TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. – For the past 14 years, Isabella Roubsto has chased her dreams to be a competitive racer.
At age 18, the Fort Mills, South Carolina native’s dreams are becoming a reality.
Prior to this year, Robusto made her presence known with the Rev Racing banner. However, the late model stock car driver reeled off a career season with her No. 55 Yahoo! Toyota Camry fielded by Lee Faulk Racing.
“When I got the call from Toyota, at first, I was really amazed,” Robusto said. “I really didn’t think it was real. But I’ve gotten super close with the Lee Faulk Racing guys. We’re all family now and we’ve made some huge strides.”
Namely, late model stock car fans may point to her maiden victory at Hickory Motor Speedway on Sept. 17.
It was a dream moment for the ambitious young racer whose athletic prowess outside of the track rivals motorsports greats like like Jimmie Johnson, Jenson Button and Tony Kanaan.
Robusto is as adept and versatile at the racetrack as she is with her running exploits. Still, the sport that warrants her number one priority is racing.
As Robusto prepared for her final late model stock car race of 2022, she had mild expectations with the 200-lap event at the 0.4-mile track.
“Going into the weekend, I was really just hoping for a top 15 finish,” Robusto said. “Never really thought that a podium was a shot when we got there. Just starting back in 30th was a long way to go to get to the front.”
Indeed, Robusto had her work cut out for her ahead of Saturday night’s race. Nevertheless, she was confident about her chances and with her team.
“Before the race, I talked with the team,” she recalled. “I have great guys with Lee Faulk Racing and kind of made a strategy that we wanted to spend the first 150 laps just saving tires and keeping my left side as good as we could for that 50 laps to go.”
Patience and poise still count in today’s high level, fast paced world of late model racing. Once she got past Lap 150, the game was afoot as far as Robusto was concerned with extracting the best finish.
“We got new right side tires. Florence, being such an aggressive track and abrasive on your tires, was really all about patience and waiting on the throttle, not spinning the right rear and trying to keep the gas smooth as possible on exits,” she shared. “And kind of having my team on the radio and keeping patient.”
Naturally, Robusto was ready to get after it and trade paint with her competitors. Restarting around the top 20, it was about meticulous but steadfast driving to the front of the field.
“There were a few times where I really wanted to get after it and go race with everyone in front of me that were side by side,” she remarked. “But, kinda hung back. There were a couple people doing the strategy at the same time that were back there. With 50 to go, I restarted somewhere near 20th and I knew it was 110% from there.
“Before I knew it, I was just picking cars off, one by one, still trying to be a little bit safe on my tires, but at the same time, when I needed to get sideways to get by a person, I did. And with three laps to go, I restarted in fourth and I knew that I had a shot at that podium finish.”
As the race wound down, Robusto had the likes of Brenden “Butterbean” Queen and Carson Kvapil, a couple of late model sluggers, in front of her.
Additionally, she faced off against Dale Earnhardt Jr., two-time NASCAR Xfintiy Series champion, throughout the race.
Although Robusto was not sure about her chances at a win, she liked her chances with tallying a podium finish at the South Carolina short track.
“I felt like “Butterbean” was a little bit better than us, especially on the exit, the same as Carson Kvapil,” she observed. “But I knew I had a shot at that podium finish and the three (last) laps, we basically spent side by side. On the white flag off of Turn 2, I finally cleared fourth place and came home with a third place finish.”
This was no run of the mill third place result for Robusto. Given how late model stock car racing welcomes paint trading, elbows out style racing, it was about surviving some short track carnage.
“It definitely took a whole lot of patience during those first 150 laps of the race, just being consistent, missing all of the wrecks,” Robusto said. “I can’t even count how many wrecks there were during the race. There were cars spinning every single time, but just saving my tires and keeping my nose clean and passing when I could was really the whole strategy.”
Quality teamwork from her Lee Faulk Racing crew and her maturity behind the wheel resulted in lasting memories that will go beyond the calendar year. In this case, Robusto’s success transcended the confines of beloved Southeastern asphalt arenas.
“We got some wins this year and some really good finishes and some big races,” she stated. “So, (we) definitely checked all the boxes that we had kind of set at the beginning of the year and it was more of a learning year for me personally.”
Moreover, Robusto smiled when she considered who she shared her successful season with, particularly with the team that she represents during each late model stock car weekend.
“I think we came out of it with some pretty good achievements and just being able to race with such a great team,” she remarked. “Everybody who is in late model stock racing knows who Lee Faulk Racing is and being able to be their driver and kind of the driver that they all work for and are super close to is really nice.
“And just being able to go to the racetrack with them every week and learn and talk and both on and off the track, even at the shop, being able to work there during the weeks on the cars and learning all of the things from the different guys at the shop means a bunch.”
Before Robusto can consider the 2023 season, she is preparing for a welcoming, relaxing holiday season. Undoubtedly, she does not possess a “bah humbug” attitude with Christmas just around the corner.
“I kinda like, I guess, the classics that everyone likes, but probably like “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bells,” something upbeat more would probably be my go-to,” she observed in terms of favorite holiday tunes.
Perhaps “Jingle Bell Rock” will be another tune that Robusto will enjoy after a rocking season in the bullrings of the Southeast.