INDIANAPOLIS -- Growing up in Australia, Matt Brabham heard the stories around the dinner table. He did school projects on the history. But none of that prepared him for his first Indianapolis 500 experience.
"It's just something you can't physically comprehend until you live it yourself on race day," Brabham said. "I had heard all of the stories and thought 'oh yeah that's cool,' and was a bit la-di-da about it. Then, when I saw it in real life for that first time in 2012, I was blown away and it was the most amazing experience."
He was a teenager at the time, and just beginning his open-wheel racing career in the U.S. F2000 series. But Brabham says that was the day he became convinced he was on the right path.
“I know I’ve made the right choice and this is exactly what I want to do,” he told himself.
Four years later, Brabham is back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with PIRTEK Team Murray, looking to claim a starting position in the field of the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. He’s also poised to make history by becoming only the third third-generation driver to compete in the race -- joining the Andretti and Vukovich families.
The Brabham family history at the Speedway dates back to 1961 when Matthew’s grandfather, Sir Jack Brabham, brought a modified version of his rear-engine Formula One machine to the track. At that point, every car competing was powered by an engine that sat in front of the driver. By 1966, all but one car in the field of 33 had the engine behind the driver. The three-time Formula One World Champion competed in four Indianapolis 500 races with his best finish, 9th, coming in his first attempt.
In 1981, Matthew’s father, Geoff, drove in the first of his 10 Indy 500s, finishing in fifth place. He recorded his best finish, 4th, in 1983.
Although neither experienced tremendous success in Indianapolis, the family name has become part of the track's lore because of the new era Jack helped to usher in, and the driving ability each generation displayed on the bricks, and beyond.
That notoriety isn’t a problem for the youngest Brabham.
"I think I get more excited about it than feel the pressure of trying to live up to the Brabham name, or becoming the third third-generation driver in the race," Brabham said.
He said his family helps him to stay relaxed, and his father is there to offer advice and encouragement. The only pressure Brabaham said he feels is his own drive to succeed and make the most of his opportunity to drive an Indy Car for the first time.
"I'm very honored to be part of a great family and to just carry on that name is just cool to me," Brabham said. "I think that's awesome."