Toni Breidinger NASCAR Driver Interview 2024


It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Toni Breidinger. The 24-year-old has quickly emerged as one of NASCAR’s rising stars, racking up impressive results — and millions of social-media followers — as a competitor in the ARCA Menards series (sort of like NASCAR’s minor leagues).

“It’s been a really fun journey,” Breidinger tells NYLON from her home in North Carolina, where she’s prepping for this weekend’s season opener as part of the famed Daytona 500. “It’s nice to see we’re getting some traction on social media, and pretty cool to see I have decent numbers compared to the guys in the NASCAR Cup Series at the top level who are on TV every weekend.”

Breidinger’s social-media explosion is not entirely surprising. After all, she’s one of only a few women competing in a male-dominated sport. And she’s gained a good deal of exposure from her growing side hustle as a model for Victoria’s Secret, one of her racing sponsors. It’s been a surreal experience for Breidinger, who says she had childhood dreams of becoming both a race-car driver and a model, and even remembers spending hours on her iPod Touch Googling how to become the latter.

Although Breidinger could be walking the runway in Barcelona one day and racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway 48 hours later, she’s far more than just a novelty act. She enters the season as one of the favorites to win the ARCA series as she looks to work her way up to NASCAR’s top level. “The championship is my number-one goal,” she says, “and I’m feeling pretty confident going into it.”

Ahead of Feb. 17’s race, NYLON spoke to Breidinger about the year ahead, breaking barriers, and tuning out the haters.

You’ve said before that you sort of stumbled into racing by accident. What about this sport really drew you in?

I tried go-karting on a random day — I think we had our winter break, and nothing else was going on, so my dad suggested we try it. I had no idea what I had even said yes to! I remember my first few laps, I thought it was so fun, so exciting. I got hooked on that adrenaline rush. With so many other sports, you have a coach telling you what to do and a bunch of teammates. But this had a sense of independence. I felt very in control, and I thought I was so cool driving because I was only 9 years old. You only see adults driving!

Racing is obviously a male-dominated sport. Was that something that bothered you as you got more involved in it?

I don’t think it really crossed my mind when I was younger because I started racing go-karts with my twin sister, Annie. She was always with me, so I don’t think it came across to me that I was the only female. Obviously, the sport is very male-dominated, but I didn’t realize that until later in life, especially in interviews when people would mention, “Hey, you’re the only female here.” And I’d go, “… Oh. You’re right.” I still don’t really think about it at the track, but I appreciate seeing more females around.

Do you find that there’s still this perception that young girls don’t want to race cars?

I think seeing is believing, so I think social media can help with that. With my platform, maybe I’m reaching younger girls who wouldn’t even think about racing. Maybe my video pops up on their Explore page and opens a new world for them. When I was younger, seeing Danica Patrick at the top of racing helped me. The more that you bring people into the community, welcome them in, show them that they can do it — we can grow the amount of females in the sport.

There’s been a big upswing in motorsports’ popularity lately, and fashion is a big part of that. Is there a particular driver you admire from a style perspective?

The first person when you think of fashion and racing is Lewis Hamilton. I think he was a trailblazer, the first person I noticed really making fashion statements and showing off what he’s wearing to the track. I look up to what he did and all his side hustles he has.

Speaking of side hustles, how did your modeling career with Victoria’s Secret come about?

Crazy experience. I remember growing up watching the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and thinking, “I want to do this.” It somehow all came together. I’m really big into manifesting — I could go on about it forever. But it was a real experience to be there with Adriana Lima, my icon growing up. I shot the show in Barcelona, and the next day I flew out to go race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it was just two polar-opposite worlds. Probably one of my favorite weeks — to race at the ARCA series and be shooting the VS world tour. I still can’t believe I did it.

Were you nervous to try modeling for the first time? It seems like a totally different skillset than racing cars.

I think the one part that made me nervous was during the fitting. They said, “Okay. Walk.” And I’ve never walked a runway before, never even been trained on how to properly walk. I thought, “Oh God, I’m in this room with all these supermodels and I have to walk for my fitting.” But everyone is so nice there, and it’s something I’d dreamed of. I worked for it, I felt like I deserved it, and the fact that they chose me to be a part of it gave me confirmation that I belong there. I still get giddy when I talk about it.

There are not many race-car drivers who are also models. So, naturally, there are some haters out there, especially online. How do you deal with that?

It’s funny. When I did the show, I remember I saw some articles that described me as “Victoria’s Secret Model Turned Race Car Driver.” Uh, that’s not really how this happened! Racing came first, and I’ve had so many amazing opportunities because of it. It’s always my number-one priority. I think some people just can’t wrap their minds around someone doing something outside of the box. Seeing something that hasn’t been done before almost scares some people. The feedback was interesting, but I know what I’m capable of, and I know who I want to be. I don’t really listen to it much.

You’re kicking off the season competing in ARCA and the NASCAR Trucks Series this weekend at the Daytona 500. What makes that event special?

I feel like it’s sort of everybody’s bucket-list race. Pretty surreal, and I think part of the big perception of Daytona is that it’s the first race of the season, so there are a lot of nerves and hype going into it … A lot of drivers are shaking the rust off.

Outside of racing, what are your goals for the year ahead?

I did a vision board of what I want to achieve in 2024, and it was cool to look back at the 2023 vision board and see all I had accomplished. I have so many brands I want to work with, campaigns I want to do, all these big, crazy dreams. But mostly I want to build off what I’m doing. I’m really happy with the direction things have been going, so just continue to keep moving up.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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