Family cheers on the racing Robustos

mbanks@comporium.netJuly 22, 2013 

— Sometimes sibling rivalries start at an early age. For Will and Isabella Robusto, that rivalry started in the womb.

They are the 8-year-old twins of Baxter residents Chris and Kerri Robusto. Isabella beat Will out of the womb by several minutes and the two have been competing ever since and not just with each other.

And the sport of choice for the two isn’t one that is easy or cheap – it’s racing. Not shoes to the ground running type racing, but Days of Thunder, wheels-to-the-pavement type racing.

The twins are in their first year of Bandolero car racing and are participating in the 10-week Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway this summer.

Although Isabella can always hold it over Will’s head that she is the firstborn, Will had a breakthrough recently with his first racing win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bandolero racing is an entry-level division into racing where cars can get up to 70 mph. However, the cars the Robusto twins drive around the track have governors on them so their top speed hits about 50. The cars look like that of miniature stock cars with a tube frame and sheet metal cage.

Drivers enter the cars an opening in the roof that looks like an escape hatch. Most drivers range from age 8 to 16. Cars are raced on a quarter mile to 4/10 of a mile oval track, as well as road courses and dirt tracks.

Cars have roughly 150 working parts and are a step-up from go-kart racing, which the Robustos also compete in.

“There is a tremendous amount to keep up with,” Chris Robusto said. “It’s set up just like NASCAR.”

Because they are in their first year of racing Bandoleros, the Robustos are in the Beginner Bandits division as part of the Summer Shootout. The Bandolero cars run roughly $5,500 each to build and with each Robusto having one, the sport can get expensive.

Victory lane

The Robusto twins got their first Bandolero cars at Christmas last year and have been driving them ever since.

When they decided to do the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, mom Kerri Robusto admitted it was nerve-wracking.

“It’s very exciting and you get caught up in it,” she said. “But it’s also hard to believe it’s your 8-year-old(s) out there.”

The Summer Shootout last 10 weeks with different division racing on the track along the front stretch and through pit row. Eight lap heat races are run to see where racers will start in the 15 to 20 lap main race.

Both Will and Isabella have enjoyed the step up from go-karts.

Isabella didn’t hold back her reasons.

“I’m the only girl out there and I get to race against boys,” she said. “It’s pretty hard to get a second or first place.”

Isabella said, win or lose, if she finishes in front of Will, it was a good race.

Will agreed with his sister to some extent, saying he likes to finish in front of her.

“It is a lot of fun,” he said. “I like going fast.”

In their heat race, Isabella out performed her brother and qualified third out of nine drives. Will had car problems and qualified seventh.

Between the heat race and qualifying, both Will and Isabella met with their coach Evan York, who worked them through how to run the track better. While that was happening, the entire rear end of Will’s car was swapped out by his crew hoping to rectify any trouble he was having in the heat race.

Whatever they did worked, because in the main race, Will took the lead with about two laps to go getting around the track in about 20 seconds per lap to take the checker flag to get his first win of any kind.

A less reserved Will at that point, couldn’t stop smiling afterwards.

“It was real hard to win,” he said. “I thought there were 20 laps (instead of 15) and when I saw the white flag, I knew I had it. I happy there weren’t 20 laps because the 8 and 14 (cars) were catching me.”

Isabella finished sixth after getting caught up in an accident, putting a damper on her chances at a win.

Family affair

Racing is a family affair for the Robustos. Chris Robusto has always been into racing and races himself with the help of his father, Jerry, in endurance races. Grandpa Jerry serves as a crew chief for both Will and Isabella.

The Robustos are so serious about Will and Isabella’s racing, they have hired a coach in Evan York of York Motorsports to teach them the ins and outs of driving. York says that both Will and Isabella are loaded with talent to be so young.

“They started off in the middle of the pack, but have consistently put together top three and top five finishes,” York said. “It will only be a matter of time before they are moving up to bandits (the faster Bandoleros).”

For that to happen, a racer must win three races in their division before they can move up. But that isn’t a given. There are some 14-year-olds that are still racing in the division looking for that first win.

“It takes some time,” York said. “It is rare you find kids that talented.”

But the Robustos may have a head start on the field.

Starting young

Although just 8 years old, the Robusto twins already had two years of racing experience under their belt, when they started racing Bandoleros.

Chris Robusto took his kids to Victory Lane Indoor Karting track in Charlotte when they were 6 and put them behind the wheel. Hoping he had passed things down to his children, just like his father did to him, Will and Isabella took to racing like a fish to water.

From there, they started racing go-karts at places like Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw and around other parts of the Carolinas.

Chris Robusto said they can run year round racing different tracks in the area. Robusto said he isn’t sure what the future holds for his kids in racing, but as long as they are happy and enjoying the sport, he and mom, Kerri, will be right there to cheer them on.

Neither of the twins had won in the karting series through their first two years of competing, but the experience helped lead to the breakthrough last week in Charlotte for Will.

Knowing Isabella, she isn’t far behind.

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