Want to be successful in racing? Win a championship in the Stadium Super Trucks first. Two-time SST champ Sheldon Creed became a Camping World Truck Series title winner with a burgeoning NASCAR career ahead of him, while Matt Brabham won three SST crowns and is already an Indy Lights winner after last racing there before he ever drove a stadium truck.
Correlation obviously does not equal causation and Brabham also has the experience advantage as the oldest driver in the Indy Lights field and former race winner there, but one of SST’s biggest promotional points is its ability to help drivers develop their driving skills. While the concept of an off-road truck turning laps and jumping off ramps on street circuits is certainly unusual, the series further assisted Brabham in becoming more than familiar with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg course before Sunday’s Indy Lights season opener. In his first Indy Lights start since 2015, he capitalised on misfortunes befalling his Andretti Autosport team-mates Hunter McElrea and Christian Rasmussen to win his second career race.
Brabham started sixth while McElrea qualified on the pole. However, Brabham quickly found himself contending for the lead after the top three starters ran wide entering the first corner. He spent much of the race chasing down McElrea and Rasmussen before the former clipped the wall and spun on lap 13, resulting in a caution. A poor restart by Brabham enabled Rasmussen to pull ahead, though Brabham kept his position and resumed his pursuit.
With his team-mate too far back, it appeared as if Rasmussen would storm off to win in his Lights début. Unfortunately for the leader, his fuel ran out with just two laps remaining, which shifted the top position to Brabham. He led the rest of the way to claim his second series win after last triumphing at Indianapolis in 2014.
While somewhat of a circumstantial victory, Brabham proved his open-wheel spark was still bright. He raced full-time in Indy Lights for Andretti in 2014 after a meteoric ascension through the Road to Indy, but he struggled that year due to what he felt was him rising too quickly and not fully adapting to his new environment. After losing his ride three races into the 2015 season, Brabham moved to being a driver coach and two-seat IndyCar driver before landing in the Stadium Super Trucks.
Over the next seven years, he honed his racing skills in SST—who regularly supports the NTT IndyCar Series at its race weekends as an undercard alongside Indy Lights—by winning twenty-five races and three consecutive championships from 2018 to 2021 (2020 was not tracked due to COVID-19). He also won an SST race at St. Petersburg in 2017, his third victory at the Florida street circuit after a 2013 Pro Mazda Championship (now Indy Pro 2000) win four years prior. At the 2021 St. Petersburg SST round, he was the fastest in qualifying before finishing second in both of the weekend’s races.
SST gave congratulations to Brabham on social media, and SST driver Bill Hynes wrote in an Instagram Story that he was “[p]roud of this Aussie Bloke!!” Arie Luyendyk Jr., another SST peer who did eight Indy Lights seasons from 2002 to 2010, simply commented on SST’s IG post with “Amazing”.
Brabham was not the only SST-savvy face on the Indy Lights grid as Jacob Abel, who ran the final two SST rounds in 2021, finished tenth. He had a moment of his own during the race when he spun after contact with Kyffin Simpson but avoided further damage and continued.