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After making initial cut, Toni Breidinger hoping to give W Series a spin

Toni Breidinger, who has raced karts and stock cars, is willing to give open-wheel racing a try if she is selected for the W Series. Blair Brown/Brett Erickson

Toni Breidinger figured it was worth a shot, applying for a spot in the W Series -- the open-wheel, all-female racing series scheduled to debut in 2019.

So far, her instincts haven't let her down.

After surviving the initial cut when a field of approximately 100 applicants was trimmed to 60, Breidinger will head overseas next month, when the inaugural group of 18 to 20 drivers will be finalized.

At stake is a spot in the series featuring a six-race schedule from May through early August with stops in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and England.

Breidinger and the others will be put through rigorous on- and off-track testing, simulator evaluation, engineering-based queries and physical fitness assessments. The final selection process is scheduled for late January at the Wachauring, a racing complex in Melk, Austria.

"I filled [the application] out really not knowing if I was going to get in or not," said Breidinger, a native of Hillsborough, California. "I wasn't really sure [about my chances]. It's a very different series than I've been racing in; I've really been focusing on stock cars and open-wheel cars on an oval circuit. Racing on road courses is totally different. I wasn't really sure if they would consider me, since I haven't been in that form of racing."

Breidinger, 19, is one of eight Americans selected for the tryout, and one of nine teenagers. The youngest hopeful is 17, the oldest is 33 and the average age is 24. They come from all around the world and have varying levels of experience in a variety of forms of motorsports.

"I've been trying to stay behind the wheel as much as possible, whether that's racing a car or go-kart," Breidinger said, "to keep my mind and reflexes sharp." She does so while staying on top of a training regimen.

A former USAC Western Midget pavement champion and that group's winningest female competitor with 15 victories, Breidinger's career path has thus far seemed headed toward stock car competition. She made three starts in the ARCA Series in 2018 with Venturini Motorsports, scoring a best finish of 10th in her debut at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin. In addition to her USAC effort and brief time in ARCA, she has also competed in Late Model Stocks.

Then why veer off into a series geared more toward a Formula 1-type experience?

"I just thought it was such an amazing opportunity," she said. "So, when it came up it wasn't something I could turn down. I think it's really unique and exciting."

It's a long way from karts, which she and her twin sister Annie began racing before their 10th birthday, to trying to figure out a Formula 3 machine on an unknown track. But Breidinger isn't putting all of her hopes and dreams in the opportunity to earn a spot in the new series.

If she fails to be chosen for one of the rides, she said, there's plenty more to learn elsewhere.

"I'd continue to focus on competing in stock cars," she said. "I'd definitely be racing on the West Coast. I'd like to do more races, higher-profile races, but that takes sponsorship, and that's kind of up in the air now."

The 2019 W Series is scheduled to open May 3-5 at Hockenheim, Germany. Series officials say the 2019 champion will receive $500,000 from a $1.5 million purse.

The launch of the series was met with criticism from some. Pippa Mann, a competitor in the IndyCar Series, called the formation of the series "a sad day for motorsports" in a posting on Twitter shortly after the league was announced.

Having raced against men and women, Breidinger said she doesn't know if the series is necessary for females to advance in motorsports. She said sees it for what it can provide.

The vehicles and the funding for the teams will be provided through the series in 2019. Drivers won't be required to secure their own sponsorship to compete. Racing, and little else, will be the focus for those chosen.

"There's the exposure, the funding and resources are all equal," Breidinger said. "The series is ... a really good opportunity to experience racing at the next level."