The One That Got Away MOORESVILLE, NC (June 20, 2004) -- Every fisherman has a story about the "Big One" that somehow got away. For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Shane Hmiel Saturday's O'Reilly 200 was securely on the hook at Memphis ...
The One That Got Away
MOORESVILLE, NC (June 20, 2004) -- Every fisherman has a story about the "Big One" that somehow got away. For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Shane Hmiel Saturday's O'Reilly 200 was securely on the hook at Memphis Motorsports Park and he was just laps away from his first-ever major NASCAR touring series win. But a cruel twist of fate allowed victory to slip away in the waning moments. A miscue during a late race radio transmission denied Hmiel and his Billy Ballew Motorsports teammates a trip to Victory Lane.
"They called a caution on my radio so I let off," Hmiel said immediately after the race. "That's when Bobby Hamilton passed me. I had three car lengths on him and I went down to the corner and they said-the cautions out, the cautions out-and I didn't want to get black flagged like Jack Sprague did earlier so I backed off."
Hmiel started the event from the sixth position, after an excellent qualifying run on Friday. He quickly moved his Chevrolet Silverado through the field and by lap 5 he had passed Ted Musgrave for the 4th position, and then continued his quest for the lead in a battle with Jack Sprague and Bobby Hamilton. Hmiel had just moved past Hamilton for the 2nd spot on lap 22 just when a caution came out for debris on the backstretch.
Hmiel continued his rapid pace after the restart and started to apply heat on Sprague. On lap 55 Hmiel slipped past Sprague and into the top spot. He pulled away from the pack and by the halfway point in the race he had amassed nearly a five-second lead. When rookie driver Brad Keselowski brought out the caution on lap 101, all the leaders headed to the pits for four fresh Goodyear tires and fuel.
"A tire out of out Sprague's pit knocked my jack man down when he was running around the truck," Hmiel said. "That cost us because we came in 1st and went out 5th. I was still fast enough to pass the trucks out there. We had a good enough truck to get back out front so we weren't concerned when we restarted but we seemed to have struggled with lapped trucks all day. They wouldn't give you any room."
On the next green flag run, Hmiel was 6 seconds off the lead, trapped behind lap traffic when another caution flag fell. The restart had the top 5; Musgrave, Sprague, Setzer, Woods and Hmiel battling for position. Dennis Setzer took the lead right before the #06 of Ken Weaver hit the wall in turn 4. In a surprising development, Sprague didn't hear the caution call on the radio, and therefore didn't reduce his speed and was black flagged. He was forced to restart at the tail end of the lead lap trucks and serve a stop and go penalty on lap 142.
A series of late in the race cautions occurred while Musgrave, Hmiel and Hamilton were trading the top spots. Both Hmiel and Hamilton were breathing down Musgrave's neck. Hmiel regained the lead taking Hamilton with him on lap 177. He again pulled away from the pack and had put some distance on the field when the caution again was waved. At the start of the final 9 lap shoot-out, a three truck spin occurred on the front stretch. Anticipating that a yellow flag would be thrown, someone in Hmiel's pit came over the radio and told Hmiel caution was on the Speedway. Not wanting to receive a penalty like fellow Chevy driver Jack Sprague, Hmiel let off and Hamilton crossed over the start/finish line first.
"Bobby did what he had to do and drove around the outside and crossed the line before me," Hmiel claimed. "This stuff just happens with all these new rule changes. My crew chief Ritchie Wauters reminded me before the restart that Bobby had raced me clean all day, but I was so frustrated. I gave Hamilton a tap, but he was hitting all his marks on the track and I knew I shouldn't try to regain the lead by playing dirty. When we restarted with 4 laps to go, I was just so mad because I knew we could not get the lead back. We finished second; you can't be mad at second. Our truck was the best truck all day and the fastest Chevrolet."
The second place finish was Shane Hmiel's highest finishing position in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as well as Billy Ballew Motorsports highest finish in the Series. Hmiel expressed his gratitude to his team and his owner.
"I feel I am with the best team I have ever driven for," Hmiel said. "Working with Billy Ballew and all the guys at the shop has been a rewarding experience for me. Week in and week out we have a great truck and fast engines. I have to thank Spondivits Restaurants who will be coming back to be our primary sponsor in Milwaukee and Alpharetta Self Storage for helping us out this weekend."
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series heads to The Milwaukee Mile where Hmiel will be serving double duty. He will be in the seat driving the No.15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Chevrolet in the Black Cat Fireworks NCTS event on Friday June 26th and he will be behind the wheel for Atkins Motorsports, subbing for Kasey Kahne the in NASCAR Busch Series Alan Kulwicki 250 on Saturday June 27th.