SCR: Your dad, Steve Hmiel, has been a well-respected member ofthe NASCAR community for a long time. How instrumental was it to havehim in your corner?
HMIEL: All I can say is that if it wasn't for my parents and myfriends, I would have never tried to make a comeback. They stuck behindme. Both my mom and dad were behind me to get this fixed. Somebodyelse's parents could have been so pissed for screwing up something theyhad worked on for 12 years. They were pissed, but they were man andwoman enough to tell me that I screwed up and I had to go fix it. Theyput that in my head and I decided to do something about it.
SCR: When you got the call and NASCAR said you were out, did youthink your career was over?
HMIEL: Yeah, I thought I had my chance and I screwed up. I toldmy dad that I had a little money saved up and that I was going to startmy own business. He told me that's not what I was put on this earth todo. He said I wasn't the best racecar driver and I wasn't the worstracecar driver in the world, but I was put on this earth to do somethingin racing and, in his opinion, that was to drive. I let that go throughmy head for a month or so and then I started doing the kinds of things Ineeded to do to get back. I set up my counseling and handled all theother stuff like taking random drug tests a couple of times a week forNASCAR. I've got to tell you my hat's off to NASCAR because they gave mea second opportunity and they fixed me as a person. I'm just happy thatthey gave me that chance because right now racing is more important andfun for me than it ever has been. It's even better than when I was a kidwinning go-kart races or later when I was winning Late Model races.Nothing feels as good to me right now than when I strap on that truckfor Billy Ballew Motorsports each weekend.
SCR: Let's talk a little more about your dad. What was it likegrowing up with him being so successful in racing?
Hmiel's return caught the...
Hmiel's return caught the attention of Cup team owner Bill Davis, whoput the young driver in his No. 23 ride for five races in 2004.
HMIEL: I was always hearing stuff like 'Shane's got this or thatbecause of his dad.' I turned that into something for me to work harder.People would say, 'he's got more money to race because of his dad.'Well, my dad's not a millionaire. He works on race cars for a living.Yes, he makes a good living, but Late Model racing was as far as hecould take me financially. Helping me mentally and introducing me to theright people helped take me to where I am right now. In one way, I guessI want to be better than most people because of all the crap I had totake about my dad from the time I was 10 years old.
SCR: How about your early racing career?
HMIEL: I got my first real racecar, a Late Model, in 1999. I hadtaken a couple of years off from racing because my dad told me I wasn'tserious enough about racing to spend that kind of money. Once he saw Iwas serious again, he got me a car and said build it yourself. He alsogot me a dually and an open trailer. I wanted an enclosed trailer sobad. I thought I needed all this stuff. Looking back now, I didn't needall that stuff. All I needed was a good racecar.
SCR: What kind of success did you have?
Hmiel says the support of...
Hmiel says the support of his father, DEI employee Steve Hmiel, was abig factor in his return to NASCAR.
HMIEL: My dad wanted me to travel to different tracks, so weraced at places like Caraway and Concord speedways in North Carolina. Atthe start, I think I crashed every week because I didn't know anybetter. I built the car myself. While I could call my dad and ask himsome questions, I didn't know a lot and there was only so much I couldask. Heck, I raced my whole first season with my rear brake calipersupside down and wondered why I couldn't bleed them. By the second year,I had learned a lot more just from racing a year and completelyrebuilding the car over the winter. We were as good as anybody and wewon six or seven features in 2000.
SCR: Given you success in your second year in Late Models, isthat when you started to believe you could have a career as a driver?
HMIEL: Yeah, I think so. I won five races in a row at Concord anda guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to drive his NASCAR Goody'sDash car. He told me that to do it, I'd have to miss the next couple ofraces at Concord and I was about to set a record there for the most winsin a row. I talked to my mom and dad about it and we decided to do theDash deal. It was definitely the right decision for me and that's when Ireally started to think about racing more as a career. In racing, if youstay one place for a while, it's almost like you are screwing up. You'vegot to be ready to make the next move. It's like chess to an extent. Youdon't want to get stomped on and you don't want to miss anything forsure.