NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — NASCAR racing may not be the sport of choice for most New Yorkers, but the latest racing prodigy comes from Long Island and isn’t even old enough to drive. That’s not stopping Giovanni Bromante from racing – and winning.
At just 14 years old, he’s a surprising sight to the middle-aged men who see him get out of his race car.
“I hop out of the car and they think ‘Is that kid driving that car?,'” Bromante told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer. “They just don’t want me up there cause I’m 14 years old, and I shouldn’t be up there, but I am… somehow.”
His family owns a 1965 Impala SS with a McBetts Racing Engine producing 700 horsepower, a perfect car for a racing champion, even if it’s driven by Gionvanni’s mother, Stacey.
“It was a very scary decision,” she said about letting her son race. “I had a child that didn’t want to play with LEGOs or Matchbox cars.”
So Giovanni raced, and in doing so has been winning ever since he was in pre-school.
“Racing has been my life since I was 4 years old,” he said. “I haven’t known anything different.”
Currently a driver for Anthony Campi Racing in the Pro Late Model Series – think of it like the minor leagues of NASCAR – Giovanni hopes to be at NASCAR’s highest level by the age of 20. While most “cup drivers” are from Southern states, last year’s champion, Martin Truex Jr., is from New Jersey.
Last year, Giovanni started the season dead last, but he didn’t finish there.
“It’s just really a thrill with all that speed,” he said. “Everything is in your control. The steering wheel, the gas, the brake – everything is in your control.”
He youth also expands his experience by training on track knowledge at home with his own professional grade race simulator.
“It really gives me that edge before going to the track,” Giovanni said. “I got right on the track and it felt like I was driving there forever.”
The rig is the most advanced racing experience possible, with authentic wheel resistance and weighted pedals.
“I can do as many laps as I want and it won’t cost a dime if I crash,” he said, much to the relief of his parents. “That’s all that matters.”
It’s hard work for Giovanni, with training three to four times a week for endurance, traveling to races and spending 30 hours a week in home school. While he’s trying to live life like a normal teenager, a normal 14-year-old usually doesn’t live life on the edge risking his life and avoiding deadly crashes.
“A guy clipped me and I went head-on into the wall at over 130 mph,” Giovanni said.
“It was really scary,” recalled his mom. “I didn’t hear his voice for the first couple minutes. They were asking if he was OK and he didn’t respond. I didn’t know which way to run to see him to find him to hug him.”
For a normal teenager, that might slow him down, or maybe lead his parents to have a change of heart. Not so in this family.
“I walked away, and got back in the car the next weekend, and won the race,” Giovanni said.
In a race where he started dead last, this 14-year-old beat a field of veteran drivers, but you wont hear him gloat.
“You just have to have respect for these older guys,” said Giovanni. “If you don’t have respect, you won’t get far.”
And as for earning their respect?
“I’m working on it,” he said.
“His smile melts me,” said mom Stacey. “He’s just a precious boy. He’s still 14 no matter what.””
At NASCAR’s highest level there are currently four drivers age 22 or younger, and one young prodigy coming down the road.
“It’s just really great to be a part of it in this generation,” said Giovanni “Maybe one day I won’t make it, but I know in my heart I’ve tried my best and that’s really all that matters.”