Brehanna Daniels has made history as the first Black woman in NASCAR’s pit crew as a tire changer.
27-year-old Daniels never envisioned a career in NASCAR racing, much less as a pit crew member. During her senior year of college at Norfolk State University, a random chance allowed her to try out for the pit crew, and she’s been in love ever since.
“I was sitting in the cafeteria, mid-bite of my Chick-fil-A sandwich, when my friend from the school’s athletic department, Tiffany, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, NASCAR is holding tryouts for their pit crews on Wednesday, you should go.’ I looked at her like, ‘Girl, I don’t even watch NASCAR,’” Daniels recalled.
A basketball point guard, Daniels pursued the opportunity, eventually being invited to join NASCAR’s pit crew member program after graduating in 2016. Her mere presence marked a shift for the historically white male sport. Out of almost 3,000 NASCAR drivers who have made it to the Cup level, only 16 have been women. It wasn’t even until 2013 that NASCAR got its first woman as a pit crew member. In 2017, Daniels made history as the first Black woman to work the pit crew for a NASCAR race, and in 2019 she became the first Black woman to work the pit crew for the Daytona 500 race.
“God couldn’t have picked anybody else better to do the job. It takes a strong person to be able to make that change…knowing the history of NASCAR and the faces people are used to seeing on the track. 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,” Daniels told reporters.
On February 14th and 15th, Daniels worked the 63rd annual Daytona 500, making history as one of just three women working for the pit crew alongside Breanna O’Leary and Dalanda Ouendeno. Only five years into a historic run, Daniels is already reflecting on the weight of her presence in the sport.
“At first, I think a lot of people were like, ‘She’s not doing it for real; she’s just here for show.’ But obviously, I got sent to the track to do my job, and I can do it well; otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten here,” Daniels said.
Photo Courtesy of @Mindless_BMD/Twitter