Toni Breidinger Talks Modeling, Racing, & Dealing With Aggressive Drivers

Toni Breidinger before Truck race.

Getty Toni Breidinger before Truck Series race.

Toni Breidinger is a very unique story, not just in NASCAR, but in general, because she’s impressively managed to achieve her two dramatically different childhood dreams — becoming a model and a race car driver. 

The 24-year-old visited exclusively with “Heavy” as part of celebrating International Women’s Month in Phoenix, where she mentored young aspiring female racers and accepted a $100,000 check presented to Billie Jean King’s Women’s Sports Foundation from her sponsor Raising Cane’s. She addressed a variety of topics during that conversation, including how the two worlds of racing and modeling came together a couple of years ago. 

“I always dreamed of being a Victoria’s Secret model when I was younger, but I also dreamed of being a race car driver,” Breidinger admitted. “And I remember I told one of my friends — it was probably middle school at this point, and I was like, ‘I want to be a race car driver and a model.’ And she’s like, ‘You can’t do both.’ And I was like, ‘Well, why can’t I?’ She’s like, ‘Nobody’s done both.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, well maybe I can be the first one.’ And, it’s something that I really set out to do, but it kind of like naturally came towards me.

“I’m always really big about kind of manifesting and setting goals for yourself. And I feel like it all kind of just blended perfectly. I focused a lot on my racing career and all that kind of stuff just kind of came with it perfectly. But yeah, that was a very special partnership for me.

“I have a great team behind me that kind of reached out to Victoria’s Secret and I did my first shoot with them. It was actually the day after a race at Talladega in 2022. So just crazy racing at Talladega one day and then hopping on a plane straight after going to shoot with Victoria’s Secret is two huge dreams for me.”

Toni Breidinger Admits Some Drivers Are More Aggressive Against Female Competition 

Danica Patrick has thus far been the most successful female in NASCAR. Hailie Deegan has been carrying the flag for women for the last several years racing in the Truck Series. The first-year Xfinity Series driver has openly admitted in the past that some of her competitors race her differently because she is female. 

Has Breidinger experienced something similar?

“Yeah, it’s funny because I feel like it’s almost a touchy subject for people,” she said. “People tend to get triggered when, you know, females in the sport are like, ‘Oh yeah, this person drove me different cause I’m a female,’ and everyone usually kind of freaks out.

“But, I do see it, not even amongst just myself, but you know, with Hailie and with some of the other girls, I’m like, I feel like that guy wasn’t driving the other drivers like that, but, he drove her a little bit different and it could have been from like past history. But I do feel like I see kind of a reoccurring pattern where some of the drivers do race the girls a little bit harder.

“And I don’t even think it’s always intentional. I think maybe it’s like subconscious, just kind of like the double standards in society, but yeah, you definitely kind of have to be aware of who you’re racing around.” 

Toni Breidinger Has More Instagram Followers Than Any NASCAR Driver

Breidinger is still very early in her NASCAR career, with just four starts in the Truck Series, a 15th place in Kansas in 2023 her best result. She’s fared considerably better in the lower ARCA Series over the past couple of seasons, with 13 top 10s, including four of those inside the top five last year. 

Interestingly, despite her inexperience, Breidinger’s following on social media, specifically Instagram, is impressive at 2.1 million and outpaces all of the NASCAR competition, including Deegan (1.5 million), and top Cup Series competitors, like the sport’s most popular driver Chase Elliott (484,000) and Kyle Busch (427,000).

Unsurprisingly, that reach is appealing to sponsors like Victoria’s Secret or Raising Cane’s. 

In August, Adam Stern of the “Sports Business Journal” reported that there were Cup Series sponsors potentially interested in working with Breidinger in the future. When asked about it, the driver provided some clarification.

“Yeah, there was like a little bit of confusion on that statement that was made,” she said. “So basically sponsors who are in the Cup Series and sponsoring current Cup Series drivers right now have reached out to us to kind of work with us. So it’s been cool to be able to track such big brands and they have interest in us.”

What’s in Store for the Future?

Breidinger, who will be running full-time in ARCA in 2024 and scored her first top-10 result in the second race of the season at Phoenix, finishing ninth, has big dreams for the future but wants to take it at her own pace. 

“So for me, I have like my five-year path that I would like, and I’d like to be in the Cup Series, like at the end of that five-year path, but I want to be able to achieve everything in each level. Like I want to be able to race in the ARCA Series, get wins, get a championship, and be able to contend for wins in the Truck Series, get some wins, and kind of like methodically move up through the ladder system.

“I don’t want to feel like I have to rush. I want to feel like I’ve achieved something and I kind of deserve and feel confident in that next step. I don’t want to jump into an Xfinity race that I’m like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I’ll get a top 15.’ I want to be able to make that jump and be like, ‘Oh, I feel like I can go out there and really execute and perform.'” 

While Breidinger will certainly have her doubters, she’s used to it. Her childhood friend doubted her so many years ago and we know how that worked out. 

Read More