In honor of Women's History Month, we’re celebrating three influential women!
Toni Breidinger, Brehanna Daniels and Milka Duno are making a tremendous impact, inspiring others while breaking barriers. Read on for more inspiring stories about these incredibly fierce and driven women.
1. Toni Breidinger (1999-current)
Twenty-three-year-old California native Toni Breidinger is a professional stock car driver who races full-time for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Menards Series, driving the #25 Toyota Camry. In a world of female-firsts, Breidinger’s many notable accomplishments include becoming the first Arab American female race car driver to join NASCAR.
She began as a go-kart racer at age nine, traveling and competing with her twin sister. Breidinger garnered attention early with 19 United States Automobile Club (USAC) victories before transitioning in her late teens to stock cars.
In 2018, Venturini invited her to run a part-time schedule in the ARCA Series. On April 24, 2021, her track debut and in honor of Arab Heritage Month, she partnered with Huda Beauty and drove a wrapped #02 Chevrolet SS race car at the General Tire 200 at Talladega Speedway.
“Huda is really big on breaking barriers and female empowerment — and that's right up my alley.” - Toni Breidinger, speaking to Us magazine.
In January, Venturini announced her return to its driver roster for the 2023 ARCA season, having completed a full 20-race calendar with the team in 2022. “With expert race craft, hard-earned over years of professional development, and a personality that has engaged hundreds of thousands of fans, Breidinger’s goal of reaching the highest levels of NASCAR has grown closer with every checkered flag,” they noted in a press release heralding her return.
2. Brehanna Daniels (1994-current)
Among one of the first Black female NASCAR tire changers, Brehanna Daniels is the first African American woman in a NASCAR Cup Series pit crew, and part of the first female duo to do pit crew work. She has been honored for her work as an industry ambassador and trailblazer for other women of color who want to break into NASCAR.
In 2016 she was a senior at Norfolk State University when a friend told her that NASCAR was holding tryouts for pit crews and suggested she attend. That year, Brehanna was the only woman trying out as part of the organization's "Drive for Diversity" program. It was there, she says, that she fell in love with its competitiveness. She was invited to join NASCAR'S pit crew member program following graduation, and the rest is history.
In 2019, Daniels became the first Black woman to tire change at NASCAR’s Daytona 500. In 2021, she was a tire changer on the No. 51 Chevrolet for Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“Even though I was a little nervous at first because I didn't know how I would be judged or looked at, I'm like, 'You know what? Somebody has to do this, and I guess I'm going to be the one to do this.’" Brehanna Daniels, speaking to People.
You can watch her on season three of Hulu’s Your Attention Please, a documentary that celebrates Black innovators and creators.
Note: The “Drive for Diversity" program started in 2004 and recruits/trains both minority and female race car drivers as well as pit crew members.
3. Milka Duno (1972-current)
Milka Duno is a renowned Venezuelan race car driver, who competed in the IndyCar Series and ARCA Racing Series. She holds the record for the highest finish for a female driver in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
She began her career as a driver at the age of 24 in Venezuela in 1996. In 2004, she won the Rolex Series Miami Grand Prix, becoming the first woman to win a major international race in the United States. In 2007, she earned the highest-ever finish—second place—by a female driver in the then-51-year history of the 24 Hours of Daytona. That same year she became the first Hispanic woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
In 2010 at the Chicagoland Speedway's race, she entered the history books again when five female drivers qualified for the race for the first time. The other female racers were Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz and Sarah Fisher.
In 2013 during her first full season in the ARCA Racing Series, Duno finished the season seventh in driver championship standings, becoming the second highest-finishing female driver in ARCA's then-61-year history.
In 2014, she entered the NASCAR Nationwide Series where she qualified for and competed in the race in Kansas and became the first Hispanic female driver to compete in a NASCAR national series in the United States.
“Everything that is difficult I like to do because that’s when you feel the most satisfaction—when you do something not too many people can do.” --Milka Duno, speaking to Hispanic Executive.
Which other NASCAR women do you think deserve to be recognized? Let us know in the comments.