Shane Hmiel's recovery progressing

CONCORD, N.C. -- Shane Hmiel, who was paralyzed in October after being critically injured during qualifying for the U.S. Auto Racing Club's Silver Crown race in Indiana, has regained the use of his limbs and hopes to one day return to a race car.

"That's all he wants to think about," said Hmiel's father, Steve, the managing director at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. "In fact, when they put the eight-inch rod in his back the [doctors] made sure the rod was placed where he could sit in a race car comfortably."

Shane Hmiel, who was banned for life from NASCAR in 2006 after failing three drug tests, has been undergoing rehabilitation in Shepherd Center in Atlanta since moving out of intensive care in Indianapolis Medical Hospital.

His father said doctors are optimistic Shane will be able to walk with the aid of crutches or a walker within a year of the accident.

"He went there as a quadriplegic," Steve Hmiel said. "He couldn't breathe on his own. They didn't think he would ever get to breathe on his own or move. We were pretty downhearted, but were happy he was alive after the severity of the accident.

"Within a couple of days they had his lungs squared away. Shortly after, his arms were moving."

According to his father, Shane Hmiel was given a 1-in-10 chance of surviving immediately after the accident, in which his No. 17 Silver Crown car slammed into the outside wall between the third and fourth turns at Terre Haute Action Track and then rolled several times.

He said his son quit breathing and his heart quit pumping a few times during the ordeal.

"It was a real ugly situation when I arrived there," Steve said.

Steve said Shane, who has a six-inch plate in his neck and two eight-inch rods in his back, now has functions of all limbs. He is able to work at his computer, text and use a telephone.

"He's come a long way," Steve said. "His brain is in really good shape. Therapy has been slower than I'd like to see, but he's certainly made an awful lot of headway. Regardless of what happens he'll still be Shane."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.