Nascar’s first female Arab-American driver Toni Breidinger asserts that the racing industry treats drivers differently based on gender and ethnicity.
While she considers herself to be a “girly girl” Breidinger is in the industry where she competes will almost all male competitors. And when she says to people that she is a driver, it is taken as a joke.
“I definitely feel like I’m two different people,” she says. “Whenever I tell anybody that I’m a race car driver, they always think it’s a joke. I’ve literally had people just start laughing.”
But she knows that her real-life personality won’t be of much help in the race track where aggressiveness matters. But as a fierce competitor, she knows how to adapt to the aggressive style of driving.
“When I’m in a race car, I just flip a switch in my head,” she says. “I feel like I’m a very calm and chill person in real life, but once you get into a race car, you have to just change into being aggressive and reacting super-fast. So as soon as I’m in the car and the engine is on, I’m a whole different person.”
She believes that in the race track, every competitor is all simply drivers irrespective of their gender or ethnicity, but the industry surrounding it treats drivers differently based on their gender or ethnicity.
“I have been treated differently,” Breidinger admits. “Every race weekend I get some kind of comment or am treated differently in some way, but it’s something that I brush off, because I know what I’m there to do and I know I’m a driver just like anybody else. So I never let it get to me.”
She also said that finding sponsorship and funding could be more challenging for her being a woman.
“Racing is a pay-to-play sport; it’s not like you can just show up. You need funding for it, and sometimes as a female, it’s a little bit harder to gain that respect and have people believe in you and want to invest in helping you go up the ranks. So moving up in the sport, I think that’s one of the things that’s been holding me back.”