This month’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 means that little bit more to 22 year-old rookie Matt Brabham every day – this past weekend he learned that his grandfather, Sir Jack Brabham was included in the 100 most important people in the Indy 500’s history.
22-year-old Brabham will create his own history later this month driving in the 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis (14 May) and the Indianapolis 500 (29 May).
Sir Jack, who passed away in May 2014 at the age of 88, started the rear-engine revolution at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1961 and competed in the race four times. The pioneering Australian qualified 17th on his debut and finished ninth and on the lead lap after inconsistent tyre wear forced him to make one further pit stop than he had scheduled.
His Kimberly Cooper T54 was the only rear-engine car in the 1961 race and by 1969, there were no front-engined cars in the field.
Sir Jack’s son Geoff made his Indy 500 debut in 1981 and competed in 10 events, with a best result of fourth in 1983.
Matt will become just the third third-generation driver to qualify for the race on Saturday 21 May – putting the Brabham family name beside that of Vukovich and Andretti.
The top 100 list was compiled by respected US motorsport writer Curt Cavin from the Indianapolis Star and USA Today. The list was topped by Tony Hulman – who purchased the track in 1945 and rejuvenated the place after it had deteriorated during the war years.
The Hulman-George family maintain ownership of the Speedway to this day and have just completed another multi-million dollar upgrade of the facility in time for this month’s 100th running which is set to draw the biggest crowd in the race’s history.
Number two on the list is original track creator Carl Fisher, while Wilbur Shaw was at number three. Shaw won the race three times and helped broker the deal between Hulman and former owner Eddy Rickenbacker (9) before becoming track President and General Manger.
Four-time race winner A.J Foyt, the legendary Mario Andretti, who won the race in 1969, and 1963 winner Parnelli Jones sit fourth, fifth and sixth respectively on the list. Roger Penske, who has won 16 Indy 500s as a team owner, sits seventh ahead of Sid Collins who was the radio voice of the Indy 500 from 1952-1976 and credited with coining the phrase “the greatest spectacle in racing”.
Rickenbacker, who owned the track from 1927 to 1945 before selling to Hulman, is at number nine while Tom Carneige, who was the public voice of the Speedway from 1946 to 2006 rounded out the top 10.
Sir Jack is the only Australian on the list which includes investors, drivers, team owners, promoters, media, officials, track staff, celebrities and team members.