Monteith prepared for hometown run

  By Jeff Birchfield
  STAR STAFF
  jbirchfield@starhq.com

  It wasn't that long ago that it seemed Nate Monteith's sports career could go in one of two distinctly different directions.
  He was the star pitcher on the Tennessee High Viking baseball team, earning him looks from several scouts, and a winning go-kart racer on the track.
  When his varsity baseball coach made him choose between the two sports, Monteith, despite having pitched in the district championship game, gathered up his gear and promptly turned it in.
  "It didn't become an issue until the varsity thing," said Monteith. "The coach told me that I had to make a decision between baseball and racing, so I turned my stuff in."
  That decision has led Monteith all the way from winning Late Model Stock feature races on local tracks to the high banks of Daytona, where he impressed NBC racing commentators Benny Parsons and Allen Bestwick during the coverage of an ARCA race.
  A ninth-place finish looked to be the break Monteith needed to get move toward the Busch Series. Despite talking to several high profile teams including Bill Davis Racing, an opportunity to get in the larger divisions of NASCAR is yet to present itself to the talented Tennessee driver.
  Still young, Monteith, at age 22, hopes to open eyes again this Saturday night when he competes in the Food City 150 Late Model race at his hometown Bristol Motor Speedway.
  "I feel comfortable since I've run on the track before," said Monteith, referring to a qualifying attempt in the Busch Series at the track. "And I've run so much in these types of cars. My confidence is up."
  Monteith will be driving a No. 11 Chevrolet Monte Carlo owned by Greeneville businessmen Gary Ross and Hugh Dugger. Several area businesses are helping out with the sponsorship end of the deal.
  Important to any driver is feeling comfortable with his crew chief. Handling this task will be Bobby Hall, whom Monteith worked with at Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Va., when he had great success.
  The group has been preparing the car the best for the brutal Bristol high banks out of Monteith's shops in Blountville.
  "I've installed shocks and have been working on the car every day since Monday," said Monteith. "We've been strengthening up everything that's weak for the stress Bristol puts on it. We want to make it as good as we can."
  Certainly, Monteith is not one afraid to get his hands dirty and thinks that mechanical skill helps his overall racing ability.
  "I think it's critical," said Monteith. "There's a difference telling someone the car is tight or loose. Today you have to pinpoint more. Drivers have to communicate.
  "I don't think you can be as successful without that knowledge. From my point of view, I feel confident knowing what to say from what I've done."
  Despite his youth, Monteith has over a decade of racing experience, starting out driving karts. He swears by that for an aspiring race car driver just like Little League is important to a professional baseball player.
  "I learned driving how to be smooth and karting teaches you the basics about set-ups," said Monteith. "I won the third full-bodied stock car race I entered at age 15. It says a lot for what it teaches you."
  His career in full-size machines flourished while driving a family-owned No. 44 Late Model Stock car. The reason for moving to another car at BMS is simple. It's a great opportunity.
  The car Nate will drive was raced by Hooters Pro Cup star Bobby Gill at Martinsville, where he finished in the top five. The No. 11 Chevy has only been run in six races thus far.
  High goals are set for this weekend with Monteith trying to avoid the carnage expected in preliminary heat races.
  "I hope I don't have to fool with heat races," said Monteith. "That's the way they got into the Martinsville show. This race, the track gives you a test all day Friday 9 to 5 prior to the race.
  "You can't change the set-up. There will be no direct pin-point on qualifying. You have to find a happy medium, something that will be happy over the long run."
  Monteith also mentioned running the tires needed for Bristol could be to his liking.
  "The series runs a bias-ply tire," said Monteith. "At Bristol, they will run a bias-ply with a stiffer side like a radial tire. You can typically abuse a bias-ply a little more.
  "Basically it acts like a radial with the way the sidewall is built. It might be an advantage for me."
  In front of several friends and family members in the BMS stands that used to watch him hurl fastballs past baseball opponents, this Saturday Monteith will have a different goal.
   That is to impress them by taking a fast car to victory lane at his hometown track.