HAMPTON, Ga. – Steve Hmiel, who last week left his post as director of technical operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc., has accepted a job as manger of competition for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates at its stock car operation in Concord, N.C.
“I have said many times in reference to drivers that when good ones become available you owe it to your organization to make a run at them,” team owner Chip Ganassi said. “Well, the same is true for leaders. Steve became available and I got him. I couldn’t be happier.”
Hmiel began his NASCAR career over 30 years ago at Petty Enterprises, working on championship teams as car chief in 1975 and 1979. He was crew chief when Terry Labonte won the championship for Billy Hagan’s team in 1984, then joined Robin Pemberton in 1987 to help Jack Roush move from sports cars to stock cars. He moved to DEI in 1998.
Asked what he saw that drew him to Ganassi’s team, Hmiel said the first thing was that Ganassi comes to the race track.
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“I saw an owner at the race track that wanted to boost his group a little bit,” Ganassi said. “There is a lot of comfort in having a boss that is standing right there watching what is going on.”
Hmiel said that was not meant to be taken as a shot at DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt, who has been criticized for not coming to the track.
“I’m not sure that a lot of these owners are at the race track or are at the shop every day,” Hmiel said. “I was just talking about the culture of our sport. It has changed a little bit.
“There are all kinds of mergers going on all the time. It gets confusing as to who is really in charge. (Ganassi’s) name is on the building. He is there, you can talk to him.”
Ganassi will field Sprint Cup cars for Juan Pablo Montoya, Reed Sorenson and Dario Franchitt in 2008.