the Series Managing Director and/or Senior Vice President, Competition as soon as practicable. b. The Series Managing Director and/or Senior Vice President, Competition shall consider the report and shall conduct whatever additional inquiry he or she deems appropriate under the circumstances. c. After concluding the inquiry, the Series Managing Director and/or Senior Vice President, Competition shall review the matter with NASCAR personnel from relevant areas to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate, and if so, what disciplinary action should be taken. d. The Member shall be informed of the determination by the Senior Vice President, Competition or by the Series Managing Director, and if disciplinary action is imposed, the Senior Vice President, Competition shall cause a Penalty Notice to be issued to the subject Member specifying the violation, a brief statement of the time and circumstances of the violation, and the Penalty imposed. A Penalty Notice will only be issued for Race Disqualification, Level 1, Level 2, Safety, and Member Conduct violations. The Series Managing Director will communicate any At-Track penalties to the team’s crew chief. e. NASCAR may publicly announce or publish any At-Track penalties or Penalty Notices. f. The subject Member referenced in the penalty shall have no claim or cause of action of any kind against NASCAR and its Members, employees and affiliates, or any individual publishing such penalty or announcing the violation. g. If the Member wishes to appeal the Race Disqualification, Level 1, Level 2, Safety, or Member Conduct Penalty Notice, the Member shall make a written request for a hearing to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel within three business days of the issuance of the Penalty Notice (except as otherwise required for an Expedited Appeal Procedure), as outlined in Section 14 Appeals to the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel. At-Track penalties are non-appealable.
12.8 NASCAR MEMBER CONDUCT
- a. NASCAR membership is a privilege. With that privilege comes certain benefits, responsibilities and obligations. Correct and proper conduct, both on and off the racetrack, is part of a Member’s responsibilities. A Member’s actions can reflect upon the sport as a whole and on other NASCAR Members. Ideally, NASCAR Members are role models for the many fans who follow this sport, regardless of the type of license a Member may hold, or the specific Series in which a Member may participate. Therefore, NASCAR views a Member’s conduct, both on and off the race track, which might constitute a behavioral Rules violation under this Rule Book with great importance.
- g. In extraordinary circumstances, NASCAR may take whatever action it deems necessary to mitigate and/or rectify circumstances created by a Member’s actions including, but not limited to, negating the results of a driver’s performance and/or advancing a driver in the standings or The Playoffs.
Attempts to contact Horton through multiple sources including direct messages before he removed his Facebook page were unsuccessful.
In reading through the replies to the Facebook post seeking help identifying Horton, there was a link to a Google Drive showing screen captures from a conversation between Musa M. Harris, who was posing as a minor and a person presumed to be Horton, that occurred late Saturday night. The Google Drive was named “Luzerne County Predator Catcher” and is also the moniker Harris goes by in what he told Kickin’ the Tires is his goal to expose people soliciting underage contact. The text messages linked to the Google Drive were edited to obscure nudity but several of the images appear to show a man’s penis.
So far, Harris said he has exposed more than 160 people who exchanged sexually charged messages with him thinking he was a minor. Harris uses several chat apps and messages sites in what he says is a personal mission to expose anyone he finds seeking sexual contact with minors.
Early in the text string, which took place on the Grindr app, a person purported to be Horton or as has been claimed – someone impersonating him using a hacked phone, asked Harris how old he was but Harris did not answer. Instead, he replied, “Bye.”
The response to Harris saying “Bye” came in another text at 11:15 p.m. stating, “I’m open to any. Can host now.”
The two individuals – Harris and the person purported to be Horton or a phone hacker – continued to exchange comments, discussing their locations and what type of activity each was looking for.
At 11:23 p.m. Harris texted, “How old ru (sic).”
The timestamp on the next text message purportedly from Horton – or a hacker – came after Harris’ question but also at 11:23 p.m. stating his age as “26.” The message also contained HBU, the text abbreviation for “How about you” and a photo of an erect male penis. According to NASCAR crew records and confirmed through North Carolina voting data, Horton was born in 1985, making him 35 years old.
The next message came from Harris at 11:23 p.m. stating, “Mmmm I want some. 15” came at 11:24 p.m.
The response to Harris indicating he was underage brought the reply, “Cool” and another image of a penis.
Harris then accused the other texter of “teasing” him and asked about coming to the hotel.
A reply was sent to Harris at 11:24 p.m. stating, “How can you get here?”
“Uber,” was the reply at 11:25 p.m. from Harris.
“Can I see your d!^&,” came the response sent to Harris at 11:25 p.m.
“No so you can get off and I’m just stuck here,” Harris replied at 11:26 p.m.
At that point, pin-drop GPS coordinates of the Hampton Inn, where Horton was staying, were texted to Harris. In the same string of texts, came the request, “What all have you done with a guy?”
At 11:29 p.m. Harris replied, “69 mostly.”
The two exchanged messages for the next couple of minutes over how Harris, who pretended he was only 15 years old, would get to the hotel from his present location. Uber was the answer but in reality, Harris drove there.
At 11:32 p.m. a text message sent to Harris stated, “This is not some underage sting is it?”
Further text messages were then exchanged and both asked the other if either was a member of law enforcement.
Harris told Kickin’ the Tires when he arrived at the hotel, he went to Room 302, which is where he was told to meet the other person. He said he knocked on the door but no one would answer. Instead, a hotel employee came and asked him to stop knocking on the door because the guest was trying to sleep.
A hotel employee said via phone that it was against their policy to provide any information about guests or their rooms numbers.
Harris then began live-streaming outside the hotel. At one point he looked into the camera, and said, “Yeah, that guy didn’t want to come out of the room, so I called the police on him.”
But when police arrived they declined to go upstairs despite being told someone was engaging in sexually explicit text messaging with a person posing as a 15-year-old.
Kickin’ the Tires has confirmed several members of the Joe Gibbs Racing team stayed at the Hampton Inn in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pa. during the race weekend.
Harris said the lack of action by police was frustrating because he, at least, expected them to question the person he had been texting with. Instead, they got back in their patrol units and left. They said that because Harris hadn’t alerted law enforcement in advance that they didn’t have proof that the conversation was anything more than one person’s word against the other.
“They didn’t even check his name,” Harris said. “For all they know this guy could have been a mass murderer or a kidnapper. It seemed like they cared more about leaving.”
Pennsylvania law makes it illegal to solicit a minor or a law enforcement officer that is posing as a minor. However, Harris is not a member of law enforcement. And, in fact, law enforcement officials have said they are not supportive of his actions.
Messages left with the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office – the county where the Hampton Inn is located – seeking comment were not returned. However, an employee at the district attorney’s office confirmed the office has investigated similar cases that Harris had brought to light. At the track, it was officers with the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department, who spoke with Horton. A message left with the detective who is reviewing the allegations had not yet been returned.
Harris said the way his sting operations work is that he waits for people to reach out to him on Grindr using what is known as a tap. According to Grindr, a tap is, “used to break the ice – show another user you’re interested without having to find the right words.”
According to social media numbers, Harris is popular on TikTok, where he has 116,000 followers. He has posted numerous links videos of people he says were trying to meet with him after he pretended to be underage. His Facebook group has about 39,900 followers.
“He reached out to me,” Harris said, when told that Horton’s wife claimed her husband’s phone was hacked. “I guess someone hacked him and knew exactly what room he was in. He sent me his live location. That pin drop is the exact location and done through Grindr. That means someone in that room hacked him. The pin-drop comes through the Grindr app to send the exact location where he is at.
“I catfish them and act like I am someone else. My profile says that I am 18 years old (the minimum age allowed by Grindr). I ask how old they are. He (the person responding to Harris) didn’t care at all how old I was.”
Research conducted by Kickin’ the Tires has shown through several Google search results that there are ways to spoof someone’s location and trick the Grindr app into posting a different location than where someone is actually located. If that were the case in this situation, it would likely mean Horton was targeted and victimized by someone who gained access to his phone, created an account on Grindr using photos from his archives, realized his location and then sought out Harris on Grindr to embarrass him.
As soon as NASCAR was made aware of the allegations on Sunday, they immediately launched an investigation after receiving copies of the text messages and other information. Police were called and met with Horton, as confirmed by his wife’s post on Facebook. Horton was also prevented from crew activities on Sunday, and later flew back to the Charlotte area.