Brett “Crusher” Murray admits to being the “most non-mechanical guy on the planet”, but that has not stopped him from Daring to Dream and attempting to have his own entry in the Indianapolis 500.
From humble country beginnings, Murray has developed an amazing network of friends and contacts throughout the world in the motorsport, media and entertainment industries. As they say in Australia, he is “having a crack” and he is keen to share the experience with whoever wants to come along for the ride.
Q:: How did PIRTEK Team Murray come about?
A: I have a 15 year-old son, Maximilian. There has not been a day since he was born that I have not reminded him that he can do whatever he wants to do and be whatever he wants to be. I made a pact on the grid at the 500 several years ago with a good mate of mine, Paul Ryan, that we would have our own car on the grid at “this race” one day. We talked it up, but never really put our heads around it. Then earlier this year I was sitting in a coffee shop by myself and thinking about a promise I had made to Sir Jack (Brabham) about doing what I could to help the career of his grandson Matt. Then I asked myself out loud why “I couldn’t put an entry together for the 100th race – there will only ever be one of them”! Then I thought about my constant messaging to Max and thought I had better lead by example. And here we are.
Q: You just don’t decide to have a car in the Indy 500 and it appears overnight – not unless you are writing one massive personal check?
A: To be honest I did not sleep for a few days after I had set the task in my mind. The whiteboard came out in the office and then my notebook got smashed with ideas and concepts at all times of the night and day. Once I had a basic framework I started to call a few good friends of mine and explain how the whole program would work. Peter and Glenn Duncan at PIRTEK have been clients and friends of mine for many years and had just bought back the PIRTEK business in the US. I talked to them about using the racing program to market their brand and growing franchise model. They had used sports and motorsport in particular to build their brand in Australia and understood the model straight away. Then we continued to add programs and they were delighted with the community aspect which is something that has always been a focus of the Duncan family and PIRTEK.
Q: At what point did you tell Matt about his ride?
A: Matt’s father Geoff and I have been in regular contact for several months and he knew how much effort and energy we were putting into the program. I kept Matt at arms length for as long as I could, but I started to get him to do little research projects for me so I could get his head around the enormity of what he was about to be involved in. I also got him to start walking the track once a week and to take time to feel as comfortable as possible at the venue. He did not know it at the time, but I had been grooming him for a while. I am sure he thought I was some sort of nut case, but I think now it all makes sense to him. He has a great surname and great heritage, but Matt definitely has the family racing gene and will do some great things if he gets a shot. Hopefully he gets the job done and continues to build a foundation for a successful career beyond his first Indy 500.
Q: What will make PIRTEK Team Murray different?
A: I am extremely respectful of the opportunity I have been given to try and qualify a car in the 100th Indy 500. I am not pretending to be Penske or Ganassi. I have just Dared to Dream which is something that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has encouraged a lot of people to do over the generations. I have my skills off track and have brought some talented people with me who will all be working to give our stakeholders and partners a once in a lifetime experience. The thrill will be giving some of those people, including our naming rights partners, PIRTEK, their first ever taste of the world’s greatest sporting event – how cool is that?
Q: At the end of the day you still have to qualify for the race. The job is not over yet?
A: We have put together a budget to do the on-track program as professionally and as competitively as we can and it is up to our strategic partners to give us the engineering and reliability and for Matt to be focused and patient. I am the most non-mechanical guy on the planet, but I know how to put a deal together and to generate return on investment for our stakeholders. My goal is to have generated an amazing experience and other complimentary programs well in advance of the final qualifying session. We have obviously had to be up front with all our partners about the risk of not qualifying, but all of them have rolled the dice with us, like every other sponsor of every other team in the paddock.
Q: What is so special about the Indianapolis 500?
A: I think you only ask that question if you have never been. For starters the place is HUGE. It is difficult to explain a 2.5 mile (4km) superspeedway to someone. Then on race day you have crowds in excess of 350,00 fans and there is not too many who don’t enjoy themselves. The build-up to the race now goes for a couple of weeks and culminates with an atmosphere of nervous tension on the grid which cannot be experienced at any other place on the planet. Then you go racing at 400kph! But for me the foundation of all this is 100 years of history where man and machine have come together to leave a residue of stories like no other sporting arena in the world. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it. In fact they do the same thing every time I drive past the speedway, whether that is in May or in December.
Q: For an Australian, you have an amazing amount of relationships in the IndyCar paddock. Has that helped the process?
A: All those relationships have been built up over 25 years with some of them starting with the first Gold Coast CART race in 1991. I had a pretty unique way of going about my business and it worked. Some of the drivers from that era through to now are some of my closest friends. When I told them about what I was going to do they were all amazingly supportive and positive. Not one of them doubted that we could make it happen. The big bonus was that I had amazing people like Jim McGee (the winningest Team Manager in IndyCar history) to call upon for advice. McGee is like my American father and I also told him I would love to have him in my pit box when I had my own car in the race. Unfortunately he had already been snapped up, but that has not stopped him from being at the other end of the phone when I needed him.
Q; Tell us about your friendship with Dario Franchitti?
A: Dario was one of the young Brat Pack in the mid 90s along with Greg Moore, Max Papis, and Tony Kanaan. We all became friends, but Dario and I particularly hit it off, maybe it was my Scottish heritage. He used to come to Surfers Paradise a week or so earlier and we would party up. The problem is that I had to keep working at the same time. One year I had 22 hours sleep in two weeks! As the years have progressed we have become even closer and I developed great mateships with his boyhood pals and with his mum and dad, Marina and George, and brother, Marino. He is the ultimate professional, has a great knowledge and respect for the history of the sport and doesn’t suffer fools. One of my great memories is joining Dario on the bricks with the Borg-Warner trophy the morning after he had won his third 500. We were both wearing our tribute Dan Wheldon sunglasses. He is a three-time Indy 500 and four-time Series champion, but more importantly he is my mate, who I can bribe with lots of stories that can never be told 😉
Q: One of your long-term relationships is with Scott Dixon, you must have been proud when he won the IndyCar title in 2015?
A: When Scott Dixon joined us as an Indy Lights driver at Pac West in 2000 he was a red-headed fat kid who obviously had some natural ability in a race car. Within a few months of working with our trainer Jim Leo (who he still works with), he was lean and mean. I gave him his nickname of the Phantom because I could never find him. I think that all changed when I grabbed him by the throat at the back of the hauler one day and suggested a change in attitude. He not only continued to develop into one of the world’s finest and most consistent drivers, more importantly he evolved into a terrific human being who has been rewarded with a wonderful wife, Emma, and two beautiful daughters. I drop him a text before and after most races and look forward to our conversations through the year. I am very fortunate to have him as a mate.