BOLINGBROOK – Professional drag racer Corbin Mehrbrodt lives by a family credo, a saying passed from his grandfather to his father and now to him: smell trouble before a situation happens; see it and walk away.
The 21-year-old Bolingbrook resident explains that the motto is steeped in auto racing, a passion deeply entrenched in the Mehrbrodt blood line.
"You have to look three steps ahead if you want to be four steps ahead at the finish line," Mehrbrodt said. "If you want to do something on the race track, you should have acted a quarter second prior." Foresight and attention to detail, he asserts, can save a life in a quarter-mile drag race.
"Drag racing is a matter of milliseconds," the up-and-coming driver said. "If you see someone veer in your lane, pull your chute and bring the car back. It's not worth living on the edge for the victory."
For the last year, Mehrbrodt spent 672 hours – he counted – building a drag racer. He put the finishing touches on the vehicle in April – a metallic saffron paint with "PatriotOutreach.org" written in script on the body.
A partner, sponsor and business associate of two years, Mehrbrodt discovered Patriot Outreach after nearly joining the Army following his high school graduation. Now, Mehrbrodt travels with his dragster to VA hospitals and schools, speaking and raising awareness for veterans afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As Mehrbrodt explains, his life's journey has yielded a partnership between racing and military activism.
A native of Troy, Ohion, Mehrbrodt and his family relocated after his father, Brian Mehrbrodt, accepted a position as a regional sales manager in Bolingbrook.
Under the guidance of his dad, then 7-year-old Corbin began racing go-karts then advancing to cage karts and placing third in his age class in the World Karting Association, he said.
He also learned how to build a car – taking apart and assembling engines and clutches when he was in elementary school.
Brian Mehrbrodt, an avid NASCAR and drag racing fan, attests that his son grew up quicker than most children.
"Racing has helped my son mature faster," Brian Mehrbrodt said. "There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with racing and drag racing, and a lot of maturity needed to drive a car of this speed and caliber."
As a high school junior, Mehrbrodt slightly detoured from his professional racing ambitions. During his time on the drag circuit, the Mehrbrodt became enamored with the Army racing team and the Armed Forces and veterans that attended each event.
"They only focused on the task at hand, Corbin Mehrbrodt said. "They had one job to do, and that's they would focus strictly on getting it done. I loved the discipline."
"He always said that he wanted to form a racing team that was just as disciplined as the U.S. Army team," Brian Mehrbrodt added.
Corbin Mehrbrodt enlisted in the Army six months prior to graduation, but opted to forego basic training when his father, Brian, was diagnosed with a medical condition that has physically disabled him.
After graduating from Plainfield North, Corbin Mehrbrodt resumed drag racing, starting the CDL team, named after himself and his two grandfathers, Dean and Leo.
Mehrbrodt has accumulated a handful of corporate sponsors and he currently races in the NHRA, XDRL and ADRL leagues; yet, it is his work with Patriot Outreach that he takes the most pride in.
Collaborating Col. Antonio Monaco, Mehrbrodt regularly visits VA hospitals, displays his dragster and speaks with veterans about their struggles with PTSD.
Earlier this year, he began visiting local schools and sharing his experiences with the military and advocating for veterans' rights.
"PTSD is a serious epidemic," Mehrbrodt said. "It is not something that we can simply push under the rug. I am proud to have worked with so many individuals who are just as dedicated to assisting our veterans."