A lot of teenagers play a sport. Isabella Robusto isn’t like most teenagers. At just 16-years old, she’s got a lot on her plate with training for a triathlon, high jump, and being an NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series driver for Rev Racing. Oh, and she’s just in high school.
Robusto describes herself as a daredevil. Growing up with her twin brother, Will, she’s always been competitive. The duo started racing go-karts at the ripe age of four and they haven’t gotten off the track yet.
One could say they’re the new generation of racing siblings, move aside Busch brothers.
“We’ve all become hugely involved with it and it’s kind of our whole world now,” Isabella Robusto said.
Up until about two years ago, Isabella and Will competed in every race together, side-by-side. This has been the norm for them for eight years. Nowadays, Will competes with go-karts while Isabella wanted to go the stock car route.
“He was always my main competition because we would both have the same equipment,” she said. “It’s almost like it was a ‘race inside of a race’ because I wanted to win the overall race, but I also wanted the bragging rights that week against him.”
The rivalry went a little too far sometimes, though. They’ve wrecked each other’s cars three times. It was not a good week in her household whenever that happened, she said.
Robusto was named to NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program for the 2018 season where she anchored Rev Racing’s Youth Driver Program. In 2020, she transitioned to late model cars. Coming from a legend car, it was a bit of a learning curve. Now, she feels more confident and devotes a chunk of every day studying that weekend’s upcoming track.
Robusto’s schedule keeps her busy and on the move. Here’s a look at how she juggles her training with getting race ready as she continues her education on-and-off the track.
The Fort Mill, S.C. native attends virtual school, so she can customize her schedule amidst racing chaos. This isn’t an easy feat.
She spends four to five days a week at the race shop, not including Saturday race days.
On Sundays, she spends the majority of her day training for a triathlon with her former racing coach, Evan York. She has until April 2022 to prepare, but she doesn’t want to wait until the last minute. What do those training days look like? A 30-to-40-mile bike ride, a six-mile run, and a long swim. The hardest part isn’t the constant uphill cardio for her, it’s reintroducing her body to the water.
“Swimming is the hardest part for me. I haven’t swam since I was about six years old and I got in the pool and was like ‘this is gonna be easy because I swam when I was little’,” Robusto said. “It’s way harder than it looks.”
In case you did not think she’s doing enough; she’s also training for the Spartan Race.
Simply put, it’s an obstacle course placed on the uphill side of a mountain with 30 obstacles. The founder, Joe De Sana, wanted the races to be the hardest tests of endurance you can train for.
As athletic as her family is — her father is a former college hockey player and her mother a runner herself — they think she’s “crazy” for pushing her body so far.
READY FOR RACE DAY
On race days, Isabella doesn’t have much of a pre-race ritual, besides eating whole avocados and chugging cotton candy Bang Energy drinks.
“The first time I got a pole in the late model, I was never good at qualifying all last year,” Robusto said. “…One of my crew members on my team gave me a Bang Energy, which I drink every other day for working out now.
“He had me shotgun one before [the] qualifying [race], and I got the pole. So now I just do that before every qualifying now,” she said. “It’s working because I’ve qualified in the top five every time since I’ve been doing that.”
In less than a year-and-a-half, when she turns 18, she’ll be able to start moving up the ranks and experiment with more cars. She has goals of reaching the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to see which one she enjoys the most when the time comes. Yes, she’s counting down the days.
The hardest part of being 16 in a professional sport is relating to her peers. She’s been driving for more than a decade, so things like getting a driver’s license, which is big for the average teenager, is not significant to her. Of course, she got a 100 on her test. She got her NASCAR license when she was 14, so no one shouldn’t be surprised.
In 2018, she received the Young Racer Award at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards, at just 14 years old. In front of a 200-person audience full of NASCAR executives, drivers, and peers, Robusto made her speech and remembers it to this day. In 2020, she received the same award, to her surprise. She had no idea she could get it twice.
For now, she wants to remain positive and keep herself in the best shape possible, mentally and physically. With her young age, some people can’t fathom how she handles so much on her plate.
Whenever her friends can’t understand why she’s at the track all day and why she’s always so busy, she brings them to the track on race day. Then, they get it. They’re friends with an up-and-coming NASCAR driver.