The Frontstretch: For Steve And Shane, It's Truly A Shame by Thomas Bowles -- Friday June 3, 2005

Go to site navigation Go to article

For Steve And Shane, It's Truly A Shame

Thomas Bowles · Friday June 3, 2005


What if I got it wrong
And no poet or song
Could put right what I got wrong
Or make you feel I belong?

Once upon a time, there was a man who loved racing. He lived and breathed it; it was his dream, his career, his future. He didn’t have the talent to be successful behind the wheel; so he dedicated himself to become a talented mechanic instead. He built his reputation from the ground up, and became one of the most respected head wrenches in his sport, working for the best teams in the business, winning races with men like Jack Roush, providing the best cars to drivers like Mark Martin.

But the father had an even bigger dream. All the victories, all the respect, all the glory in the world could never make up for being able to drive yourself to the checkered flag. And his success had put him in a position to have that dream become a reality: not for him, but for his son. The son, you see, had the one racing talent the father never had; the ability to get behind the wheel and drive anything he was given straight through to Victory Lane.

Working for the best teams in the business, he had the connections to let his son skip the stairway and take the elevator to the top, straight through to racing with the best drivers in the world. As any father would do, he gave the son the chance to grab the keys to everything he always wanted. “It’s all yours,” said the father to the son. “Not only that, but I’ll stand behind you, and guide you, every step of the way.” And at first, for the father it was a dream come true.

The only thing was, the dream never fully became reality. And the father learned a harsh lesson; in order to fulfill his dream, his son had to work just as hard, believe just as much, and be just as humble. And the son was none of those things. In fact, the son rebelled, and chose to do everything wrong.

When every step that you take
Can be your biggest mistake
And it could bend and it could break
Well that’s just the risk that you take…

A few hours of fun, two positive tests, and now a young life gets thrown away. And for what? For who? Somewhere while you’re reading this in the next few days, that disgruntled father will sit with his son and ask him why. It was just one time, Dad. Oh, come on, why did they have to suspend me for THAT? You wonder if the son even has figured out the consequences of what he’s done, how an entire career was just shattered the minute he put a drug into his mouth and inhaled. Come on, Dad, they’ll reinstate me again. You have your connections, don’t you? Those old drivers don’t have too many years left; I’ll jump right in and show ‘em how it’s done.

Or maybe, just maybe, somewhere it’s beginning to sink in for the son, it’s beginning to finally make sense to Shane Hmiel. The fact he’ll likely never race in this sport again. That he had a second chance…and gave it all away.

No one can deny that Shane’s got talent. Sure, through the years people remarked at how he’s always gotten the best equipment. How his father Steve not only gives him the money, but the know-how from the spotter’s stand to coach his son through thick and thin and get him to the front. Still, no matter how much money someone has, no matter how often you’re coached on the radio, you’ve got to be the one to drive that car to Victory Lane. I never saw Steve driving a race car. In fact, it was Shane, and he drove it well, to several wins in the Craftsman Truck Series with a team that didn’t even have a full-time sponsor when the year began in 2004.

How many drivers he pushed through to get to the front is a different question: Shane was a driver known for his aggression and his ego, an ego no doubt bloated to the point where he thought he could continue to sneak his substance abuse by the powers that be after getting caught once before. But when you look at the bottom line, Shane finished in the front more often than not. The Pettys saw enough talent in him to prepare a Cup ride for Shane in 2004 before his first suspension. DEI saw enough in Shane to be grooming him for a future Cup career just two years down the line. Make no doubt about it, Shane was getting ready to crash the racing world’s party of future stars. It’s just he did a little crashing down of his own, and it was just a one-car wreck. Now, even his backup car is destroyed.

Yet, the back story is how badly you have to feel for the father. Steve Hmiel has done nothing but been a decent man, one that’s built a successful Nextel Cup career for himself as a crew chief and team manager. He’s done nothing but stood behind his son every step of the way, taking Shane’s indiscretions in stride and putting his heart and soul into taking the raw talent he saw in his son and trying to mold it into championship material. Now, one week after taking perhaps the most volatile job assignment in his career, choosing to be the man who fixes the son of the Intimidator, his own son involves him in a crisis that he neither needs or deserves. Not that I don’t feel for Shane; drug addiction is a very serious thing, one that kills thousands of people in this country every year, and I hope he is able to seek him and get better as quickly as possible.

Oooh, that’s right
Let’s take a breath, jump over the side
Oooh, that’s right
How can you know it when you don’t even try?

That’s the biggest shame of all, that Shane doesn’t know how it feels to live the dream. In taking the road to a quick high, he chose not to try, when the sport’s highest level was at his fingertips not once, but twice. It’s an opportunity tens of thousands of men across the country would beg for; and what a shame, because it’s now all been wasted away.

Editor’s Note: Lyrics are from Coldplay’s new song “What If,” off their new CD X and Y, which will hit stores next week.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
Beyond the Cockpit: Brittany Force, the Fastest Force
Voices from the Cheap Seats: Advertising for Dummies
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Off Week-Richmond Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Picking The Best IndyCar On-Air Personalities


©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

06/03/2005 05:43 AM
Excellent post, it is a shame.

I only hope NASCAR doesn’t pussy foot around with him and bans him for life.

NASCAR doesn’t need to have someone, driver of fan, killed by someone running on something more than ego or adrenalin.
06/03/2005 08:27 AM
I’m sorry, I can’t feel all that sorry for Steve Hmiel. Available evidence suggests that both Shane and Tyler are a pair of first-class spoiled brats.

While the character of adult children is their own responsibility and sometimes a person is simply “bad seed” despite all parental attempts the vast majority of brats are brats because their parents poured on the indulgence and left out the discipline.

I’ve seen Rusty Wallace criticized for coming down too hard on Stephen. But all available evidence suggests that Stephen Wallace is a young man of good character—respectful and hard-working. Probable evidence of good parenting there.
06/03/2005 10:02 AM
It’s too bad a young talent like that had to go and screw up his life like that. Like him or not- the fact is, He Could Drive a Racecar! I can’t believe that someone with that kind of talent and opportunity would waste it like that. There are thousands of law abiding people, me included, whose lifelong dream would be to race ANYTHING, but never get the chance. Shane – Get It Together, Get a Real Job, Don’t Ruin the Rest of Your Life By Using Drugs!!!
larry shield
06/03/2005 10:03 AM
Shane has a problem putting 6 words together in a sentence. He never looks at the interviewer, but seems to gaze at some avatar in the sky. His speech patterns always seem slurred and he sounds illiterate in comparison to his father’s speech. I always thought it strange that a drug manufacturer would choose him as a spokesman, but then most of the commercials show Dale talking and not Shane.
M. K. Edwards
06/03/2005 10:29 AM
Let’s hope that Shane can get help for his problem and realize what it has cost him,,,the ride of his life. Steve did his job and I think it is up to Shane to do the rest. Maybe this will shake Shane enough to change his life style. Maybe he will realize that Nascar might have just saved his life!!
06/03/2005 10:56 AM
Nothing left to do but follow through. Young aspiring drivers everywhere take this event to heart, the only gift is life , everything else is EARNED.
06/03/2005 11:08 AM
How do you spell PUNK?

Ted Main
06/03/2005 11:23 AM
Drug addiction is not something that is easy to overcome,,,I have to laugh at some of these reply’s in reference to Shane Hmeil,,,,I would be willing to bet some of there heroes are taking drugs and they don’t jump on the negative bandwagon like they should,,,,Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself,,,are any of my close friends in this same situation,,if so,,,lend them a helping hand instead of kicking them when they are down,,,,,You can only hope that the light will come on and this young man gets his life together,,,,I know from experience and it’s not as easy as you think,,to conquer a demon that somehow has taken part of your life

A proud veteran
06/03/2005 11:23 AM
How do we know what kind of parent Steve Hmiel is? Living the vagabond lifestyle of Nascar,probably left little time for his children, and as we have seen with other examples giving a kid time is more important than giving him everything he wants.
06/03/2005 11:30 AM
06/03/2005 11:32 AM
06/03/2005 12:49 PM
It’s so easy to blame the parent – oh they were too indulgent – they were too strict and the kid had to rebel – they were never around – they never let the kid out of their sight – they never gave him anything – they gave him too much…... But in the end, the reponsibility lies with each individual person. Whatever Steve Hmiel’s faults as a parent – Shane is the one who put the drugs in his own body.
06/03/2005 01:26 PM
If Shane tested positive for drugs then you need to look no further than his best friend who would probably test positive also. Hmmm…who would that be…the same guy that is in the WINFUEL commercials with him. The same guy that his dad is currently the crew chief for. But god forbid we test the generation X driver. The one that brings millions of fans to the sport. The one that is made out to be the perfect son. The one that has been wrecking just as much as Shane lately. Shane probably didn’t pick up the habit on his own. Not too many drug dealers in Pleasant Garden, NC.
06/03/2005 01:34 PM

I was a HUGE fan of yours, I have watched you since you came on the scene. You can drive anything but you have to respect your elders as well as your own life!
Using drugs again is a stupid way of screwing up the career that you were trying to rebuild to say the least! I believe that you could have made a good CUP driver some day if you would have only just used your head for something other than holding a WinFuel hat!!
I also feel sorry for your Dad, he has enough pressure on him right now trying to get your friend JR rolling again, this will only make his job harder dealing with you.
Shane I wish you well, PLEASE get help before you continue to hurt you and your family! GET WELL!!
AJ Hopper
06/03/2005 01:40 PM
This is a true example of what an arrogant punk who thinks he is never wrong can and will do. No respect for anyone on or off the track. His behavior has been typical for drug abuser this year, Larry made some very good points about that. This isn’t kicking someone when they are down, it’s fact… he blew it, in more ways than one. He had already been loosing respect in the garage for his attitude and actions on the track. Addiction is a hard road, no doubt but you would think the sport, the money and the satisfaction would be enough of a high to put that demon aside and move on. I have friends that have followed that path and have overcome their problems with a whole lot less on the line. Also helping hand was offered to the boy and he bit that hand, so if he is never able to get in a car again, I think the punishment is fair and just.
jc walker
06/03/2005 01:56 PM
Well, Well Shane I guess it was you and not DJ that was on the way out. You have always acted like a overindulged spoiled brat and although you have the ability to drive a car fast you do not have the brains to not use it up or wreck it in the first 100 laps. you have to be a major disapointment to your parents and all of the people who gave you the opportunity to excel only to see you fail. Good ridance, were tire of your childish antics anyway.
06/03/2005 02:25 PM
You all know he’ll be back next year.NASCAR needs more drivers like him.There all about ratings and drivers like Shane are the key to higher numbers.the indefinant suspension last time was 4 or 5 months.He’s got a lot of talent so who knows maybe he’ll come back stronger than ever and jump right to cup.maybe not but I’ll still cheer for him? 3 strikes and your out NASCAR?
06/03/2005 02:26 PM
What a disapointment in such a great talent. Given the opportunity of a lifetime and throwing it all away for a high! You have no one to blame but yourself and I’m glad you are not out there driving and possibly hurting another race car driver! A hard lesson, kid!!!
Leigh Ann
06/03/2005 02:31 PM
First of all, it’s silly to assume that Jr is using just because someone he knows is. Do you do everything that everyone you know does? If you do, good luck with that. Drug addiction is very difficult to live with and you never completely overcome it. It is always a part of you and there is always the chance that you will use again. I feel for Shane, his family and his friends and hope that he has the support network that he will need to survive this.
Racer Frank
06/03/2005 03:05 PM
Shane is a spoiled brat. I have seen others like him that played games all their lifes and got away with things. He has gotten away with what ever he wanted for so long, he believed he could do what ever he wants. Well, he received one warning and nothing happened, so he continues on his merry way. Well, now NASCAR needs to make a firm decision and ban Shane for life. In most other series, one strike and you’re out. Hopefully, he will go back to school and make something of himself, but from what I see of him, that will not happen. No one forced Shane to take drugs, it was his decision. Now, he must live with the consequences. Sorry, Shane, but I think DJ will be around racing a lot longer than you ever will be.
Busch Fan
06/03/2005 03:29 PM
Shane, showed all the signs of a substance abuser. He had no repect for anyone or anything. He drove like a fool, talked like a fool, and acted like a fool. To me he was never taught any respect as a child. If my 25 year old son talked like he did to Mike Wallace, DJ, about Fitz, I would have kicked his butt myself. This kid is just a straight up punk.
jr. fan
06/03/2005 06:32 PM
Yes, it’s a shame about Shane, but the one I feel sorry for are his parents, especially his dad, Steve, in the position he’s in. Shane has shown signs of substance abuse, the way he has driven & acted. He needed to be caught & so do all the others, if, there are any. Race tracks nor highways are places for these IDIOTS. I’m a JR. fan.
06/03/2005 07:40 PM
This is so bogus, I am a huge Shane fan, I cant bel;ieve he did it 2 times. I thought he would have learned the first time, I was hoping to see him run cup full time next season for a top team. He is likely never gonna be back in Nascar, he blew it 2 times, no one will want him if he is ever reinstated. What he did was wrong and should be punished, I dont know how he could blow such a great chance 2 times, he had all the talent in the world and just threw it out for some idiotic drugs, which will only kill u. I was once a HUGE shane Hmiel fan but I dont think I can like him any more, he pretty much just spat in the faces of all his fans by doing this again. I can’t believe he did it. I have only 1 questions.. WHY Shane, WHY?
06/03/2005 07:43 PM
ummm…..anyone heard from hmiely bug?
06/03/2005 09:12 PM
My question is why did NASCAR not test him after Bristol? He was totally out of line there, why wait seven weeks. Maybe Steve should have followed the old adage “spare the rod spoil the child”.
06/03/2005 09:32 PM
To Ted Main:

My friends are NOT in the same situation. I choose to surround myself with people who are not in a position to get me or my husband arrested.

Apples and oranges anyways. My friends aren’t out racing at 200mph… playing Russian Roulette with every crash, every week and sometimes 2 or 3 times a week. No one here is wishing he would DIE, we all hope he gets the help, but none of us want him to take the chance of hurting or killing someone because he was impaired. But, let’s just say the mailman crashes into your house while on drugs. Would you let him crash into your house again? Oops, the mailman did. And Shane did. What happens next time if he crashes into your child’s room? Would you be ticked if he didn’t lose his job? That makes it personal to you. Now think of the mother of a driver who might possibly be seriously hurt cause Shane was an idiot.

To Sandy, in the forums, I posted an article that said Shane, at Lowe’s used his car as a “gesture” towards an official, and either before or after he crashed his car. Guess it takes 2 and 2 to make 10 for them.

To Jake, interesting theory. Jr. has been making more silly moves lately, but as I say again, I don’t think he belongs in NNC.
06/03/2005 09:56 PM
He has no one to blame but him self. Some place along the line we each make decisions that we are responsible for. He made the wrong one. I hurt for his parents but I have no sympathy for him. He chose to do wrong. Now he must pay the consequensces for what he did.
ron merrill
06/03/2005 10:16 PM
I’m glad shane’s out.he’s a punk, who used his father’s hard work and reputation to get ahead.someone oughtta take him out back of the woodshed and teach the young man some respect.enjoy your vacation shane.see you at the track…......oops ,guess not
06/03/2005 10:47 PM
It’s all too bad!!! What happens “happens”... If he gets to drive for Nascar again more power to him get out there and show em up & if not well he should have learned from the first time he was tested & tested positive!!! But, what can you say when your smokin it up your state of mind gets a little altered….. uh.. believe it or not nothing really matters & you have a I don’t give a **** attitude & we’ve all seen that personality trait come out in Shane!!!!! All he needs is to get his priorities figured out & a swift kick in the a**!!!!!
06/04/2005 12:11 AM
I am sadden n stunned at all of this.

I know Shane & Tyler Hmiel personally and to see the commments being made by people who probably have NO clue as to what those two boys go through is unbelieveable. I know Shane will get the help he needs and not take only 4 months.

To Jake, my best friend is close to Jr..and he in no way at ALL does any drugs. So don’t start rumors about Jr that you have NO clue about. I suggest you keep your mouth SHUT next time.

Get better Shane! We love you NO MATTER WHAT!
06/04/2005 02:30 AM
Okay, so we ‘ve got another “insider”. So are you saying that you’re ok w/ Shane’s actions, Tiffany? That we’re wrong in our assumptions that he did wrong and that he shouldn’t endanger lives, but we all wish for recovery? And you believe that he should be back within 4 months? 4 months didn’t seem to work last time… What will that teach him? And, since you touted the card, how exactly do you know them personally (and hang out with them on a normal basis to judge how they feel)?

As far as Jr. goes… well, that’s a Kevin Bacon effect. Just as you ranted about people talked about whom they don’t know personally, you do not know Jr. personally and therefore you can only speculate, like the rest of us, on what he does or doesn’t do. Sure, you can take offense, your email is Jr. Junkie, and we can respect that you are entitled to your opinion and defense of your favorite driver… Jr. is a party boy, we all know that. Who’s to say he is OR isn’t doing something? But he has a point… NASCAR will never test him and if they do, it will be hush-hush. Who brings some of them big dollars?

Do you think it’s possible, even in the smallest sense that maybe people are just looking for a way to write off Jr.’s problems rather than admit he isn’t a great driver (nor business man it seems)?
06/04/2005 08:14 AM
Although everyone is entitled to a opionion on any situation, it frustrates me to see such judegement made in regards to Shane as a core person, Shane’s respect towards his family, and even possibly question the parenting of his mother and father. Unless you personally know Shane and Shane’s family, you have no business making negative character assumptions about him or anyone associated with him. What are you judging your comments on, the 15 second clips of Shane that you might catch in an interview or a 5 second radio communcation between him and his crew chief during the race in a heated moment. NOTE these clips, everything you see of Shane, are pieces of Shane that OTHERS have peeled out and chosen to show the general public. Unfortunatley, what the public does not get to see is Shane as a person and his interaction with his family. Why don’t you get to see this, because that type of behavior doesnt make for good TV ratings. The real truth is that Shane is person with a huge heart that would do anything for you. And most important of all is part of one of the tightest families I have seen. Both of his parents would tell you they would have nothing if they didn’t have thier two sons. They live and breathe to provide for thier family, but NEVER do it at the expense of not teaching them core life values. My point, have an opionion on NASCARS policy, on reinstatement, etc, but don’t give your comments on Shane as a person or question his family values and parenting. You don’t have a right when all you know of the Hmiels is through MEDIA and MEDIA HYPE!!!!
06/04/2005 03:03 PM
What is Shane’s drug of choice? Are we talinkg heroin or meth or are we talking about a joint at a party one night? Sure, it’s all wrong and he knew the rules of the game, but the responses here sound like he’s a junkie. I garauntee you if you swept the whole NASCAR garage (including Helton and his croanies) you’d be overwhelmed with positives for weed or pharmacueticals without prescriptions. Shane, if it’s weed, grow up! If it’s something else, get help quick.
06/04/2005 03:23 PM
good point Scoop
06/04/2005 04:18 PM
Hey folks…Shane tested positive AFTER taking some substance prior to having his car out on the track twice! That shows an utter lack of respect for his fellow drivers and the racing series too. In my case I am not judging Shane by this incident, rather the totality of his behavior since coming to NASCAR.

If a guy wants to drink or do drugs on his own time that is one thing. But to test positive AFTER the race in Richmond (1st penalty) and now AFTER qualifying at Lowes (2nd penalty) shows a lack of judgement that does not belong in this sport!
06/04/2005 04:40 PM
He could test positive for up to a month after doing some drugs. The fact that he was found positive is no indication that he was doing drugs at the time of a race. Does anybody really believe this kid is getting high and racing? I’m speculating, but I bet he smokes weed when he’s out partying with his buddies, but when he’s at the track I’ll bet he’s not even thinking about drugs. Just like a lot of drivers drink when partying with their bud’s but they’re not drinking and racing.
06/05/2005 04:32 PM
Shane Hmiel is a punk and deserves to be banned from NASCAR. He should have learned his lesson the first time. He’s arrogant and has no respect for his fellow racers, mainly veteran drivers. He thought he could trick NASCAR and continue using and not get caught…what a fool.

NASCAR needs to make an example out of this loser.
06/06/2005 11:37 AM
Scoop, you are right, he may not toke up right before a race. BUT, the REASON that you can be found with it in your system for so long is simply that fact, IT’S THERE. As long as it is in your system, it can impair you. It may not be as much as the first few hours, but up to 30 days after, until it fully leaves your system, the toxins are still running around your brain and can affect judgement. (check out a simple google search on short term effects of smoking weed after only a few uses… memory loss, distorted perception, coordination loss and rapid heart rate, for days and days after the high has passed)

I don’t blame parenting on anything, except the fact thast Hmiel’s return had a lot more to do with Daddy than being clean. Just like Jr., if it weren’t for Daddy, neither would probably be here (common bond for best friends?). And while you are on the subject of partying with friends, it was Dale Jr. who admitted that he drove “a little drunk and hungover”. But as a golden child… what can you do, he said it after the 3 day limitation of testing for alcohol…

And you are right, we only see what they show us, on re-runs. His live interviews, his on track actions and treatment of other drivers is LIVE and IN COLOR. Shane CHOSE to do and say those things, the words he says are from his own mind and during a live race broadcast, it isn’t anyone’s choice but his. Are we to believe that isn’t really him because that isn’t how he acts at home? Then that would mean he is two-faced, which in my book is worse than being just one punk….
06/06/2005 02:02 PM
Surely, to goodness, they will never allow him to race again in a vehicle going close to 200 miles per hour..Lets leave the addicts to the NBA< NFL etc. Please don’t start this rehabilation crap in the Nascar series, Most of the drug users in the other sports are the same people over and over..So we already know his habits , why prolong it, and let him jeapordize other peoples lives…
06/10/2005 11:32 AM
We could be talking about anything from Ephedra to Heroin. If its one rule for all, then I think NASCAR has made a mistake. I think all parties should be more open about what has happened. We know about anything that happens in other sports, why not this one?


Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at