Expect to hear a lot about PIRTEK Team Murray in May

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

PIRTEK Team Murray principal Brett Murray is well-known in racing circles for getting things done.

With the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 creating increased interest, several one-off entries have already been announced, much earlier than usual.

Grace Autosport is made unique by featuring women in many key roles, while Byrd Racing plays up the local angle of a mom n' pop cafeteria sponsoring popular grassroots racer Bryan Clauson.

Then there's PIRTEK Team Murray.

Brett Murray is the kind of character you don't easily forget. A former football and rugby player, the 48-year old Australian has an intimidating presence even though he's not that tall. Everyone knows him as "Crusher." Crusher gets things done - as a PR man, as a promoter, as an event organizer, whatever. He gets results.

In the 25 years that he's built the business now known as the BAM Group, Murray has created countless proposals to promote the efforts of other racers.

Last year, he watched as Matthew Brabham - a longtime family friend and the grandson of Australian racing legend Jack Brabham - found his career stalled at the IndyCar level after he had quickly graduated through the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system.

Matt Brabham drove in a couple of IndyCar test sessions for Andretti Autosport, but couldn't put together a sponsorship package to race. That's where Crusher came in.

He convinced his longtime client PIRTEK - an Australian fluid transfer solutions company looking to expand its franchise system in America - to provide the backing for Brabham to make his IndyCar debut, running the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, in addition to the Indianapolis 500 in a Chevrolet-powered entry out of the KV Racing stable.

Matthew Brabham is finally getting his shot at the big leagues with PIRTEK Team Murray. The car will carry No. 61 in honor of Jack Brabham's historic run to ninth place in the 1961 Indianapolis 500 in a modified Formula One Cooper that started Indy's rear-engine revolution.

While others talked about helping Matt Brabham break into Indy cars, it took a PR man-turned principal to make it happen. But anyone who knows Crusher isn't surprised.

"I've been working on this in my head for the last 30 years, but in the last seven or eight months, we've actually been working on it 20 hours a day - on the days we did get some sleep," Murray said.

"We got the funding we needed to take the risk. We still have a gap to fill and need to work on that, but we're going to be in the show. If it means I need to sell my house, I'll sell my house. We're going to be in the Indy 500 and that's cool." Chuck Lynn - the popular newspaper salesman at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other spots around town - is helping others through the group that helps him.

Murray said his biggest motivation was making sure that the 21-year-old Brabham's career didn't die on the vine after the young star won championships in F2000 and Pro Mazda and races in Indy Lights.

A year out of the car at a critical time can destroy a young driver's career, and despite his name and pedigree, Brabham (who carries dual citizenship from Australia and the U.S.) was in danger of having that happen. He had begun to explore opportunities outside of Indy cars.

The call from Crusher came as a complete surprise.

"Crusher was doing his thing and he sent me a couple emails that told me to start studying," Brabham recalled. "I thought it was a strange request, but I did it anyway. A couple months later he rang up on the phone, with my dad (Geoff Brabham, former IndyCar racer and IMSA sports car champion) and my family in Australia, and he said, 'Guess what, Matt? You're going to be in the Indy 500!' "I was shocked and surprised ... speechless," he added. "But now it's starting to soak in and I'm enjoying it." Murray was convinced that even though Brabham's run of championships ended at the Indy Lights level, the young star was ready for the top level. And he was surprised that nobody was stepping up to help get him there.

So he did it himself.

"We had to kick-start something and needed someone to do it," Murray said. "It's a magical story. Jack was a good friend of mine and before Jack passed away I promised him I would help with Matt's career. I like to think I'm true to my word and here we are.

"You've got to [sit] or get off the pot," he continued. "You can talk about it all your life, or you can go and do it. I'm 48, so I'm not getting any younger. If you're going to do it, you don't know when it's going to start and when it's going to end. You need to get in the game." Murray was also unhappy with the way motor racing has evolved into a system where a driver is expected to round up the sponsorship to finance their career.

He's not building a team from scratch the old-fashioned way - establishing a race shop, hiring people and buying cars. But he became the figurehead Brabham needed to get the ball rolling for the next phase of his career.

"We know he's ready," Murray said. "He just needs a break, or as many as you can get. Andretti has done a wonderful job getting him to where he's at today, but the wheels weren't rolling there to get him to the next level.

"I'm not taking a cent out of it," he added. "I'm going to pay the kid. He doesn't have to bring money. It's the way the sport should be. Talented people going to work should get paid. If we get through those first two races and can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we can look ahead and think about what additional races we want to do." As a rookie, it's unlikely that Brabham will be a front-runner during the month of May. But thanks to his hard-working team owner, you'll probably hear plenty about him and his sponsor.

Crusher's promotional abilities are legendary in Australia, and in the one year he handled PR for PacWest Racing in the CART-sanctioned IndyCar series, PacWest generated more publicity than the top teams despite generally running mid-pack.

With Murray's expertise, PIRTEK is using the sponsorship as a marketing tool to relaunch its U.S. franchise system.

"We talk about businesses using racing for this kind of deal all the time, but this is the best example I've ever seen of it happening," Murray observed. "They're in for the right reasons. It doesn't take Einstein to work out the growth that's possible here." Additional exposure will be gained through Team Murray's association with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. Taya Kyle, widow of Chris Kyle of "American Sniper" fame, is serving as the team's ambassador.

Crusher may have taken on the title of team principal, but it's hard to imagine him taking off his PR hat. When it comes to promotion, the man doesn't have an off switch.

"Work has never scared me," he remarked. "I'm not selling cans of Coke here, going home at the end of the day knowing that I've reached my quota. There's always something else to do, there's always another story, there's always another pitch or something you can do to make things better to make sure the people are happy. People look at this side of the business a lot differently than I do. I'm not here to hold helmets; I'm here to get results for the people.

"We're going to have a good time, but at the same time, we're going to be respectful of the history and what the event is all about," he added. "We're here to be involved in the world's greatest motor race, and to have my own car out there is just a dream come true."

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