“I had it all, racing for living and living a dream. Unfortunately I made some bad decisions and lost everything. But I am behind the wheel again and winning races. I drive with a purpose now.” Shane Hmiel’s words to open his segment in the show Three Wide Life , which sums up what has happened these last six years.
Hmiel had everything going for him with a top Nationwide Series ride, running competitively and showing the world he could be a racecar driver. The wheels fell off the train as in 2003, Hmiel was suspended for failing a drug test. With that call, he thought everything he had worked for was gone.
“I thought I had my chance and I screwed up,” Hmiel told Stock Car Racing Magazine in 2004. “I told my dad that I had a little money saved up and that I was going to start my own business. He told me that's not what I was put on this earth to do.
"He said I wasn't the best racecar driver and I wasn't the worst racecar driver in the world, but I was put on this earth to do something in racing and, in his opinion, that was to drive.
"I let that go through my head for a month or so and then I started doing the kinds of things I needed to do to get back. I set up my counseling and handled all the other stuff like taking random drug tests a couple of times a week for NASCAR.”
Hmiel followed all of the required steps and got reinstated a couple weeks before Daytona in 2004, making his comeback driving the No. 15 truck for Billy Ballew Motorsports.
“I saw Billy at a restaurant and he asked me what I was doing,” Hmiel said in regards to his first meeting with Ballew. “I had never met him before, but I knew who he was. I told him all I was trying to do is to get reinstated.
"A couple of weeks went by and when it looked like that might happen, I told Billy that I would work all winter helping him get his trucks ready for the season and if I was reinstated, I would drive. If not, we'd put someone else in it. As it turned out, I got reinstated right before Daytona and we wound up doing pretty decent.”
Hmiel proved that he could have success as he won his first truck race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which led to a deal with Braun Racing to drive the No. 32 Winfuel Chevrolet.
Though in getting back to where he was before, Hmiel had made one mistake – he never fixed the original problem. He was still doing drugs and in 2005, he failed another drug test and got suspended indefinitely from NASCAR.
After being suspended indefinitely, Hmiel finally took in the big lesson and went to rehab to fix the problem for good. The second suspension, in his opinion, has made him a better person.
“I blew it,” Hmiel said in an article on Three Wide Life’s website, “but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I know it sounds crazy, but being banned from NASCAR has made me a better person and no doubt made me a better racer.
"Spending time in Indy, racing open wheel, on dirt and asphalt, three or four times a week, right now I understand the passion. I know it’s a privilege. I see it in the guys I race against. Right now I am a better driver than I have ever been—having fun and starting to figure it out. Life is good.”
Hmiel has had success in both the USAC midget and silver crown divisions, getting multiple top fives and 10s, and also a win in the middle of the summer. Throughout the process, Hmiel has also impressed some of USAC’s best, including Tony Stewart Racing driver Levi Jones.
“We have all been impressed,” Jones said. “Shane has picked this up so fast. I think people were a little skeptical at first, but he has proven himself out here. Most of us have been doing this kind of racing all of our lives, and he comes out here and is competitive his first time running.”
Hmiel is also now a regular contributor to the show Three Wide Life , which focuses on the people behind the racing lifestyle. He answers viewer’s questions, offers an insider view on the racing while interviewing other young drivers who are coming up through the ranks.
“Three Wide Life has given me a chance to show the real racers out there that I am one of them,” Hmiel said. “There was a time when I never thought I would be able to race again, much less have it on TV. Right now I really am living a dream. Hardly making any money, driving everywhere I go, sleeping on couches and loving every minute of it.”
Hmiel has proven that despite all the challenges, you can accomplish any goal you have and is now out there, inspiring others who’ve had their share of challenges to keep fighting.