LUCAMA, NC – Isabella Robusto’s busy Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour season began with mixed results at Southern National Motorsports Park on Saturday.
Robusto, who is one of Toyota Racing Development’s most prolific prospects, was the only driver to compete in both the Pro Late Model and Late Model Stock divisions at the .400-mile track in Wilson County, North Carolina. She picked up a sixth-place finish in a physical Pro Late Model race and was methodically working her way into the top 20 in the midway stages of the Late Model Stock feature before a belt came off, ending her day 50 laps shy of the finish.
“We definitely had a good car there,” Robusto told Race22 after the race. “We were saving, never even got to 75 percent throttle so I felt like if it stayed green and we actually got to race, probably could have finished around the top-10. We had a good race with the Pro Late Model. It was definitely bumper-to-bumper, bumper cars out there. Everybody was leaning on each other for sure in the Pro race but we were able to come out with fifth or sixth so not too bad for our technically first race in that.”
Robusto will run the entire CARS Tour schedule. In both divisions.
She is a member of the Lucas Oil Touring 12 in the Late Model Stock side, competing with Lee Faulk Racing, a team she won with twice in 2022. On the Pro Late Model side, she races for Wilson Motorsports.
That’s only a fraction of her 2023 season, which also consists of select races in the ARCA Menards Series, the Pirelli GT4 America Series, and the GR Cup Series.
“With practice day being canceled yesterday, today was the first time I went back and forth from each car,” Robusto explained. “It was definitely a learning curve at the start, but at the end, I felt pretty strong about being able to go back and forth and know the differences when I get in the cars. It will help a bunch when I get to my GT stuff, different cars, especially with those speed differences being so far apart from the Pro and the Late Model Stock. It’s going to help with experience and race craft for everything.”
In all, Robusto is expected to compete in around 70 races this year alone, a grueling schedule that requires her to undertake an equally strenuous training schedule with the hopes of becoming as sharp as a razor’s edge.
“Basically, I took all offseason working in the shop and working in the gym and it definitely showed,” Robusto said. “The Pro race, I got out and felt perfectly fine. I felt like I was going to start the first race of the night in the [Late Model] Stock. Even in the Stock race, I didn’t get tired at all, so I feel confident I’ll be able to do all these races without getting hot or tired in the seat.
“It’s helped just being able to stay mentally and physically 100 percent for both races,” she continued. “I think, if I had finished the Stock race, I’d still be at 90 percent, maybe, at the lowest. It helps with keeping the consistency and being able to stay clear-headed while I’m side-by-side racing.”
Robusto scored wins at Hickory Motor Speedway and Tri-County Speedway in 2022, finishing second in points at Hickory and third at Tri-County. She closed out the season with a third-place finish in the South Carolina 400, a race that garnered increased attention with the presence of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., after starting the race in 30th.
Those runs, her TRD deal, being listed as one of the top-20 NASCAR prospects by Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, and co-starring in two Toyota commercials that premiered during the Daytona 500 on Fox have all bolstered Robusto’s profile. While the 18-year-old is committed to winning races, she also relished her moment in the spotlight.
Made my Daytona 500 debut in a Toyota commercial! So cool getting to be a part of this incredible team!
Be part of something greater! #TeamToyota@ToyotaRacing pic.twitter.com/WgN1WTdpq8
— Isabella Robusto (@IsabellaRobusto) February 20, 2023
“That was really cool to see myself,” Robusto recalled. “[Toyota] didn’t tell me which one or that it was going to come on so I was watching the Daytona 500 and I popped up and was like oh that’s me, and then I had like 50 texts from different people saying I saw you on TV for the 500. It’s definitely cool to be a part of something like that, that Toyota let me be a part of.”
It's not just a sport; it's a lifestyle. It's a sisterhood of speed. #TeamToyota pic.twitter.com/qB2ALwrWsB
— Isabella Robusto (@IsabellaRobusto) February 18, 2023
Robusto’s rising star has not taken her attention away from the big picture – winning races. It’s her primary goal, and it’s something she expects to do in 2023.
“I feel really good about Florence in two weeks,” Robusto stated. “Obviously ran good there for the 400, know what we need to show up with. I feel confident with that race, as well as Hickory and Tri-County. I’m confident we’ll pick up some wins in the Pro and fight for some in the Stock too. I’m looking forward to running all these different classes and cars.”