An admitted former drug addict once banned for life by NASCAR in 2006 says he’s driven out his demons and wants back on the track. Shane Hmiel was Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series in 2001 and seemed on pace for a very successful racing career. But numerous failed drug tests and one memorable obscene gesture to Busch Series competitor Dale Jarrett made him pro racing’s undisputed bad boy.
In October 2010, the controversial Hmiel was paralyzed in a near fatal crash during a USAC Silver Crown qualifying race at the Terre Haute Action Track in Indiana. Hmiel’s car hit the retaining wall and its roll cage collapsed, leaving the then 30-year-old in critical condition with head, neck and back injuries. Doctors put him into a medically induced coma to minimize brain swelling and gave him a 10 percent chance to live. But in true Hmiel style, he not only survived but regained limited use of his limbs, though he still requires the use of a wheelchair.
Adamant that he’s successfully battled his addictions, Hmiel is set to return to the tracks Saturday, competing in the Accessible Racing Race to the Rock event at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina. Dedicated to helping disabled veterans and civilians build morale and reintegrate into society, Accessible Racing outfits racecars with adaptable features like doors that open to 90 degrees, swiveling seats and hand controls that operate the car’s accelerator and brakes.
“I want people to understand that with a lot of work and a lot of trying, you can do things like this [despite injuries],” an ever defiant Hmiel told reporters. “I was told I wasn’t going to breathe on my own. I wasn’t going to do anything that I’ve done and now I’m going to get to drive a racecar. That’s another thing I can check off my list that people said I wasn’t going to do.”
Hmiel, son of former NASCAR Crew Chief and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Competition Director Steve Hmiel, appears regularly on the racing show Three Wide Life and founded a USAC Midget team.
E3 Spark Plugs congratulates Hmiel on his brave and inspirational recovery.