Toni Breidinger Talks Breaking Barriers, Sexism & More on I AM NASCAR

Plus! NASCAR’s VP of Diversity & Inclusion Brandon Thompson Stops By To Discuss Bringing the Sport To New Fans
“I don’t care if you don’t like that I’m a female driver.
The car doesn’t know that I’m a woman, and that’s
the only thing that matters,” – Breidinger
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 24, 2021) – A new class of diverse drivers are in NASCAR’s future, including the sport’s first Arab-American woman driver Toni Breidinger, who gave her perspective on breaking barriers and much more in the latest episode of I AM NASCAR which debuts on the I AM ATHLETE (IAA) podcast YouTube page today at 12 p.m. ET (watch HERE).
“The idea that the car doesn’t know gender, break that down for us,” asked IAA founder and host Brandon Marshall, who was joined by his co-hosts and fellow former NFL stars Chad Ochocinco, Channing Crowder and “Unc” Fred Taylor.
“I don’t care if you don’t like that I’m a female driver,” said Breidinger. “The car doesn’t know that I’m a woman, and that’s the only thing that matters. I get sexist comments pretty often. I don’t see myself as any different than other drivers though. If you do, that’s your issue. I don’t think about breaking barriers, but if I am, that’s cool. To me, I’m just doing me.”
The 21-year-old Breidinger, who is of Lebanese and German descent, has competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series. She is also the all-time winningest female in the United States Auto Club’s history with 19 wins. Before her great success, she dreamed of one day reaching these heights since she was nine-years-old, even if she had trouble being taken seriously at first.
“I used to tell my parents all the time that I was going to be a racecar driver,” said Breidinger. “They definitely thought it was just going to be a phase, but it’s not.”
In a male-dominated sport, Breidinger’s focus on her goal has allowed her to not get swallowed up by all that comes with her groundbreaking performances.
“There’s never been a time where I’m in the garage or in the pit, and I thought about being the only girl there,” said Breidinger. “I don’t know if that’s just being naïve or focused, but it doesn’t really cross my mind. I’ve just had to prove myself a little bit more. People always ask me about getting married and having kids, but I just want to race cars. They think I’m going to flake out at some point, but I’m committed.”
Marshall jumps in to dig deeper into her beginnings in the profession, relating it to his own experiences in college.
“I feel like there’s a moment in every athlete’s life that is defining in some way,” explained Marshall. “For me, it’s when I was in college and I wasn’t balling, and I went to a tattoo parlor and got ‘born a star’ tattooed on me. I had to remind myself that I’m a star. Even though nobody knew my name at that time, I had to remember who I was. I’m interested to hear if you had a similar experience.”
“Once I got into it and moved away from home, I realized how hard it is,” said Breidinger. “It was lonely and I was also naïve. I certainly realized that I’m really alone out here in many ways. But you have to have the fire. You have to truly want it. It has to be your top priority. You have to sacrifice. If you really work for something, it’s so much better when you get to it.”
After Breidinger expanded on some of the disappointment she’s faced in her career, Marshall offered his mentality on how to work through those downturns.
“Just keep your head down and keep going,” said Marshall. “Put a championship routine in place. That routine will keep you accountable no matter what. You’ll realize that eventually it’s going to pay off for you. When you win, I want to be sitting at Daytona, with the pit crew and with my kids, and I want to be in the winner’s circle giving you the peace sign and saying you did it.”
“I can tell by your mannerisms and your aura, that you have the ‘it’ factor that you can’t coach,” added Ochocinco. “It’s just in you.”
The episode also featured an appearance from Brandon Thompson, NASCAR’s VP of Diversity and Inclusion. The 18-season veteran Thompson answered Marshall’s question of how NASCAR is doing to continue pushing for diversity.
“The push goes back to generations before Toni,” said Thompson. “The Drive to Diversity program is specifically dedicated to developing women and minorities to come through the sport. We also have the diversity internship program that focuses on the front office aspect, as opposed to drivers and pit crew. Particularly in the last year we’ve been trying to cast a wider net to appeal to a larger group of fans. We’re starting to partner now with more organizations to continue to branch out.”
“Why would you say this is so important right now especially?” Asked Marshall. “A lot of industries are focusing on diversity right now. Is this real?”
“NASCAR has always been a company that follows its morals,” replied Thompson. “From that perspective, and with everything that’s gone on in the last year, it’s an open and shut case. From the business perspective, when you look at statistics and populations and growing demographics, society is a lot more mixed. The minority will soon be the majority. We’re going to have to evolve with that.”
Thompson stuck around to rehash a weekly argument on I AM NASCAR, which stems from Crowder’s comments about NASCAR drivers “not being real athletes”. Both Thompson and Breidinger gave their opinion during the episode.
“After the race at Daytona I was so sore, it looked like someone beat me up,” said Breidinger. “I had bruises all over my body from the G forces. That wheel is always moving, especially when you’re in a pack. I promise this is different than driving your R.V. to Minnesota Channing.”
“Absolutely drivers are athletes,” said Thompson. “I wasn’t on your level, but I played football, basketball and baseball, but being in a car that’s 180 degrees, going 600 miles around this facility, it’s not just about the physical, it’s about the mental and all the things you have to process, while going 180 mph. The capacity to handle all those things at once, that’s an athlete to me.”
Finally, Marshall reminds the crew that we are still in Mental Health Awareness Month, and asks Breidinger to give her view on what mental health means to her.
“I think it’s about being happy and having a positive mindset,” said Breidinger. “That’s been really big for me. Some people may laugh about it, but manifesting has made a really big difference for me.”
About I AM ATHLETE Podcast
I AM ATHLETE podcast is a thought provoking and in-depth podcast that has exploded in popularity recently hitting a milestone of over 550,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 275,000 Instagram followers and was ranked one of the top new sports podcasts in 2020. The podcast offers multiple perspectives on subjects ranging from sports to controversial topics to fashion to lifestyle, covering all cultural conversations and building a platform to educate and encourage viewers to engage. Creating opportunities for conversation that change the narrative and make an impact, six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall serves as a contributor and moderator, and the panel embarks on provocative conversations that redefine what it means to be an athlete. Co-hosts Fred Taylor (Former Jaguars and Patriots running back), fellow receiver and six-time Pro Bowler, Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson, and Former Dolphins linebacker, Channing Crowder, join Marshall to discuss all topics from the perspective of an African American athlete, while dining on some amazing dishes served up by Chef Nancie. These gridiron giants pull no punches and have no filter while expressing themselves on the importance of the issues and topics they cover. Each week the podcast is growing in popularity and subscribers due to the panelists frankness in sharing their thoughts and views on relevant topics covered each week.
I AM ATHLETE was created by House 3 Studios, owned and operated by Marshall, and in partnership with Emmy Award Winning production company Lobas Productions and Jersey Filmmaker to story and edit the weekly series. Fans can subscribe to the I AM ATHLETE podcast: YouTube and watch a new episode premiere every Monday at 12 Noon ET.
During the premiere of each episode, live chat with the I AM ATHLETE crew while you listen. Fans can also follow Twitter at @IAMATHLETEpod and IG @iamathletepodcast for updates and breaking news.
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