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16-Year-Old NASCAR Driver Brodie Kostecki’s Visit to WakeMed

School, high school sports, dating, friends and the big goal of, yes, getting my driver’s license are some of the things I remember about being 16.  Aside from a few major shifts in technology during the past 30 years, it’s likely not much has changed.  Unless you’re Brodie Kostecki.

(l to r) Scully & Brodie visit a patient in the WakeMed Children's Hospital

Wow.  This kid is really focused on the future and, apparently, has been his entire life.  His focus is on a career in auto racing and it’s in his blood.  His dad, Andrew, used to drag race and has been around the sport for many years.  He passed on his love of the sport to Brodie, who began driving go karts at age 4.

The commitment that Brodie and his entire family have to Brodie’s career and the sport in general is the stuff movies are made of.  When the time came for him to take his career to the international stage (at the ripe old age of about 10), Brodie, his mom and dad and his two sisters left their home in Perth, Australia for the United States.  Today, they are settled in Mooresville, NC.

“We sold everything,” Andrew told me during their visit with patients in the WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital and the WakeMed Children’s Hospital.  The family even lived in a mobile trailer for many months before they could afford a home with the right kind of “shop” they could use to work on Brodie’s car.

Once in the United States, Brodie transitioned to the United States Auto Club series and achieved more wins than any other driver his age in USAC history.  Today, Brodie, who just turned 16 (I learned from the Kosteckis that 14 is NASCAR’s minimum age requirement) races in the NASCAR K & N Series.

Elizabeth Penny, Scully's handler, and Brodie visit with a spinal cord injury patient.

If character and discipline have anything to do with success, Brodie, in my estimation, is on the right track.  Instead of racking up cell phone charges and hanging out at the mall, Brodie is home schooled.  Because the interior of his car can reach 120 degrees when he is racing, he has to be in top shape, which means hours at the gym, not to mention hours behind the wheel on the family’s race car simulator.  Many of his friends are those he races against with his simulator and at actual races, which he and his dad go to most weekends.  At first, learning about his disciplined schedule made me think that maybe he’s missing out on the things “normal kids” do.  But I quickly realized that Brodie is different.  He has a true appreciation for what he is doing and respect for the sport.  And, he is meeting people and going places most people dream about.

On top of all he is doing, he has chosen to partner with Canine Companions for Independence to help boost awareness about the amazing ways assistance dogs provide life-enhancing services to people with disabilities.  I understand he is the first driver in NASCAR to serve as an ambassador for this extremely important organization.

At WakeMed, we were so proud that Brodie chose our Rehabilitation and Children’s Hospitals for his first-ever hospital visit as a Canine Companions for Independence ambassador.  And Brodie certainly got quite an indoctrination.  The WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital is home to highly comprehensive spinal cord injury and brain injury programs.  Because of our advanced emergency and trauma medical and surgical services, we see many patients who have sustained extreme injuries.  Once medically stabilized, they often move onto intensive inpatient therapy to learn some really tough lessons, like how to navigate the world in a wheelchair or communicate with now-limited speaking abilities.

While following along with Brodie as he visited Rehab patients with Canine Companion Scully (a Lab/retriever mix) and Scully’s handler Elizabeth Penny, a recreational therapist with WakeMed Rehabilitation, it was easy to see Brodie’s maturity shine through.  He treated our Rehab patients with the respect and friendliness they deserve.  He worked to understand patients who can’t speak very well.  And he was quiet and caring with a shy patient whose condition keeps her in a state of what amounts to constant confusion (hard to imagine what it must be like).   I honestly don’t know how many 16-year-olds could demonstrate the maturity and integrity that Brodie brought with him to WakeMed.  It’s usually Scully who steals the show when visiting patients, but it was definitely Brodie’s day. 

I admittedly know absolutely nothing about NASCAR, but I certainly believe the sport is fortunate to have a young man like Brodie amidst its ranks.  Best wishes for many successes and thanks for stopping at WakeMed.   

Becky Scolio is a senior public relations specialist who had the pleasure of escorting Brodie around the hospital.