Gary Putnam has been through just about everything in racing.
From winning at the highest level as a car chief in the Daytona 500, all the way to buckling the belts behind the wheel of an open-wheel modified, Putnam has absolutely no regrets for a path that has taken him all around the block in the last few decades.
He was born in Connecticut, but moved down south, where things really took off. Throughout his journey, he has been part of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“I got to be working in the Whelen Modified Tour and I was good friends with Tommy Baldwin and Kevin Manion, and when they moved down south, they called me up and said they had an opening and I went down there and started working with Ricky Craven,” Putnam said.
Since then, it‘s been a wild ride. Among some of his highlights down south, Putnam competed with Richard Petty Enterprises (now Richard Petty Motorsports) as a crew chief, and that wasn‘t his only job calling the shots.
“After the crew chief role with Petty, I went over and worked with Joe Nemechek on a NASCAR Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) car and won a race with him at Kansas,” Putnam said. “I ended up with DEI after that.”
Above all, the marquee moment was winning NASCAR‘s most prestigious event as a car chief in 2010.
“I would have to say winning the Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray was definitely the most memorable moment,” Putnam said. “Being able to sit on the pit box, being the car chief, after going there for over 20 years and working with Bono Manion (crew chief at the time), my good friend, it was something else. Listening to the spotter on the last lap and watching the T.V. on the pit box, while the T.V. does have a slight delay, getting the live action from the spotter was incredible.”
Before making the trip south, it was a former NASCAR Modified winner Charlie Pasteryak with whom Putnam worked with while up north
“Charlie Pasteryak, growing up, he really taught me a lot and gave me my first opportunity. I got to work on his car and his brother‘s car full-time,” Putnam said.
Now, Putnam finds himself behind the wheel of a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car at least for a partial schedule each year. He does work during the week for Chip Ganassi Racing in the shop, but still finds the time to wrench on his car and make the trip to specific events.
In 21 career starts, Putnam has a best finish of ninth, at Connecticut‘s Stafford Motor Speedway in 2017.
RACING-REFERENCE: Putnam‘s Whelen Modified Tour Career
“I do it for fun, it‘s really my hobby. It helps me to be a better mechanic and work on race cars. It helps my day job quite a bit, just being able to know what the drivers are talking about and feeling in the car” Putnam said. “At Myrtle Beach this year, I really had a great car. I feel like I would‘ve probably finished in or near the top five before a crash.”
He has prior history of being a car owner in the Modifieds as well. Last year, Monster Energy Cup Series driver Ryan Newman competed in Putnam‘s car in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, finishing third after starting from the pole. In September, Ryan Preece drove the car and was challenging for the lead entire the final corner of the inaugural Musket 250 at New Hampshire, before a crash took him from contention.
“I look forward to the Musket 250 and actually being able to drive it myself this year,” Putnam said. “I think it‘s a really cool race with a nice throwback feel to it. It reminded me of the Thompson 300 or the old Race of Champions at Pocono.”
“I am 100 percent content with where I am right now. I‘ve been very fortunate to experience everything that I have, and if it all ended tomorrow, I would be ok with it.”