October 9th 2010 was a dark day for not just the Hmiel family but for motorsports in general. On that day, Shane Hmiel’s professional career was snuffed out for good in a crash that very well could have ended his life all together.
Shane found himself in this situation on his own accord. Once a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Shane’s temper prevented him from truly being placed on a top-tier team. Before he had the chance to mature and develop into a successful Sprint Cup driver, he was suspended for repeated drug use, something that Hmiel ironically calls the best thing to ever happen to him.
Hmiel went on to race in USAC, and begin climbing his way up the open wheel racing ladder. Shane showed focus and raw talent behind the wheel of a sprint car, being named Most Improved Driver and securing victories at some of the hardest tracks on the circuit.
That fateful day changed everything for the still young man when Hmiel flipped his car at Terre Haute Action Track in Terre Haute, Indiana. The roll cage crumpled and Hmiel’s head was exposed, paralyzing him. For an extended period of time the racing community waited to know the extent of his injuries, as Hmiel was placed into a medically induced coma.
The road to recovery was a long one, as Shane stayed in an intensive brain rehabilitation center until April 2011. Between then and now, Shane regained the use of his arms, and although he still travels in a wheelchair, anyone who watches the video of the crash knows he is lucky to be alive.
Only one person knows how lucky he is to be alive. That is Shane Hmiel. This Shane Hmiel is not the same man that gave Dale Jarrett the finger after an on track altercation. This is a changed person grateful for everything, and thanks to Accessible Racing, Shane Hmiel had the opportunity to be inside a stock car again.
Accessible Racing is a phenomenal program that gives disabled members of the military the chance for mental therapy by putting them in stock cars, and allowing them the freedom of being on a real NASCAR race track.
On January 26th Hmiel joined these soldiers and ran laps with them at Rockingham Motor Speedway. The experience was a beautiful thing, and on Hmiel’s Road to Recovery Facebook page, Shane was visibly awed and thankful that he was able to return to the cockpit.
Shane Hmiel’s recovery is long from over. He attends physical therapy to continue regaining feeling in his right hand, but thanks to this experience, there is some normalcy in the Hmiel household.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @mike486