Toni Breidinger may not sound like a household name in NASCAR, but she has a chance to change that on Saturday during the ARCA Menards race at Daytona International Speedway. Then again, she has already made history by being the first Arab-American female to compete in a NASCAR sanctioned race, a glowing review of the sport's efforts to be more inclusive.
Tonight will mark her third start in the ARCA series and her very debut at the World Center of Racing. She has run three races in the series, which include a 10th-place effort at Madison Speedway and 12th at Gateway Speedway in 2019.
"Daytona has always been on my bucket list to race at. Every driver's dream is to race there one day," Breidinger claimed when asked about racing at the iconic race track. "It's such a historic track. It's a step in the right direction to hopefully race in the Daytona 500 one day."
While that might sound like a lofty goal, especially since she would have to go through the NASCAR ARCA Series, the Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series to make it to the Cup Series, women have been there before. In fact, Danica Patrick currently holds the record for the best finish by a female driver at the track.
While Danica Patrick's NASCAR career didn't quite pan out due to a variety of factors, Breidlinger has a chance to finish what she and other pioneers started.
Natalie Decker and Hailee Deegan are also in position to do that, but that would only help pave the way for Briedinger to move up quicker.
At Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, the former go-kart driver will run 80 laps around the tall banks of the historic speedway. If she succeeds and nabs a good finish, the sky could be the limit for her and the Young's Motorsports team. If she fails, however, it could reignite the same kind of doubt from fans as Patrick's failures did.
"We're working diligently to strengthen diversity across the sport and the diverse makeup of our drivers represents an important part of that mission," Brandon Thompson, NASCAR VP of diversity and inclusion, told CNN. "We want women and people of color to see themselves represented in our competitors because it's those connection points that will help NASCAR grow and become more diverse."
In recent years, diversity has been very important to NASCAR, and it will be on full display during Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway. It will also be an opportunity for Breidinger to prove what she is made of, and maybe even secure a ride for the future.