NASCAR’s first Arab American female driver just made her debut

NASCAR has historically been a sport that’s dominated by white male drivers, but that might be slowly changing. This past weekend, Bubba Wallace became the first Black driver to lead a lap in the Daytona 500 race, and 21-year-old Toni Breidinger made her Daytona debut in the Camping World Truck Series, becoming the first female Arab American driver to participate in a national NASCAR race.

“I’m honored and excited to be the first, but I don’t want to be the last, she told CNN. “I hope I can pave the way for future female Arab drivers as well.”

She hopes her debut on the track is just the first move toward NASCAR’s elite Cup Series.

“Daytona has always been on my bucket list to race at,” she told CNN. “Every driver’s dream is to race there one day. It’s such a historic track. It’s a step in the right direction to hopefully race in the Daytona 500 one day.”

Breidinger, who is of Lebanese ancestry, shared this image on Facebook in November, calling  that day’s race “a solid end to the season”:

She also posted photos the day before her debut on the Daytona International Speedway, writing on Facebook, “Race day tomorrow. Let’s go”:

As a 9-year-old growing up in California, Breidinger raced go-karts with her twin sister, Annie, and that experience started her on the path to becoming a professional race car driver.

“As soon as I got into a go-kart, I really just knew,” said Breidinger to CNN. “I’ve always had so much passion for it. I love the competition, the adrenaline rush. I’m hooked on it.” (Annie has also raced cars.)

It appears she’s still hooked on go-karts, because she recently posted a photo of herself on one:

Among her other professional accomplishments, Breidinger is a 19-time United States Auto Club winner and placed in the top 10 at Madison International Speedway in the 2018 ARCA Menards Series.

However, while she may be breaking barriers as the first female Arab American to be behind the wheel at a NASCAR race, when she is in the car competing, she wants people to know that she is just like any other NASCAR driver.

“When the helmet comes on and I’m racing, it’s not about being a female driver anymore,” she told CNN. “I’m just like anyone else trying to get to the finish line.”