Isabella Robusto Shines in Long-Awaited ARCA Menards Debut

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

Isabella Robusto didn’t skip a beat when she returned to racing following a concussion suffered in a crash last season as she shined in her ARCA Menards Series debut at Phoenix Raceway.

027a0829 copy
Isabella Robusto. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

The driver of the No. 55 Mobil 1 Toyota Camry was slated to make her debut in 2023. However, an accident in a CARS Tour race one week prior to her scheduled debut left her sidelined with a concussion for 10 months. During that time Robusto served as a driver coach for up-and-coming drivers and continued her students as an aerospace engineering student at Arizona State University.

Finally getting her opportunity to compete in ARCA, the Fort Mill, S.C. native drove through the field in the first half of the General Tire 150. Robusto passed 2023 ARCA West champion Sean Hingorani and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Grant Enfinger to move into third before the halfway break.

Repeated cautions in the second half of the scheduled 150-lap race saw Robusto slip back to eighth. Her car was better on the long run and came back to life around 50 laps to go in the scheduled distance. The 19-year-old climbed back up to sixth before the final caution waved for weather, which ultimately shortened the race by 35 laps.

“It’s unreal, I wish we had one less caution there or that the race went about 15 laps longer,” Robusto said on Fox Sports 1. “The car was definitely way better on the long runs; we saw that in the first half (of the race). I was able to run up to third place and was running down second there for a while. Had a really good car, can’t thank Venturini, Mobil 1, and Toyota enough. My Toyota Camry was really fast.”

Arca0267 copy
Isabella Robusto’s car. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Robusto was not the only driver making their ARCA debut at Phoenix. Her Venturini Motorsports teammate, Gio Ruggiero, was among those also making their debut in the 150-lap race. Both drivers struggled in the aero wash and dirty air, a new experience for them. Robusto also acknowledged that she has to work on her restarts as well.

“I think that I have a lot that I need to go back and watch and learn from for this, restarts and learning how the air works is going to be the main things that I need to go and research before we go back for the next race,” Robusto observed on Fox Sports 1.

Robusto’s debut was also a history making one. It marked the first time that three women were teammates in the ARCA Menards Series West, which race in combination with the National Series. Robusto was teamed with Amber Balcaen and Toni Breidinger in addition to Ruggiero. It was the second time in the National Series that a team had three women as teammates, a benchmark set by Venturini at Chicagoland in 2018.

Of the three women competing as teammates for Venturini at Phoenix, Robusto was the highest finishing driver. Breidinger also scored a top-10 finish in ninth with Balcaen 15th. Ruggiero finished second after he traded the lead back and forth with eventual race winner William Sawalich.

One year removed from her scheduled debut, Robusto has finally completed her recovery from the concussion last year. The Toyota Racing Development driver is competing across a plethora of series from Late Models to ARCA and more.

Despite sitting on the sidelines and being forced to watch others drive her car, Robusto never lost her drive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *