Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

May 28—FORESTVILLE — Chad Putalavage appeared to be headed toward a top-10 finish in last Friday’s 602 crate sportsman feature at Big Diamond Speedway when the spin happened.

When the 33-year-old Minersville resident gently slid his car into the yuke tire barrier in the second turn, he lost several spots and settled for 19th place in the 20-lap feature.

He foretold that very event.

Before Friday’s program began, Putalavage stood in the pits and said, “The track’s going to be slicked off at the end of the night, so you’re going to have to work the throttle getting in (the corner) and especially going out so you don’t go around on yourself.”

Yet, for now, Putalavage will settle for a simple spin because he has encountered worse in his racing career.

A former open sportsman competitor at Big Diamond, Putalavage’s car suffered three damaged engines in the same season three years ago, and so he decided to make a big change.

“I actually traded my open sportsman for a micro sprint,” he said. “We raced down at Linda’s (Speedway, Jonestown) for maybe three races. I got that baby up on its lid, and I said. ‘This is enough for me,’ so we sold that. That was it for my racing career.”

Coupled with personal difficulties in his life at the time, Putalavage walked away, but he didn’t stay away.

When his brother Mike began Five Star Mechanical LLC, a heating, cooling and plumbing company, this year, the idea of promotion on a race car seemed to be a natural path for Chad to resume racing.

“It never went away,” Chad said about his desire for racing. “It’s something that has been installed in us from a young age. From the time I was 5 years old, maybe even younger, we used to run around up there in the (Big Diamond) grandstand. Play with the trucks in the dirt. It’s been the family forever.”

So when Chad wanted to return to the track, he found a willing crew that includes his brother, a cousin, his father and his mother. As Chad works at Solar Innovations in Pine Grove, the crew prepares his 602 crate sportsman in his father’s New Minersville garage.

“We’ve got a good crew going,” Putalavage said. “All of this coming together eases the pressure of being here each week.”

The 602 crate sportsmen are competing their second season at Big Diamond, but have a longer history elsewhere at other Mid-Atlantic speedways. Putalavage purchased his car from a New York driver and then bought a used engine.

“People say that this is more cost effective,” Putalavage said, comparing the crate sportsman to the open sportsman. “All of the components are still the same, so you’re spending that. Maybe you’re saving five or six grand on the motor side of that, but other than that, you’re paying for what they’re paying for. The great thing is you can get some used parts and still be competitive in this.”

Now he is trying to learn how to drive the crate sportsman toward the lead in a race.

Noting the crate sportsman is slower, Putalavage said, “It’s all basically about momentum. With the opens, you definitely needed momentum. The 602s are definitely more so. … I think whoever figures it out how to get wound up around the top (of the track) is going to pass a lot of cars. That’s what I think. How you’re going to get it there and keep it wound up, I don’t know.”

At least Putalavage found reason for optimism.

About his May 14 debut in which he finished 20th in the feature, he said, “We hung in the back, and we were just shaking it down, and our lap times were consistent with some of the leaders, so I’m excited.”

It may take a bit longer for better results, but Putalavage is an optimist, especially considering how his ill-fated micro sprint career ended.

“The last race I had before (May 14), I was upside down and there was antifreeze in my face,” he said.

Contact the writer:; 570-628-6019; @ChuckCurley on Twitter