Hmiel to make first Cup start

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Busch series regular Shane Hmiel will be getting some extra seat time at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, as he was tapped to run the No. 43 Dodge for Petty Enterprises in Saturday night's Pepsi 400. Petty ...

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Busch series regular Shane Hmiel will be getting some extra seat time at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, as he was tapped to run the No. 43 Dodge for Petty Enterprises in Saturday night's Pepsi 400.

Petty Enterprises terminated their contract with driver John Andretti several weeks ago, and had placed CART star Christian Fittipaldi in the seat. Fittipaldi, however, was already pegged to pilot the No. 44 Dodge for Petty this weekend, so the Pettys needed an alternate driver for their Cup effort.

Step in Shane Hmiel. Hmiel has been impressive in the Busch series this season. He has garnered five top ten finishes and has only three finishes of 30th or worse.

"To say I am excited about this weekend would be an understatement," said Hmiel. "We have a new sponsor on our Busch car and I am entered in my first Winston Cup race ever. I can't wait to hit the track in both cars."

It is especially poignant for Hmiel who considered Adam Petty one of his best friends. He even sports a tattoo of the No. 45 to memorialize Petty's untimely death.

"Yeah we grew up together," commented Hmeil. "His grandfather had a lake house across from my parents. We raced go-carts together. I got the number 45 tattooed on my left arm. I got that a few days after he passed away. It's weird that now I get to drive one of his cars. It's so weird that it's amazing. It's a miracle for me to be driving with the Petty's especially with me knowing Adam as well as I did."

His close relationship with Petty, however, puts pressure on the 23-year- old Conover, North Carolina native.

"I don't want to fail for the Petty's, Dodge, or Berry Burst Cheerios," Hmeil continued. "I have a commitment to them to do the very best that I can and I know they will do the best for me. I just want to race, keep the nose clean, and bring the car home. I'd be happy with a top-15 or top-10. That would be like winning the race for me. I don't want to be that guy that causes the big wreck. I just want to stay in line, keep my nose clean and race really hard. I just don't want to fail."

Hmiel, the son of veteran crew chief Steve Hmiel, was the Goody's Dash Series Rookie of the Year in 2001, and finished third in the 2002 Busch Series Rookie stats.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Adam Petty , Christian Fittipaldi , Shane Hmiel