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Shane Hmiel brings the Great Clips Dodge home in fourth place at Milwaukee
WEST ALLIS, Wisc.NASCAR Busch Series driver Shane Hmiel, who substituted for Kasey Kahne as driver of the No. 38 Great Clips Dodge at The Milwaukee Mile this past weekend, finished a nail-biting race in fourth position after leading 95 of the 250 laps. Hmiel started in sixth for the running of the Alan Kulwicki 250. Kahne was unable to compete in the NASCAR Busch Series this weekend due to his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup obligations in Sonoma, Calif.
Hmiel immediately felt comfortable behind the wheel and finished second during the first practice session at the one-mile facility. He followed that with an eighth-place finish during the second practice session and a sixth-place qualifying run.
As the green-flag fell under the lights Saturday evening, Hmiel quickly moved up to the first position on lap 16 and held that until the first caution of the evening came out on lap 67. While leading the field, Hmiel commented to his crew that he was "not running hard, but just trying to cruise."
During the first pit stop, the Great Clips crew took on four tires and fuel only. Unfortunately, due to a dropped lug nut, the crew sent Hmiel back into action in fourth position. By lap 139 he was back up front and swapping the lead with No. 32 driver David Stremme. Hmiel was running in second position when the yellow flag waved on lap 195. He was experiencing loose handling conditions, so the crew made air pressure adjustments to a new set of Goodyears and filled the Great Clips Dodge with Sunoco fuel. The lightening-fast pit stop sent Hmiel off pit road in first position.
As the laps continued winding down, it looked as though Hmiel was heading towards the checkered flag. With only seven laps remaining he radioed to the crew that his Dodge was getting extremely tight. On the final lap, Hmiel was running in third position and was bumped by the No. 22 car. Hmiel was able to straighten his Great Clips Dodge and finish in fourth position.
"I just got too tight out there during the last run," said Hmiel. "I was too loose the run before, so I wanted to the crew to tighten me up. I guess that wasn't the best idea. I think David (Stremme) had the best car all night. He was really fast, and I thought he was the car to beat.
"We had a good day, and I want to thank everyone that gave me this opportunity. I want to thank Great Clips, Akins Motorsports and Kasey Kahne. Also, this Evernham motor was unbelievable tonight. I had so much fun, and I'd love to get behind the wheel for these guys again. Paul Andrews and this entire pit crew did an awesome job.
"I'm not real sure why Jason (Keller, driver of the No. 22 car) tried to take me out on the last lap. If he thought he was faster than me, then he could have passed me, but instead he just tried taking me out. I'm just not sure why he did that, but we were still able to get a fourth-place finish out of it, so we're pretty happy."
After missing an event, Kahne now sits in 16th position in the NASCAR Busch Series driver point standings. Kahne will return to Busch Series action this weekend for the Winn Dixie 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Ron Hornaday Jr., took the checkered flag, followed by David Stremme, Jason Keller, Hmiel and Bobby Hamilton Jr., to complete the top five.
|Alan Kulwicki 250 Unofficial Finish|
|1.||Ron Hornaday Jr.||ACDelco Chevy|
|2.||David Stremme||TrimSpa Dodge|
|3.||Jason Keller||Miller High Life Ford|
|4.||Shane Hmiel||Great Clips Dodge|
|5.||Bobby Hamilton Jr.||U.S. Marines Ford|
|6.||Mike Bliss||Rockwell Automation Chevy|
|7.||Greg Biffle||Charter Communications Ford|
|8.||David Green||Timberwolf Pontiac|
|9.||Martin Truex Jr.||Bass Pro Shops Chevy|
|10.||Clint Bowyer||Reese's Chevy|
|NASCAR Busch Series Unofficial Driver Standings|
|1.||Martin Truex Jr.||2572|
|5.||Bobby Hamilton Jr.||2227|
|7.||Ron Hornaday Jr.||2223|
Next RaceWinn Dixie 250, Daytona International Speedway
8 p.m. EDT, Friday, July 2, 2004
Television: FX (7:30 p.m. EDT)
Radio: MRN (7:45 p.m. EDT)