Checkered flag: Junction man, dirt racer turns car pink for breast cancer awareness

Published 11:21 am Monday, October 23, 2017

Kendra Peek/
The back of Zane Powell’s crate car.

A lot of weekends, you’ll find “Insane Zane” Powell tearing up the tracks, at Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City or a similar one, driving his orange and blue car, number 28; or working on the car in his shop in Junction City.

For the month of October, however, Powell’s car has taken on pink and black over a blue base in honor of breast cancer awareness.

The response has been pretty touching, said the 27-year-old Junction native.

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“I actually met a cancer survivor last week — she was pretty bad, she was going through chemo and stuff — she actually cried (over) it. It was kind of emotional,” Powell said. “It means a lot to them that someone would do that.”

He’s had a lot of response on social media, too, and Powell said he’d gotten thank yous from other survivors, including the mother of a fellow racer and friend.

“I guess it means a lot to people,” Powell said.

The idea came to Powell because he also has family who has battled the disease, which he knows a lot of people suffer from. His mom, Lisa Douglas, had a scare that was thankfully not breast cancer, but his grandmothers have both battled it.

“I just want to give more awareness to people,” Powell said. “I hope it catches people’s eye.”

Powell built the body of the car himself, and hired Xtreme Style Sign and Graphics to put the wrap on the car, which Powell  had envisioned. The company is his usual go-to when wrapping his cars.

Powell has grown up around dirt racing. His dad, Buford Powell, would help P.J. Feistritzer at the track. Then he started going to watch Josh Tarter, another former racer, and Zane Powell would tag along.

Powell personally started racing at the age of 6, when he and his dad would race go-karts. He quit around age 8, to play sports. That’s when he picked up the nickname of “Insane Zane.”

“Chuck Smith (Boyle County head coach) from football gave me that name. It stuck when I went to racing,” he said. Powell returned to the world of racing at the age of 14, when he started in his first “big car.”

“It was called an open wheel modified car,” he said, and said it was a bit different than the one he drives now, which is a crate late model.

The cars are unlike other cars — Powell said his car weighs around 2,300 pounds, minus his own weight. The car also runs on a 400 motor force.

Powell said he doesn’t get as many races in a year as he’d like — only about 10-15; a lot of racers do 40-50 a year. He mostly races in Kentucky, but goes to Indiana, Tennessee and North Carolina, which is where he plans to race this weekend.

And, of course, the Ponderosa Speedway, which he said he wishes more people would support. Powell said he’s only won about 10 races over the years, but he does it because he enjoys it.

“Oh yeah. I love it,” he said, smiling.

Kendra Peek/
Zane Powell of Junction City, with his crate car, which he drives at Ponderosa Speedway and other similar tracks around the country. Powell wrapped his car with pink and black over blue instead of his traditional orange and blue, in recognition of October as breast cancer awareness month.

A welder by trade at Tarter Gate Company, which is also one of his sponsors, Powell said he spends more time working on the car. “I put more hours on this car than I actually do work. I sacrifice a lot to race this thing. I definitely enjoy it.”

He guesses he puts more than 50 hours a week into working on his car.

“It’s long-hour nights. Sometimes you don’t walk into the door until three o’clock in the morning. Then you get up at six to get ready for Friday,” Powell said.

One of his racing inspirations is Freddy Smith, a notable dirt racer, who drove the “Bazooka car” in orange and blue — that’s where Powell’s typical colors of orange and blue come from. That and they’ve just always been his favorite colors.

Powell also calls racing addicting.

“It’s very addicting. It gets in your blood and it doesn’t come out,” he said. “If I wasn’t racing, I don’t know what I would do. I would be at the track, watching.”

Powell said he is always working to improve. When he started, getting in the top 10 was awesome, but now he’s disappointed in a second.

He said he couldn’t race without his crew: Joe Powell, Dustin Pike, Billy Powell and Lee Gaddis. He’s also grateful for the support of his parents, Lisa Douglas and Buford Powell — his dad is one of his sponsors.

And, the proud dad shares about his two little boys, Madden, 5 months old, and Gabriel, 6 years old. 

Gabriel has started going to the races, too, to watch his dad.

“He’s finally getting into it. He likes to help change tires, use the gun and stuff … we took the motor out Sunday, and he was up here helping us take the motor out,” Powell said.

Laughing, he said, “Gabriel says he’s going to quit sports for racing, I said, ‘I hope not.’”

Buford Powell speaks proudly of his son, “He does good. He does real good. If he wasn’t good, we’d have gotten out of it … Some people lose their homes over it. We love it, we’ve been blessed.”

He said they hope to someday move up to the supers class, cars with 600 to 800 motor force.

Zane Powell said he wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting into racing because he loves the sport, as long as they’re willing to make a commitment.

“Definitely get yourself involved in it. Don’t be scared to talk to a driver,” he said. “I always love talking to kids … It’s a fun thing to do, but you’ve got to commit to it.”