Bowers brings experience to rookie team

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF

   Zandel Bowers has been around racing more than 20 years, but never has felt excitement like this season when he will lead rookie Nate Monteith in his quest for Daytona glory.
   As team manager on the No. 17 King Pharmaceuticals Chevrolet, Bowers will serve as the point man in the Bristol team's attempt at winning the Discount Auto Parts 200 on February 10. Bowers' background includes a diversity that helps him adapt to different situations at the track.
   "I worked for Ed Whitaker Racing and with the Food Country team," said Bowers referring to experience in the NASCAR Busch Series. "I did late models with Mike Grubb over at Coeburn and Kingsport. I've run at New River Valley, Nashville and plenty of places in the late models.
   "I moved to Charlotte for two years and did body fabricating for a team that ran a whole season in the All-Pro Series. The year before last, this opportunity came along."
   Bowers can look at former co-worker Chris Carrier as inspiration. Carrier, a former crew chief for Whitaker's No. 7 and the Charlie Henderson-owned Food Country teams, won the November Winston Cup race at Rockingham as crew chief for the No. 33 team driven by Joe Nemechek.
   "He had a little head start moving along," said Bowers about Carrier. "I really hadn't had an interest in crew chiefing at this level until a couple of years ago. That deal with the Monteiths fell together and that gave me the opportunity to do it. Seeing that Chris and some others from this area can move on makes me feel positive about it."
   Bowers is married to wife Eileen and the couple have three children, Allen who also works on the crew, Thomas and Rebecca. Other members of the Monteith Racing crew besides Zandel include Gene Pearson, Wayne Snow, James Lawson and Leonard Bowers.
   Despite his driver's lack of experience in the ARCA series, Zandel feels plenty comfortable with young Monteith. "Right now, he probably is the best young talent in this area," remarked Bowers. "This area has a lot of young talented drivers right now. This area probably is more competitive right now than it ever has been.
   "There are a number of young drivers who can go to other tracks and hold their own. It's not the way it always was in the past. Nate is a real good driver that is both willing to learn and able to learn. It should be exciting and a lot of fun this year."
   The flow of ideas between these two has led to a trust that is hard even for veteran partnerships to attain. "We communicate really well," Zandel commented. "We've had our highs and our lows, but everytime we've went to the race track, we've always moved forward. We've never hit the stumbling blocks and we have been able to progress.
   "We've always made the car better once we've got there. I've even tried new things and advanced set-ups with him in the late models and in these cars. He picks up on them and relays information back to me real good. I wouldn't be afraid to put a pole winning set-up on a car. It might not win the pole, but Nate would learn with it."
   While Daytona is first on the agenda, the team also plans on running the April Busch Series race at Bristol. Their shop located off Highway 394 is literally 1/2 mile from the backstretch at BMS. Bristol is only one of a few events in NASCAR's number two series that the team will compete in this season.
   "Right now, we don't know what our plans are with sponsorship being pretty limited," said the Blountville resident. "What I would like to see Nate be able to do is to run five Busch races and as many ARCA races that he can. Any week that he is not doing that, he needs to be running a late model.
   "We don't have any interest in running the dirt races that ARCA runs. That's not really moving forward in the direction we need to go in."
   With the name Bowers, it comes as no surprise that Zandel has many family ties on Stoney Creek. If you can't make the trip to Daytona for Speedweeks, but are interested in how this local effort fares, The race will be broadcast live on the Speed Channel on Sunday, February 10.