When the Going gets tough….

     This is another one of my ‘racing/photography’ posts, but neither racing nor photography are the real story here.

     As for photography, this is an impromptu portrait and for a photographer it was an easy face to photograph…perfect, in that there was no real work on my part. There was time spent in conversation beforehand, but that’s not work….that was interesting and enjoyable…at worst… ‘research’. There was absolutely no “Smile!” prompt…you can tell that by the sincere smile that comes from the eyes…and, it just ‘happened’ to be that part of the day that provides nice warm, low directional light.

 This is Shane Hmiel. (Silent ‘H’, rhymes with real…)

     I met Shane in Indianapolis at the Hoosier 100, a dirt track race, and then again at the USAC Midget race on “The Night Before the 500” event.

Look at his face. I think the joy of living is fairly obvious. The thrill of being….

     Shane is a car owner in the Midget car circuit. A car that is driven by Levi Jones, a multiple award winner in the USAC (United States Auto Club) events. Having Levi as your driver is in itself  one pretty good credential.

     The midget cars and the dirt track Silver Crown races have a long tradition as a sort of proving grounds for drivers who then slingshot into the 500 and other more commercially prestigious races. Names such as AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, etc., and in 2012, an Indy 500 rookie, Bryan Clauson.

     But, honestly, these midgets and the dirt track races may be the most exciting races to watch. Partially, because we can all see ourselves doing it…well, in our minds…there’s a whole lot more to it than we envision, but our imagination allows us to more readily feel our back tires sliding around on the dirt (though maybe not so much at the standard speeds of 100-150 mph) than to be behind the wheel of an Indy 500 spaceship that travels faster than our eyes can keep up with.

Shane’s career as a driver…his skill AND his notoriety…are well documented.

But that is still not what this is about.

This is about that look that you see on his face.

Now, let’s back up a bit…both in time and in camera perspective.

     In 2010, Shane was driving a Silver Crown car that met a concrete wall, top first, in what is, in a supreme understatement, not the ideal scenario for a car or a driver…the wall came out the best in this case.

     If you look closely, you will see a scar on Shane’s neck where doctors performed a tracheotomy after his accident. Doctors never mentioned that there would be a permanent scar there. They didn’t mention it because their prognosis was that the ‘trache’ would be there for the rest of Shane’s life…whether it was two more days or….

Let’s back up a little more with the camera.

     I started to say, “This is Shane’s world”, but that would be selling him WAY too short. Look back at the first picture. THAT is Shane’s world.

     The first time I met him he was talking to driver Levi Jones before a race and I heard him say, “Check this out!”, as he tapped his right foot up and down…heel to toe…  First order of business…get the gas pedal foot working…!

     “They told my Mama that I would never be without the ‘trache’ and that I would never be in any position but flat on my back. I’ve been working hard!”

And then… that smile would spread across his face, starting with his eyes.

     Overcoming adversity has always been a theme that garners admiration, whether on TV, in speeches, or in classic novels and movies, but in a real face-to-face situation, Life seems somehow, distinctively. ‘Larger-than-life”

     As we talked before the race that night, I was not only inspired by Shane’s attitude and drive, but also his grasp of the  concept that “Every past moment has led up to THIS moment” .

     He expressed the feeling that all actions and happenings have, or can serve, a higher purpose in the grand scheme of things.  He said that he sometimes enjoys watching his car race as much, or more than he enjoyed being behind the wheel.  Positive….optimistic…assured…accepting

     Shane considers himself lucky, and I, now, consider myself lucky also…for having met him and for allowing myself to be inspired by his story…his life.

   A childish statement that has probably been heard throughout the history of human language is, “That’s not fair!”

Look at that face again!

      From what I can tell, Shane hasn’t the capacity for an ounce of that sentiment …in his heart…in his mind…in his soul… nor in his face.

There have been several interesting and informative posts written about Shane, here and here.

     Now when I feel a nagging pain in my neck, or encounter someone whose actions rub me the wrong way, or I lose patience in traffic… all I have to do is picture that smile above, and then swallow the petty little lump in my throat!

…And shake my head and smile instead.


~ by rkpowers on June 9, 2012.

2 Responses to “When the Going gets tough….”

  1. To see the unfettered joy reflected in Shane’s face and eyes demonstrates the power of man’s determination and strength. What a tremendous challenge when we feel our road in life if filled with perils. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. I have a friend with a very similar story. He raced midgets in the St. Louis area, hit the wall in a terrible crash, and is now a quadraplegic. This happened when he was nineteen years old. He is now 59 and still racing his 1970 Datsun (modified of course) around the local race tracks here (San Diego). He is truly a very inspirational individual.


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