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ARCA Sensation Toni Breidinger Divulges Struggles of ‘Imposter’ Feeling in Male-Dominated NASCAR

Published 03/27/2024, 2:57 PM EDT

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Women rarely venture into the rough and rowdy field of motorsport. But Toni Breidinger and others are reversing stereotypes and taking big strides in racing. She aced it in 2023, fetching four top-fives and seven top-tens in the final races of the ARCA Menards Series.

Yet behind the curtain of glamor lies a life of struggle for the racer who is also a Victoria’s Secret model. Natalie Decker recently shattered ‘daddy’s girl’ rumors about her career. Breidinger also revealed a similar thorny path laid down by her doubters.

Toni Breidinger found it hard to call racing her own

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Racing full-time in the ARCA Menards Series for Venturini Motorsports, Breidinger has come a long way. In her nascent racing career, she had fetched 19 United States Automobile Club (USAC) victories. Then she grabbed attention and transitioned from open-wheel midget cars to stock cars.

Yet in her stock car racing journey, Breidinger faced several hurdles. One of them was that she felt like she did not belong. Talking to the Athletic, she said, “I don’t want to speak for other females in the sport, but for myself, sometimes coming up through this sport, I felt like I didn’t belong. I had an imposter syndrome, and I felt like I just got here by chance. People through the sport would just be like, “Oh, you got that because you’re a girl.” And it would kind of get in my head.”

Breidinger then detailed how she scrambled out of that imposter dilemma. She relied on her mental health coach’s help. “So she worked with me on that inner confidence and knowing I belong, and I didn’t just happen to be here. I’ve been working for it since I was 9 years old. That’s something we worked a lot on last year.”

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Toni Breidinger entered the ARCA Series at the age of 18. And she made heads turn by scoring a top-ten spot in her series debut at Madison International Speedway. Her career took off in 2021 when she was trumpeted as the first female Arab-American driver to compete in a NASCAR national series race. Sponsors came in waves to support her racing journey.

Breidinger also made a few starts in the Craftsman Truck Series under Victoria’s Secret sponsorship. Last year she finished 15th in her series debut at Kansas Speedway. She also scored a pair of top-20 finishes. This year, her goal is set on mounting the ARCA Championship pedestal.

Besides tackling her imposter syndrome, Toni Breidinger works hard to promote diversity in the sport.

Breidinger’s social media juggernaut promoting diversity

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Toni Breidinger currently stands as one of the most popular NASCAR stars. A whopping 2.2 million people currently follow her on Instagram, and she uses this herculean popularity for a noble cause. Being one of the few women in motorsport, Breidinger is intent on enhancing the diversity appeal of NASCAR. She stressed that point while talking about an unusual opinion about the sport.

“People see it as a very White, male-dominated sport, but there’s a lot more diversity in it. And it still needs a lot of work. But that’s the general population’s stereotype of the sport. For me, it’s what I like to use my social media for — to show there’s a new wave of drivers coming up who are much more diverse and love to share more on social media and behind-the-scenes stuff than some of the older drivers do.”

Breidinger’s popularity goes hand in hand with her unmatched resilience to soar to great heights in motorsports.

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Written by:

Sumedha Mukherjee

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Sumedha Mukherjee is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports who is known for her in-depth track analysis as well as her lifestyle coverage of Cup drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Inspired by the Kiwi's journey so far, Sumedha has also written pieces on Shane Van Gisbergen, predicting how the Supercars Champion would do in the new and unfamiliar American setting. Pairing her research skills with her vast experience as a writer, Sumedha creates stories her readers can easily get lost in.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh