HMIEL WAGES BATTLE EARLY, BUT LOSES FIGHT WITH "THE LADY IN BLACK"
DARLINGTON, SC (May 7, 2005) -- Shane Hmiel and the #32 WINFUEL team went to Darlington Raceway hoping to get their season back on the right track after suffering disappointing finishes the past two weekends, a result of being involved in major unavoidable accidents.
After rain forced the cancellation of on track activities on Thursday, the #32 WINFUEL team endured a long day of practice, qualifying, and racing all on Friday. Shane Hmiel was the first car on track during the afternoon's Busch Pole qualifying session, and he managed to put the WINFUEL Chevrolet in 5th place on the starting grid.
"Today was a long, tough battle for the WINFUEL Chevrolet," Hmiel said. "I got my Darlington stripe early in practice this morning, and my team worked really hard to get the car repaired, so that we could practice more before qualifying. I was a little disappointed with my qualifying run because I know I left some out there, but at least we secured a solid top-five starting stop."
From the time the green flag waved on the Diamond Hill Plywood 200, the #32 WINFUEL Chevy driver quickly began working his way past the cars in front of him. Hmiel took the lead on lap 17, when he drove the #32 Chevy by #5 Jimmie Johnson in turns 3 and 4, and he held the lead for the next 17 laps until #40 Sterling Marlin took the lead on lap 32. "My car was so fast at the beginning of the race that I was able to drive right up to the lead," Shane said. "Unfortunately, the WINFUEL Chevy was only good for about thirty laps, and then it was almost like hitting a switch because it fell off so bad. From that point on, we battled handling and tire problems and we couldn't seem to catch a break with the cautions."
After losing the lead, Hmiel suffered tight conditions and fell to 14th position before being the first lead car to come to pit road for service under green flag conditions on lap 43. Unfortunately, the caution came out on lap 49 and #32 Chevy was caught one-lap down to the leaders. Hmiel would continue to battle tire problems and tight conditions throughout the race, forcing the WINFUEL team to use a different pit strategy than the leaders, trapping Hmiel two laps down by the end of the race.
When the checkered flag flew on lap 147, Hmiel ended up 24th, the first car 2 laps down to the leaders. "It's disappointing to finish 24th because I know our car was better than that, but at least we came home in one-piece, which is good for us after the wrecks we've been involved in the past few weeks," Hmiel said. "I'm looking forward racing under the lights at another short track next weekend in Richmond; hopefully we can get back to finishing in the top-five again."
Richmond International Raceway is "Racing Perfection Under the Lights", and this weekend Shane Hmiel will strive for perfection in the #32 WINFUEL Chevrolet. Live coverage of the Funai 250 begins on FX at 7:30 p.m. EST.