Toni Breidinger makes NASCAR history as first Arab-American female driver

By Layal Srour
March 15, 2021

At just 21 years old, she made history as not just the first Arab-American female driver for NASCAR, but she also made history when she was 19, breaking records as the only woman to claim the title of a “19-time United States Auto Club (USAC) race champion.”

Toni Breidinger, of Lebanese descent, discovered her love for the motorsport when her father took her and her twin sister go-kart riding at the age of 9. He later bought her a go-kart after realizing her love and passion for the sport.

Toni Breidinger riding the go-kart at 9-years-old with her sister and father.
Photo via Instagram.

In an interview with CBS, she said, “As soon as I got into a go-kart for my first time, I was like, ‘I want to be a race car driver.'”

When Breidinger watched the race last year, she set a goal for herself that she would be racing on that track the following year, and she did.

In February, Breidinger was finally able to make her debut on the NASCAR track competing on two of NASCAR’s top four series – the Young’s Motorsports and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. She made two goals for herself during this race, completing both goals by “staying out of trouble and finishing the race,” which she completed at 18th place in her goal as making Top 20.

In a white, male-dominated sport, Breidinger says that gender does not matter to her.

“There’s never been a point in time where I’m just standing there like, ‘Wow, I’m the only girl here,'” Breidinger said. “The car doesn’t know gender. The track doesn’t know gender. Gender is so irrelevant. As soon as the helmet comes on, everybody is just a driver out there.”

Toni Breidinger with her No. 2 car headed to Florida for her NASCAR debut.
Photo via Instagram.

Since finishing her race in Florida, she is looking to place in the top 15 in the Phoenix Raceway track on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

Although she may be a winner on the NASCAR track, Breidinger joked about not being a great driver off the track. “The only thing I’m not good at is directions. Whenever we’re going places, I’m not allowed to drive because I always get lost,” Breidinger said.

She added that Daytona is a good fit for her because “I usually just turn left, so I can’t get lost.”

Upon being the first Arab-American female driver, she told Ellen DeGeneres that this was “a dream come true.” She hopes that she can be an inspiration for other female Arab-American drivers, saying, “Everyone wants to be the first. I also don’t want to be the last.”

In a way, I look up to Breidinger because although she is only one or two years older than me, she has accomplished so much at a young age, especially being Lebanese and making history in a male-dominated sport.

I hope to someday make not necessarily history, but just an impact on people as a Lebanese-American journalist in my future career.

I have already been able to accomplish this feat by being the only Muslim and Lebanese-American staff writer and editor of the Loquitur, as well as being just the second Muslim CRS president and second Muslim classroom coach for Dr. Zurek’s ECG class.

 

Layal Srour

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