SEEKONK, Mass. — Sitting just over a mile from Seekonk Speedway, 81-year-old Nat Chiavettone turns plenty of wrenches on a daily basis. He isn’t working on a chassis setup on a race car, but instead he is turning wrenches on preparing engines that many teams will count on to get them into victory lane at Seekonk Speedway for the NASCAR Whelen All American Series season at the third-mile oval.
Since he was 14 years old, Nat has been turning wrenches on engines of all different kinds. Some have been for oval track racing or drag racing, while others have been for custom cars or anything else that someone brought to the table in front of him.
“I just started working on motors because I was working on the farm when I was a kid,” Nat said. “You had to fix farm equipment so I just did it. It was the thing to do back then.”
The veteran has been working with Seekonk Speedway for multiple decades and has been an influential part of the history and success of the oval. At the age of 81, why is Nat still doing what he does?
“What else would I do? There’s nothing else I wanna do,” Nat said. “I don’t want to sit in front of a TV, I want to use my brain and whatever is left in my body. I start at 7 a.m. and a lot of the time I am here until 10 p.m. at night. I’m here all the time.”
Seekonk’s Competition Director David Alburn has been working with Nat for multiple decades and can look at him as not only a business partner, but a close friend off the track property.
“I personally got to know Nat more from what he was doing for the car enthusiasts in the area,” Alburn said. “There is a lot of history of him doing drag racing engines and working with a lot of well know people so there is a lot of people who know him outside of racing. There are times I will go over to his shop and I meet people that have nothing to do with racing, even with my own car he has built a motor for me.”
Alburn was quick to mention that without Nat, the Seekonk Speedway just wouldn’t be the same that it is today.
“There are so many ways this affects the track. He’s enriched the success of racing at the speedway and he has impacted both owners and drivers in the sport of auto racing,” Alburn said. “He’s a great person to work with, he adds the extra personal touch with him being there and working with the competitors whether you have his engine or not. He’s an honest guy with a honest opinion. You want to listen to when he has something to say.”
Nat was also a part of a major change Seekonk made when the Crate Engine package came out. Alburn knew he could ride across the street and get Nat’s honest opinion.
“He’s been such a big part of the speedway more than any engine builder that I know. Him being close by, it makes it easy for me to run by and bounce things off him on the technical side. I’ve learned a lot from him with new rules packages, he can always give an honest answer,” Alburn said. “When the Crate Engines came up, I had talked to him a year prior and I really wanted him to be a part of it. It worked out for him, he was slowing down and it was perfect timing for both of us. He was influential in all of it.”
Current Seekonk Speedway competitors like two-time and defending Late Model champion Dylan Estrella have been using Nat’s motors since they broke into the upper Seekonk ranks. Estrella has had plenty of first-hand experience working with the veteran and appreciates everything Nat has offered him along the way.
“He has always there to help and he’s done so much for the track and its competitors,” Estrella said. “When we blew a motor before the season started in 2016 I thought I was personally upset, but when I talked to him I could tell he was just as upset and it made me realize how much pride he has in his work and how he wants his products to perform well. Even though the cause of the motor blowing wasn’t anything he had done and it was just plain bad luck, he offered his help immediately to get us back on our feet.”
All in all, Nat showcases for all of us exactly what the Seekonk Speedway is all about. He has sponsored some select events, helped everyone who has come his way and kept motors running for Seekonk competitors for years. More importantly, he has become part of the motorsports family that the track has to offer.
“This is fun for me, it’s a passion,” Nat said. “I don’t have hobbies, this is all I have ever done. I don’t do anything else. I do this all the time. It’s me.”
Interview by Kyle Souza