Toni Breidinger says that when she sat behind the wheel of a go-kart at age 9, she knew she would become a race car driver.
Twelve years later, Breidinger has become the first Arab American female driver to participate in a NASCAR national series, according to NASCAR.
The 21-year-old joined the racing team Young’s Motorsports to race in the 2021 stock car competition ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR’s pick-up truck competition, Camping World Truck Series, which begins with the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida on Saturday.
“I’m honored and excited to be the first, but i don’t want to be the last,” Breidinger, who is of Lebanese descent, told CNN. “I hope I can pave the way for future female Arab drivers as well.”
Breidinger is a 19-time United States Auto Club winner, a record for any female driver, and debuted in the Top 10 at Madison International speedway in ARCA Menards in 2018.
Breidinger said racing on the Daytona speedway “is a dream come true.”
“Daytona has always been on my bucket list to race at. Every driver’s dream is to race there one day,” she said. “It’s such a historic track. It’s a step in the right direction to hopefully race in the Daytona 500 one day.”
Breidinger hopes to one day reach the NASCAR Cup Series, the top racing series.
“As soon as I got into a go-kart, I really just knew,” Breidinger said. “I’ve always had so much passion for it. I love the competition, the adrenaline rush. I’m hooked on it.”
“When the helmet comes on and I’m racing, it’s not about being a female driver anymore. I’m just like anyone else trying to get to the finish line,” she said.
Breidinger will be driving Young Motorsports’ #02 Chevrolet SS car for the ARCA Menards race and their #82 Chevrolet Silverado for the Camping World Truck series.
“We’re working diligently to strengthen diversity across the sport and the diverse makeup of our drivers represents an important part of that mission,” Brandon Thompson, NASCAR vice president of diversity and inclusion, told CNN. “We want women and people of color to see themselves represented in our competitors because it’s those connection points that will help NASCAR grow and become more diverse.”
The Lucas Oil 200, an 80-lap, 200-mile race, is the first of 20 races on the 2021 ARCA Menards Series schedule.
The season-opener for the 69th ARCA season begins around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and live streamed on ARCARacing.com.