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Matt Brabham, Jacob Abel provide SST flavour at Chris Griffis Memorial Test

5 Mins read
Credit: Andretti Autosport

The tenth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield road course took place on 30/31 October, seeing potential prospects driving Road to Indy cars across the three feeder series. Two drivers in the fourteen-person Indy Lights test came with experience in a radically different form of racing: Stadium Super Trucks. Matt Brabham, a former Road to Indy rising star, ran an official Indy Lights session for the first time since 2015 while Jacob Abel continues his ascent up the ladder.

Brabham, the two-time defending SST champion on the verge of securing a third, drove the #83 for Andretti Autosport in a four-car effort. He has raced in SST since 2015, shortly after his meteoric rise up the Road to Indy ladder came to an abrupt halt: despite winning the U.S. F2000 and now-Indy Pro 2000 Championships in 2012 and 2013 to reach Indy Lights with Andretti by 2014, he lost the ride three races into 2015 due to sponsorship issues. He scored one win in Indy Lights on the Indianapolis RC during his first yea. In forty-seven career Road to Indy starts, Brabham won eighteen for a win percentage of 38.3%, the highest in the system’s history before newly crowned Indy Lights champion and Andretti driver Kyle Kirkwood topped him at the end of 2021 with 62.5%. He would also make two starts in the IndyCar Series in 2016, including the Indianapolis 500.

With few open-wheel opportunities available outside of piloting the two-seater IndyCar and being a driving coach, Brabham has since made SST his playground. He has twenty-five career race wins and finished on the podium in every race in 2021 with a pair of victories. Until series founder Robby Gordon broke the trend at Long Beach, Brabham was riding a six-round streak of being the fastest in qualifying that dated back to the 2020 season opener in Adelaide.

Across the Open Test’s six sessions, Brabham was typically in the middle of the group, with his best effort coming in the fourth where he set the fifth-fastest time. Session 3 saw his best lap time in ninety-nine total laps of 1:25.78. At twenty-seven years of age, he was the oldest driver of the fourteen by a wide margin, which is to be expected as the feeder series generally has drivers in their teens or early twenties. Ernie Francis Jr., a seven-time Trans-Am Series champion and open-wheel newcomer, is the closest to Brabham’s age at four years younger.

“It’s just so good to be back at the IMS,” said Brabham in a video from Indy Lights. “It feels a little weird, especially for me, coming back. There’s a few memes online making fun of my age and stuff, but… I mean, I’m just having a blast. It’s been so long and I just got to blow the rust off, blow the cobwebs out, and it’s been so much fun.”

Credit: Abel Motorsports

While Brabham was cutting his teeth in stadium trucks, Abel worked on his own climb through the Road to Indy ranks. After racing in lower formulae including USF2000, Abel began a part-time slate in Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 before elevating to the full championship in 2021. Driving for family-run Abel Motorsports, he finished sixth in points with two podiums. He also dabbles in sports cars by competing part-time in the GT World Challenge America.

The twenty-year-old made his SST début at Nashville in August. Learning the truck and finishing second-to-last in Race #1 placed him on the front row for the second race, which saw him battle with Robert Stout to the finish before finishing runner-up. Abel was the first driver since 2019 to score a podium finish in his maiden SST weekend. Incidentally, Brabham placed third to join Abel on the Race #2 podium. Abel also ran the Long Beach weekend but was plagued by mechanical issues.

In the #3 Abel Motorsports car, Abel got off to a quick start at the Open Test by leading Session 1 as one of four drivers to run more than ten laps. His times over the next five practices varied, with his best overall run coming in Session 3 with a time of 1:25.73 (fourth best in said test). He turned ninety-five laps over the two days of testing.

“[W]hat an amazing car, so fun to drive,” Abel posted on social media after the first day. “The team got the car just a week ago and to end up the first day 4th overall our first time on track is exceptional. The work has just begun, but I’m loving the challenge”.

Although the test allows for drivers to showcase their skills in their desired series, it does not necessarily mean they will commit to said division for the upcoming season, and Brabham and Abel have not confirmed their plans for 2022. In fact, only Kyffin Simpson and Sting Ray Robb have formally announced their intent to race in Indy Lights as of this article’s publishing. Simpson won the 2021 Formula Regional Americas Championship in addition to racing against Abel in Indy Pro 2000, while Robb won the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 title and finished seventh in the 2021 Indy Lights. Driving for TJ Speed Motorsports, Simpson led the sixth session while Robb set the third-best time in the same session for Andretti.

Abel and Brabham might be the only names at the forty-four-person Open Test who have raced in SST, but the trucks have a degree of separation with Jagger Jones who set the fastest overall time in the USF2000 test. Jones, who boasts a stock car-heavy résumé that includes being the 2019 runner-up in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West, is the son of four-time SST race winner P.J. Jones.

Test results

Session 1

PositionNumberDriverTeamBest TimeMarginBest SpeedLapsBest Lap
13Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports1:35.4380Leader97.3201414
215Matteo NanniniJuncos Hollinger Racing1:35.5351+ .097197.2211412
321Kyffin SimpsonTJ Speed Motorsports1:35.8225+ .384596.9291511
451Rasmus LindhJuncos Hollinger Racing1:36.7351+ 1.297196.015107
52Sting Ray RobbAndretti Autosport1:50.6489+ 15.210983.94111
628Christian RasmussenAndretti Autosport1:56.5664+ 21.128479.68011
783Matt BrabhamAndretti Autosport1:57.1693+ 21.731379.27011
811Antonio SerravallePserra Racing2:02.0964+ 26.658476.07111
97Christian BogleHMD Motorsports2:02.3402+ 26.902275.91955
1027Hunter McElreaAndretti Autosport2:05.1441+ 29.706274.21811
1124Benjamin PedersenGlobal Racing Group with HMD MotorsportsNo TimeN/AN/A0N/A
1259Manual SulaimanHMD MotorsportsNo TimeN/AN/A0 N/A
1379Danial FrostHMD MotorsportsNo TimeN/AN/A0 N/A
1499Ernie Francis Jr.HMD MotorsportsNo TimeN/AN/A0 N/A
Bold – Subject of article
Italics – Rookie

Session 2

PositionDriverBest TimeMarginBest SpeedLapsBest Lap
1Benjamin Pedersen1:26.1408Leader107.8232221
2Rasmus Lindh1:36.2973+ 1.565107.6282218
3Sting Ray Robb1:26.5153+ .3745107.3572016
4Danial Frost1:26.5375+ .3967107.3292120
5Manuel Sulaiman1:26.6570+ .5162107.1812013
6Hunter McElrea1:26.6633+ .5225107.1732120
7Christian Rasmussen1:26.7134+ .5726107.1112416
8Jacob Abel1:26.9271+ .7863106.8481917
9Kyffin Simpson1:27.1241+ .9833106.6072222
10Ernie Francis Jr.1:27.1932+ 1.0524106.5222020
11Matteo Nannini1:27.3646+ 1.2238106.3132020
12Antonio Serravalle1:27.7190+ 1.5782105.8841810
13Christian Bogle1:27.8427+ 1.7019105.7341414
14Matt Brabham1:28.3154+ 2.1746105.1692218

Session 3

PositionDriverBest TimeMarginBest SpeedLapsBest Lap
1Benjamin Pedersen1:25.4619Leader108.6802119
2Hunter McElrea1:25.5218+ .0599108.6042017
3Danial Frost1:25.7186+ .2567108.3552018
4Jacob Abel1:25.7317+ .2698108.3382118
5Rasmus Lindh1:25.7684+ .3065108.2922116
6Matt Brabham1:25.7868+ .3249108.2682318
7Kyffin Simpson1:25.7884+ .3265108.2662218
8Matteo Nannini1:26.0674+ .6055107.9151716
9Manuel Sulaiman1:26.0830+ .6211107.8962414
10Ernie Francis Jr.1:26.3269+ .8650107.5912220
11Sting Ray Robb1:26.5440+ 1.0821107.321105
12Antonio Serraville1:26.5942+ 1.1323107.2592016
13Christan Bogle1:26.7779+ 1.3160107.0322316
14Christian Rasmussen1:26.9745+ 1.5126106.79075

Session 4

PositionDriverBest TimeMarginBest SpeedLapsBest Lap
1Rasmus Lindh1:25.5988Leader108.5061714
2Kyffin Simpson1:25.6400+ .0412108.454205
3Danial Frost1:25.6569+ .0581108.4331918
4Benjamin Pedersen1:25.7144+ .1156108.3601916
5Matt Brabham1:25.8205+ .2217108.2261916
6Christian Rasmussen1:25.8841+ .2853108.1461210
7Matteo Nannini1:26.0392+ .4404107.9511612
8Sting Ray Robb1:26.0396+ .4408107.950146
9Hunter McElrea1:26.0682+ .4694107.9141816
10Ernie Francis Jr.1:26.2441+ .6453107.6941818
11Manuel Sulaiman1:26.3887+ .7899107.5141817
12Antonio Serravalle1:26.7562+ 1.1574107.0591919
13Jacob Abel1:26.7860+ 1.1872107.02276
14Christian Bogle1:27.0634+ 1.4646106.6812116

Session 5

PositionDriverBest TimeMarginBest SpeedLapsBest Lap
1Hunter McElrea1:26.2405Leader107.6991611
2Matteo Nannini1:26.3271+ .1316107.5351610
3Sting Ray Robb1:26.4834+ .2429107.3961711
4Christian Rasmussen1:26.5027+ .2622107.372169
5Benjamin Pedersen1:26.6423+ .4018107.1991710
6Daniel Frost1:26.7372+ .4967107.0821818
7Ernie Francis Jr.1:26.8533+ .6128106.939166
8Kyffin Simpson1:26.9360+ .6955106.8371611
9Manuel Sulaiman1:26.9846+ .7441106.778134
10Matt Brabham1:27.0965+ .8560106.6401611
11Rasmus Lindh1:27.1988+ .9583106.515139
12Jacob Abel1:27.2186+ .9781106.4911611
13Antonio Serravalle1:27.7262+ 1.4857105.8751710
14Chrstian Bogle1:28.1788+ 1.9383105.3311510

Session 6

PositionDriverBest TimeMarginBest SpeedLapsBest Lap
1Kyffin Simpson1:25.4850Leader108.6512118
2Matteo Nannini1:25.5425+ .0575108.5781514
3Christian Rasmussen1:25.5509+ .0659108.5672017
4Sting Ray Robb1:25.6578+ .1728108.4311916
5Rasmus Lindh1:25.8412+ .3562108.2001718
6Hunter McElrea1:25.8601+ .3751108.1761715
7Danial Frost1:25.9193+ .4343108.1011916
8Matt Brabham1:25.9631+ .4781108.0461816
9Jacob Abel1:26.0144+ .5294107.9821816
10Manuel Sulaiman1:26.0205+ .5355107.9742217
11Ernie Francis Jr.1:26.0566+ .5716107.9292017
12Benjamin Pedersen1:26.2320+ .7470107.7091917
13Antonio Serraville1:26.7100+ 1.2250107.1162117
14Christian Bogle1:26.9105+ 1.4255106.8692117

Best combined

PositionDriverBest SessionTimeSpeedTotal Laps
1Benjamin Pedersen31:25.4619108.68098
2Kyffin Simpson61:25.4850108.651116
3Hunter McElrea31:25.5218108.60493
4Matteo Nannini61:25.5425108.57898
5Christian Rasmussen61:25.5509108.56780
6Rasmus Lindh41:25.5988108.506100
7Danial Frost41:25.6569108.43397
8Sting Ray Robb61:25.6578108.43181
9Jacob Abel31:25.7317108.33895
10Matt Brabham31:25.7868108.26899
11Manuel Sulaiman61:26.0205107.97497
12Ernie Francis Jr.61:26.0566107.92996
13Antonio Serravalle31:26.5942107.25996
14Christian Bogle31:26.7779107.03299
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About author
History major at San Jose State University and lifelong motorsports fan who covers NASCAR and the Stadium Super Trucks.
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