One year ago, Brett ‘Crusher' Murray and driver Matthew Brabham lived a dream by participating in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Murray put together an effort that led to Brabham driving the #61 Pirtek Team Murray Chevy prepared by KV Racing Technology, in both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500.
But KVRT folded in the offseason and while Murray and Brabham found themselves back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today on Carb Day, they were spectators eating lunch at Honda hospitality rather than shaking down their race entry for the final time before Sunday's big race.
Being back at IMS on a busy day brought back memories for Brabham, who finished 22nd in his Indianapolis 500 debut driving the Pirtek-backed entry.
“The first time I came to Carb Day I nearly missed the Indy Lights race just trying to get into the track because I had no comprehension how many people would be here,” Brabham told Speedcafe.
“It's very cool to be here, but at the same time, bittersweet because I'd much rather be getting ready for the 500 and be in a car.
“We're working towards that and that's what we live and breathe every day.
“I'm working to get in a car as soon as possible, making sure it's done properly, and pretty much all of my efforts the last two years have gone towards that.
“Obviously I've been doing some other forms of racing to keep my eye in, but the number one goal for me – and it always has been – is getting back in a car for the 500 and also having a full-time ride in IndyCar to show what I can do.”
Murray, whose promotion expertise made the race on Australia's Gold Coast one of the most popular and successful events of the IndyCar season, is disappointed that circumstances prevented him from getting Brabham into the 33-car Indianapolis 500 field for the second year in a row.
“It's a bit of a Catch-22,” said Murray, who is also creator/owner of Speedcafe.com.
“There's no better place in the world to be in the world than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, but I'm pissed off that we don't have a car sitting on pit lane, but sometimes that's the nature of the beast.
“Looking back on it, last year was such a surreal deal.
“The reaction I've gotten from people this week makes you realize what an impact we made last year and how many lives we affected and changed, and how many people have taken notice of it.
“The only thing we didn't achieve last year was to get Matt into a full-time gig and we still have our heads down and bums up trying to make that happen.”
Murray confirmed he has reached out to Dale Coyne Racing to see if the possibility exists for Brabham to step in as a replacement for the injured Sebastien Bourdais in DCR's No. 18 Honda for the remainder of the season.
Bourdais broke hip and pelvic bones in a qualifying crash on May 20 and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
“We're in a position where we are trying to talk to Dale now and see where he's at,” revealed Murray.
“There are few names in the world of motorsport that have a better connection to Honda than Brabham. Sir Jack won Honda's first world championship for them in Formula 2, the same year he won the F1 world title for a third time in 1966.
“The fact that Dale (Coyne) runs Honda power is a terrific link that kicks the door open a little to what could be a wonderful story.
“It's unfortunate the way it's become available, I ave been told that Sebastien has been openly supportive of Matt after being his teammate last year at KV Racing and that is a valuable reference from such a hard-core champion.
“Matt certainly turned some heads and did the right things last year.
“He didn't put a foot wrong in everything he did in and out of the car and I've said publicly before he's the best kid I've ever worked with in 30 years.
“He deserves a shot to be in the seat.
“James (Davison) has worked extremely hard to put himself in a position to be in the seat this weekend and good on him and we wish he every ounce of luck for a terrific result.”
Bourdais reportedly recommended Brabham for the seat that ultimately went to Australian James Davison for the Indy 500.
Davison confirmed to Speedcafe that he is also pursuing the Coyne ride for the rest of the season.
“It's awesome to hear Sebastien would say something like that and it gives me confidence in everything I do moving forward,” said Brabham.
“Obviously our thought are with him in his recovery, because he's one of the most bad-ass drivers out there in the field and I think he deserves more credit than what he gets.
“I've learned a lot from him over the last couple years, especially being his teammate, so it would be an honor to fill in for him.
“We just have to wait and see what happens and hope it all comes off.”