Since the moment he stepped off the plane and into the United States, Matthew Brabham has been winning.
It started when he came away with the title after a hotly contested USF2000 season in 2012.
And this year, he positively dominated the Pro Mazda Championship with his team, Andretti Autosport, not only clinching the title with two races remaining but setting a series record for most wins in a single season along the way — which he could extend further if he carries his winning ways over to the series finale weekend on the streets of Houston in early October.
As he reflects on it all, Brabham is blown away.
“It’s just been absolutely wonderful,” he says. “I couldn’t have predicted these last two years before I came over here to the States.
“It’s been so much fun racing here. Everybody’s so welcoming of us, and IndyCar is such a family and everybody’s willing to help each other out. I’ve just had so much fun making new friends within the IndyCar circle.”
One of the keys to Brabham’s success this year, in his opinion, was his team’s ability to get an early handle on the changes within the series going into the season.
“It was a little tough in the start,” he recalls, “from Dan Andersen [of Andersen Promotions] taking over the series and Cooper Tire coming on board. So, the start of the year was really interesting and kind of tough to tell where everyone was at speed-wise.
“It seemed one of my biggest keys to success this year was just getting on top of the new tires. We managed to get a really good jump on everybody, and since the first couple of test days at Sebring and Palm Beach we’ve had this advantage. We just managed to keep that throughout the year.”
Brabham’s team, Andretti Autosport, is the only operation that runs at all four levels of the Mazda Road to Indy. He feels the difference that level of involvement makes within the organization.
“Their sharing and the openness between their Indy Lights team, their Pro Mazda team, their USF2000 team, and the IndyCar team really helps,” Brabham says. “When we’re at the same track, Mid-Ohio for example, we were out on track in the morning and then the Indy Lights cars went out after, so we were able to help them out with predicting where the car setup was going to go and how their race was going to pan out.
“The IndyCar guys help us out as well. They always come down and talk to all of us about the changing track conditions and different things about different tracks.
“Walking through the shop in Indianapolis is one of those experiences where it’s like, ‘wow, this is a really big operation.’ At the same time, they do a good job of not spreading out too much and dividing things up.”
On a personal level, Brabham credits his family heavily for keeping his head in the game and helping him see his early success through to the Pro Mazda title.
“All of my family was telling me that you don’t want to start thinking about winning the championship or get too complacent,” he remembers. “It’s a lot easier to lose a championship than you think. I was just taking it one race at a time and keeping those thoughts out of my head.
With the Pro Mazda title in hand, Brabham now looks toward the future. He plans to use the scholarship he’s earned from Mazda to climb one more rung up the ladder into Indy Lights next year and then, ideally, continue from there into the IZOD IndyCar Series.
But he’s definitely taking a moment to stop and smell the roses while he can.
“I’ve just kind of enjoyed the year while it was going on,” he says, “because I’m sure I’m not going to have another year like this again.”
Matthew Brabham recently spoke with More Front Wing on a number of other topics, including the influence of being raised in a racing family, the experience of rewriting the Pro Mazda record books, how he worked through the doubts that came with the lower points in his season, and much more. To hear the interview in its entirety, listen to the More Front Wing podcast, which will be released tomorrow morning. Find us on iTunes or right here at morefrontwing.com.