Al Putnam was born in Tulare, California. He married the widow of William E. "Spider" Matlock, the riding mechanic of Al Gordon, both of whom were killed in a race at Legion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles in January of 1936.
Al moved to Indianapolis with his wife and two sons and worked as a research engineer for the LGS Spring Clutch Company. He attempted to qualify for the Indy 500 in seven occasions making the grid four times, 1938, 1940, 1941 and 1946. His best finish at the 'Brichyeard' was 12th in 1941.
Putnam was killed during qualifying for the first dirt-car race to be held at the Indiana State Fair. He was on his last warm up lap before attempting to qualify, when he crashed into a concrete bridge support, the steering column crushing his chest causing fatal injuries.
Following his accident racing at the Indiana State Fair was banned, not returning until 1953 when the late Indianapolis Motor Speedway Safety Director Jo Quinn and Indiana businessman Roger Wolcott restored auto racing to the State Fairgrounds.