Shane Hmiel's Tragedy Brings Motorsports Community Closer Together

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IOctober 15, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16:  Portrait of Shane Hmiel, driver of the NASCAR Busch Series #32 WinFuel/TrimSPA Chevrolet, at the NASCAR Nextel Cup Daytona 500 on February 16, 2005 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When the news of former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel’s tragic accident hit the internet, it sparked a flood of prayers and well wishes amongst the motorsports community, during a time when the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is the forefront of all NASCAR websites.

The tremendous amount of support, which has been portrayed around the various motorsports websites is a breath of fresh air, and also a testimony that not all NASCAR fans are unruly and heartless as some may think.

Hmiel, who received a lifetime ban from NASCAR in 2006 for failing three drug tests, pursued a career in the United States Auto Club racing series in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a motorsports champion.

His determination along with his dedication has made him a fan favorite, with not only the talent he has shown, but also the way he has chosen to get his life back on track.

The impact he has had on the NASCAR community alone, was evident when Tony Stewart took time from his victory celebration this past Sunday to offer his support to the family.

"To hear how well he made it through the night and hearing the optimistic thoughts from the doctors, you know, it made us all, I think, breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that he made it through that first night and that's a big step,'' said Stewart after his victory at Auto Club Speedway.

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Stewart also added that, "To hear the doctors say they don't think there's going to be any paralysis with a broken neck and broken back, we just went through that a month and a half ago with a close friend and with Shane, we didn't want to see that happen again.”

Not only are the drivers sending their well wishes to the family, but the fans as well around the various internet social sites whether they are motorsports related or not.

Accidents as we all know are part of auto racing, and the drivers who strap themselves into these high speed machines know the risk they are taking each time they choose to test their abilities against their fellow competitors.

Unfortunately this particular accident was not the fault of another competitor or competitors, since Hmiel was alone on the track at the time trying to qualifying for the evenings feature race.

There have been many instances where drivers have lost their lives in the pursuit of speed, and just like Hmiel there was no one else on the track to blame.

Two that quickly come to mind are the deaths of Neil Bonnet in 1994 while practicing for the Daytona 500, and Adam Petty who also lost his life while practicing for a Busch race in 2000.

With the injuries that Hmiel suffered he is very lucky to not only be alive, but that his recovery will allow him to possibly one day race again.

This accident should serve as a wake-up call to those fans that sit back and wish a driver would wreck, which for the most part is because they don’t like them.

Remember these drivers have families and loved ones just like you and I, and after following what the Hmiel is going through would you want someone you don’t know to have those types of thoughts to one of your loved ones?

It’s really too bad that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to realize what these drivers face on a weekly basis, and at the same time to bring the motorsports community together for the sake of a fallen warrior.

The Hmiel family has opened up a Facebook page (Shane Hmiel-Road to Recovery), where anyone wishing to keep up with Shane’s recovery progress, or if you want to send your own words of encouragement can do so there.

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