Toni Breidinger Races through Barriers as the First Arab-American Female NASCAR Driver
When Toni Breidinger was nine years old, she and her twin sister Annie took a trip to Sonoma Raceway with their dad Charles to have some fun with go-karts. That afternoon prompted both girls to have a need for speed.
From that moment on Toni Breidinger hasn't looked back. She's the all-time winningest female in United State Auto Club (USAC) history with 190 wins, a record that help her move into NASCAR's ARCA Menards Series. Even though Annie took a different route, getting her degree at Purdue University and has a full-time job, she still gets behind the wheel of a race car at times.
In February of this year, Toni Breidinger made history as NASCAR's first Arab-American female drive, when she raced in the ARCA Menard Series at the Daytona International Speedway, finishing in 18th place of out 33, ahead of the two other women who competed.
Breidinger joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about her rising career on the track, her huge social media following, and her recent partnership with Triller.
"I love being able to interact with my fans. I feel like social media is a big part of my life. That's why I also think my partnership with Triller recently was really a great fit just cause I love social media. I'm always on it. I love interacting with my fan base and growing it. I like having a fan base that's worldwide and just very diverse. I think social media is a great way to achieve that. I don't picture myself as anyone different. I don't really put labels on myself, but when people gravitated to my story, I started getting messages saying I was an inspiration. I was like I can do something with this. I kind of have a role to play. I just think representation is so important. That's what I also another reason why I like to use social media. It just helps who show other young girls that hey you can do this."
Breidinger is driving the #25 Triller Toyota Camry after recently switching to Venturini Motorsports, a Toyota Racing Development team, for the remainder of the 2021 season.
"I'm really excited. I think this is a really great fit and a great opportunity for both me and Triller. Triller has a social media platform to reach a large fan base and to be able to share my content and my story in my racing journey. I think we're going to create really cool content on and off the track."
Plenty of fans are indeed enjoying her YouTube videos and social media posts already, topping more than a million followers on TikTok.
Breidinger grew up in Hillsborough, California but now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She says she's returned to the Sonoma Raceway in California a few times to reminisce about where that passion to be a race car driver all began.
"My dad didn't really mean to have us get into racing aside from just going to the go-kart track that day. It was just supposed to be something for fun and kind of a one-day deal. Me and my twin sister Annie just fell in love with it, like we won't to do this every single day. So my dad got a us a go-kart and it kind of just went off from there, we just traveled all over the country doing go-kart races. I just knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life."
Breidinger realizes at the age of 22 she could be a part of NASCAR for many years.
"Definitely. I going to go wherever life takes me but I do want a long career and if I am racing in my 40's then cool, but I think it's kind of wherever life takes you. I don't try to plan too far in advance. I keep my plans to kind of a like a five-year plan. But even then I feel like you know it's good to have goals for yourself but if you're not hitting those goals the exact time you wanted to, just don't get sidetracked by that and don't let that discourage you."
Breidinger is proud of her heritage and talks to her mom every day.
"My mom was born in Lebanon and moved to America to pretty much chase that American Dream and to see what kind of opportunities she could have here and have a different life. She's a big part of my life. We'll FaceTime. I really don't get to see her that often, especially with COVID, she hasn't been able to travel to my races. So I'm hopefully next year she can come out to a few. She's definitely my biggest cheerleader and supporter. Nobody is a bigger fan than her. I feel like I've learned different things from my mom and my dad. They're two very different people. Anything I do my mom is going to tell me I'm doing great and my dad is a little bit harder as far a coaching. Growing up he was kind of like my coach in racing, so I think it's more like tough love from him. They both taught me confidence."
Toni also gets to cheer on her sister Annie this weekend.
"I get nervous when she races. I don't get any nerves when I'm racing. I'm sure she'll be doing great. We did every race together until she went to college in Indiana and I decided to to take my racing career to the next level and moved to North Carolina. But up until that point, we pretty much did everything together."
Working with Venturini Motorsports and the Toyota Racing Development team has given Toni plenty to be excited about.
"I think we're going to do really well this season. They have really coached me a lot even doing just one race with them. I feel like we're going to grow a lot this season with them. I have teammates and I didn't have them before. So it's kind of nice to have some team members on the racetrack because when you're on these big tracks like Daytona and Talladega, it's nice to have that buddy to draft with. So I feel like that hurt us a little earlier this year when we raced at those tracks because I didn't have buddy and I didn't know any other of the drivers being a rookie. Drafting is pretty crazy especially we you're on these super speedways. Drafting makes the biggest difference. If you're by yourself and you're just out there and there's two cars or four cars drafting together, they will blow right by you and you probably can't even get behind them. They'll just pass you. So it's all about aerodynamics. It comes into play a lot when you're on these bigger tracks."
You can see the entire SportsJam interview with Toni Breidinger at https://fb.watch/7oXKpUb2fC/.