INDIANAPOLIS –The five rookies who will drive in their first Indianapolis 500 in five days likely consider it the biggest day in their racing careers.
For one rookie, however, it may mean even more. When Matt Brabham takes the green flag for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, he will follow in the tire tracks of his grandfather Sir Jack and father Geoff, becoming just the third third-generation driver in Indy 500 history.
The point was driven home in a poignant photo shoot this morning on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s yard of bricks. The younger Brabham’s team owner, Brett Murray, arranged for the rebuilt Cooper Climax that Sir Jack drove in his first Indy 500 in 1961 to be placed alongside the Coors Light March/Cosworth that Geoff drove in 1985 and the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet that Matt will pilot on Sunday.
“It’s just one of those really special moments in life,” Matt Brabham, 22, said. “It’s really, really, really touching and gives you an appreciation of what this goes into this place and all the cars and how they’ve evolved over the years.
“It’s absolutely incredible and really cool to be a part of that. It’s really an honor as well.”
Sir Jack Brabham ushered in the rear-engine revolution when he showed up in the Cooper Climax in 1961, fresh off his two consecutive Formula One world championships in ’59 and ’60. He finished ninth at Indy that year, his best showing in four attempts over 10 years.
Geoff raced Indy cars from 1981-93 when he wasn’t excelling in the sports car scene. He raced in 11 Indy 500s with a best finish of fourth in 1983. Like his son, the 64-year-old Geoff was humbled at the sight of the three generations of Brabham cars.
“It’s just amazing, really, my dad’s car there and one of my cars and Matt’s car,” Geoff said. “To have them all on the bricks is just pretty emotional. It brings back a lot of memories. I’m not sure I’m really taking it all in at the moment."
Sir Jack Brabham died in 2014 at the age of 88. Murray, the team owner, is a longtime Australian motorsports public relations professional and friend of the Brabham family. He promised Sir Jack to help guide Matt’s dream to the Indianapolis 500. Murray formed the team this year to compete in both IMS races this month.
Geoff Brabham knows his father would be pleased.
“I’m sure my dad’s looking in from above and I’m sure he’s really proud as well,” Geoff said. “Indy was very special for him and it was special for me. I know Matt’s always wanted to be in this race ever since he came over to the States. To have it all come together is a special month for the family, no question.”
The newest Brabham to strap into the cockpit at Indianapolis said he will do all he can to carry on the proud family legacy. When he does Sunday, the Brabhams will join the Vukovich and Andretti families as the only ones with three generations to drive in the Indianapolis 500.
“When I was growing up, all (Sir Jack) wanted to do was talk about racing and every time we did there was a sparkle in his eye,” Matt recalled. “He’s definitely looking down on me today and very proud. I’m just doing everything I can to enjoy it, have a good crack at it and do everything I can to do a good job.”
Rookie class honored at luncheon
Brabham and the other four rookies were honored today at the American Dairy Association Fastest Rookie Luncheon at IMS. The fastest rookie honor went to Alexander Rossi of Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, who qualified 11th with a four-lap average of 228.473 mph.