United States: Lebanese American Toni Breidinger shatters stereotypes of Arab Americans and women, setting records as one of the country’s most successful race car drivers and hoping to be a positive role model for advancement goals of young women.
As a guest on the US Arab Radio Network’s ‘The Ray Hanania Show’, sponsored by Arab News – Breidinger spoke about his career as a driver in the NASCAR Cup Series (36 races over 10 months), including Xfinity Series, ARCA Menards West Series and recently at Talladega Superspeedway on September 24 where it hit a top speed of 185 miles per hour.
One of the few women and the only Arab woman in motor racing history, the 21-year-old Californian strives to break through the male-dominated sports industry and has 19 wins at the US Auto Club (USAC) , an all-time record for a female driver.
“There really aren’t that many women, especially. There are different series in NASCAR and as you get into the higher series there are fewer and fewer women, ”Briedinger said.
“But there are a lot of young girls getting into the sport, which is really exciting. The next few years are going to see a lot more women, which is exciting, even as non-pilots as engineers. Just in the pit area I saw a lot more female faces and it’s really exciting. “
Briedinger made history by competing in an ARCA Menards NASCAR regional series at Daytona International Speedway.
Although she finished 18th out of 33 competitors, Breidinger led two other female pilots. There are 10 women but over 150 men competing in the various NASCAR series this year.
“Yeah, it was really tough. For me, I don’t see myself as any different. I always say that the car or the track don’t both see gender, your background or your ethnicity. So to me all of us… everyone is a race car driver, ”said Breidinger.
“I don’t see myself as much different. But I feel like it might be a little harder to gain respect and be taken seriously in some cases. For the most part, I consider myself a pilot like everyone else. “
One challenge, noted Breidinger, is being able to participate in the competition and that requires costs.
She hopes to compete in 29 races next year, but this competition requires sponsors.
Her schedule lists five big races coming through September, but to get to the NASCAR national competition she would need more.
Last week, she announced that she was signing a new sponsorship with Huda Beauty, owned by US-Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan.
Its sponsors include Head and Shoulders brand sponsors, Sunny D, Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS, Tory Burch, Sparco and Bell Helmets.
“Running is an expensive sport as I’m sure a lot of people can imagine. It is difficult to get a sponsorship. And I think some people might not take you that seriously, especially the manufacturers, ”Breidinger said.
“Companies that have been around for a while may not take you seriously and it’s just hard to earn their respect and reassure them that you can go out there and win and do your part about it. It has certainly been a bit of a challenge. We are working on the race, hopefully, in a full season. For the moment, we have just committed to 10 races. We are working hard to ensure that this sponsorship can run for a full season. “
Breidinger is described by the professional racing industry as “the United States Auto Club’s (USAC) Most Winning Driver” and her record is impressive.
A recent NASCAR story predicted her trajectory would become the very first Arab-American woman and driver to compete in a NASCAR National Series event when she made her Camping World Truck Series debut with Young’s Motorsports in 2021.
“There is definitely a risk. I have never been afraid during a race. I think you just need to stay focused, ”Briedinger conceded.
“It’s an adrenaline rush, for sure. You are less than an inch from the cars around you going 180 miles an hour. You are an inch from the wall. It’s intense. Everyone is doing their best to win. It’s definitely a very intense atmosphere. But I have never been afraid during a race. I’m just always so focused. “
Breidinger, whose mother is Lebanese and father – German-American, said her interest in racing started innocently when her father took her and her twin sister Annie to go kart racing.
“It all started in the karts. I just went karting when I was a kid just for fun. I was nine years old. My dad took me and my twin sister Annie to the kart track for the weekend just like a family activity, ”said Breidinger.
“He wasn’t trying to get anything out of it. But I fell in love with it and so did my sister. So we just started running and traveling around the country for races. Right from there, climb the racing ranks. “
For more information on Toni Breidinger or to follow her racing career, follow her on Twitter @ToniBreidinger or visit her website at ToniBredinger.com.
The Ray Hanania Show airs live every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700 on the Arab American Radio Network, and is sponsored by Arab News. The show is broadcast live to millions of subscribers on Facebook.com/ArabNews.
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