Sat in a go-kart bought by her father at the age of nine, Toni Breidinger realised that racing could never just be a hobby. Now, eleven years later, she’s an established professional with enough wins under her belt for her to be described as the United States Auto Club’s all-time winningest female driver. With her sights now set even higher, she’s looking to push her way into the NASCAR Cup Series to extend her success even further.
The 20-year-old who hails from Hillsborough, California, shifted from midget car races after her 2016 Championship win, which she describes as her “biggest racing achievement” alongside her top 10 finish in her ARCA debut, and now competes in stock cars – specifically, late models. Being one of the few women in such a male-dominated industry, it’s hard not to take notice of the waves forming around Toni’s career.
We had the opportunity to talk with Toni about her career so far and what she expects from her future. We also asked our readers what they wanted to know on Facebook and Twitter, and we sent as many questions to Toni as we could get away with!
How did you first start racing?
My dad got me and my sister a go-kart when we were 9. As soon as I did my first go-kart race I knew I wanted to be a race car driver. I knew I was committed to making it happen but I’m not sure how seriously my parents took me, haha!
What else do you do other than racing?
Most of my time and focus goes into my racing career, I’m giving it my all to move up through the ranks so I don’t have too much time for other jobs. I do work at a juice/smoothie bar part-time, and I’m also a driving instructor.
Talk me through a normal day in the life?
During the racing season, my normal day is to get up sometime between 5 and 6 am and I train at 8 am. After training, I might run a couple of errands. In the afternoon I’ll go to the shop, go on my simulator, and maybe do a little bit of cardio. I try to catch up with friends during the week since I’m usually racing on the weekends. I’m also getting a go-kart soon so I’m excited to start adding that into my routine.
How do you prepare for a race?
I go to my trainer every day of the week that I’m in town. He works with me on improving my cardio, strength, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination. During the summer I’ll do extra training in the heat. Going on a simulator, looking at testing/race footage, and taking notes are also all important
Got a life hack that everyone should know?
Yes! If you’re bad with time management like me, write down your daily plan and schedule! I used to be late all the time and I was always overwhelmed with my schedule. This literally saved me. I’m a little extreme though I have my schedules broken down by the minute haha! But it works for me!
What’s your advice to young fans wanting to break into racing?
Just go ahead and start! It doesn’t matter how much you know about it or how old you are, everyone starts somewhere! I typically recommend to just go to your local go-kart track (since that’s how I started) and look at who’s renting or selling go-karts. But there are so many forms of racing, you don’t have to start there!
Who in your life do you rely on the most?
Definitely my parents and family. I can always count on them to be there for me.
How do you relax?
I’ve been trying to get into yoga, but honestly a lot of the time I want to just chill, I’ll sit on my couch and go through social media and watch YouTube videos.
What’s the most challenging race you’ve ever driven?
There was one race last year in the Summer that was especially hot and humid, the race was 150 laps and stayed green pretty much straight through. That one was tough, I felt pretty sick from the heat during that race. But for the most challenging driving wise I’d say USAC Silver Crown Cars at Salem Speedway in Indiana is the most challenging race as I driver I’ve done, the cars are pretty insane at that track.
What’s a challenging part of your career?
I always say driving is the easy part. Marketing yourself and getting sponsors is much more challenging.
What type of motorsport would you love to try but haven’t yet?
There are so many types of motorsports and I pretty much want to try all of them. But sports cars and getting road course experience is probably at the top of my list!
Who’s your favourite racing driver and inspiration?
Do you feel women in motorsport are judged more harshly than men?
Yes and no. I feel like women are much more accepted in the sport today than they were many years ago. Sometimes I’ll come across people that are sexist but I’d say most of the guys in the garage/pits see females as just another driver, which is how they should see it.
What’s your daily driver?
Mercedes GLK 350. It broke down a mile from the car dealer when I first got it but it’s been rolling good ever since, haha!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In the NASCAR Cup Series. I’d like to have success at the Cup level at that point, and also have success in other business ventures outside of racing.
One word that best describes you?
Toni’s ambition has allowed her to jump from strength to strength as not only is she continuing to build on her racing success, but is now developing her own following via her YouTube and Instagram accounts. This hard work has also brought further opportunities such as her involvement in the Women’s Sports Foundation via her SKIMS Campaign – something she’s very proud of.
We’ll be watching Toni as her career continues to flower, and will be sure to keep up to date with everything she’s doing. If you want to keep up to date (why wouldn’t you?) make sure you follow her on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.