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Isabella Robusto Shines in ARCA Menards Series Debut

Isabella Robusto

Isabella Robusto made her ARCA Menards Series debut on Friday, March 8th at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.

Her start came in the General Tire 150 driving the No. 55 entry for Venturini Motorsports. Robusto was intended to make her ARCA debut last year, but a last-lap crash while battling for the lead in a CARS Pro Late Model race at Hickory Motor Speedway resulted in a concussion. In turn, her plans for a Series start were scrapped and her racing career was put on halt.

Robusto knocked off the rust with select starts throughout the second half of 2023. In December, Lee Pulliam Performance announced her signing for most of this year’s Late Model Stock schedule. Additionally, Robusto confirmed an extended partnership with Toyota Racing as a member of their Driver Development Program. Her re-signing opened the door for a second chance in the ARCA Menards Series.

 

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A post shared by Isabella Robusto (@isabellarobusto55)

 

A Run to Remember

It did not take long for 19-year-old Isabella Robusto to impress. The rising star ran 21 laps in Phoenix practice, laying down the 5th fastest lap of the 43-car field. In qualifying, a lap time of 27.706 set her position for 6th in Friday’s race. This lap ranked as the second fastest of her Venturini teammates with Gio Ruggiero starting 3rd, Kris Wright in 9th, Toni Breidinger in 11th, and Amber Balcaen in 16th.

The field was a combination of drivers from both the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series West as 40 cars took pace on the mile racetrack. Lap of the General Tire 150 saw three cars crash in the back of the field. The ensuing restart saw Robusto shuffled back to eighth place before encountering the longest run of the night.

Over 30 to 40 laps, the 19-year-old clawed her way methodically to the front of the pack. Former NASCAR Truck Series driver Jack Wood, last year’s Phoenix victor Tyler Reif, and Rev Racing sophomore Andres Perez were the first three passes en route to a Top 5 running position. Robusto then climbed her way to 3rd with passes over 2023 ARCA Menards Series West Champion Sean Hingorani and longtime veteran Grant Enfinger.

Isabella Robusto was closing in on second place William Sawalich before an incident among drivers on Lap 62. The restart was followed almost immediately by a caution due to a spinning Greg Van Alst. Two laps ran before ARCA’s race-break caution on lap 75.

An Unwanted Bolt

On the second-half restart, Robusto settled in 5th after getting passed by Enfinger and Hingorani. With 55 to go, a near-incident resulted after three-wide contact with Reif and Wood. Slight damage to the right side was not enough to deter her performance as she would comfortably in position No. 6.

The action drew to a pause when lightning and rain coursed its way through the area. After an extended red flag, the race General Tire 150 was officially called at lap 115.

Robusto finished her first-ever ARCA Menards Series race in 6th. Sawalich was awarded his 5th career victory. 17-year-old Ruggiero, who also made his ARCA debut (excluding the East Series), impressed all night with laps led and a 2nd-place finish.

 

What’s Next?

Fort Mills, South Carolina native Isabella Robusto began racing at five years old. Her beginnings consisted of competition in various go-karts and Bandoleros before transitioning to Legend Cars and Late Models. In 2018, Robusto was selected as the youngest-ever member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program and later competed in 2022’s Advance Auto Parts Weekly Touring Series. She has balanced her racing career across multiple sports including basketball, football, high jump, and pro cycling. Robusto also is in pursuit of a degree in Aerospace Engineering.

The impressive performance caught the attention of many fans across social media. It is unknown whether or not she will make additional starts in the ARCA Menards Series later this year. Her Friday from start to finish proved she is deserving of a seat.

With a personal goal to win the NASCAR Cup Series Title, it is safe to say we will see Robusto behind the wheel again soon.

Stay tuned here at LWOS Motorsports for NASCAR news, results, updates, and more.

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