Sunday's Sprint Cup race winner, Tony Stewart, is a former USAC champion and very familiar with the series and former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel, who was critically injured in a crash Saturday during a Silver Crown series qualifying run.
After his win, Stewart was asked to talk about Hmiel, who was banned from NASCAR after three failed drug tests, and his quest to start fresh in another racing series.
Q. If anybody knows USAC talent, you've seen them all. You know, where did you feel like Shane Hmiel is? Where do you feel like he is and what's your response to his actions?
Stewart: I'll be honest, when Shane started running sprint cars and midgets and silver crown cars, it was like, oh, man, this could be very interesting because he had never really ran those types of cars, he had never raced on dirt. Be he just never was scared of it, he never backed down from it, he said I've got to learn at this, and he has given 110 percent ever since day one. He's really turned into a great open‑wheel driver.
So that's actually part of the reason I had called Irish last night was to check on Shane, and he was going to the hospital to see him. But you know, just ‑‑ it's something that doesn't happen a lot in open‑wheel racing. It was just a freak accident that happened, and the way that he crashed was ‑‑ the way he hit the concrete wall was not too many guys hit like that. But it was a devastating hit, and obviously his injuries reflected that.
But to get an update from those guys at Indianapolis this morning and 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. 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.
That's why we mentioned it in victory lane. Definitely our thoughts are with him right now for sure.
More info on Hmiel's wreck can be found here.