Brehanna Daniels has never been interested in race car driving and didn’t gave the sport any thought. However, the 27-year-old is making history as NASCAR’s first Black woman tire changer according to People. Daniels tried out for the pit crew on a whim at the urging of a friend during her senior year of college at Norfolk State University in Virginia, Daniels became in love with the thrill of changing tires.
“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,” Daniels told People. (Daniels played point guard on the basketball team.) “I looked at her like, ‘Girl, I don’t even watch NASCAR.”
Daniels was invited to join NASCAR’s pit crew member program after graduating in 2016. The nearly 3,000 NASCAR drivers who have raced at the Cup level since the sport’s inception, only 16 have been women. In 2017, Daniels became the first Black woman to work the pit crew for a NASCAR race. In 2019, she made history again as the first Black woman to work the pit for the Daytona 500 race. Daniels worked the race again this year on Feb. 14 and 15, where she joined teammates Breanna O’Leary and Dalanda Ouendeno as the only women pitting the 2021 Daytona 500.
“God couldn’t have picked anybody else better to do the job,” she told People. “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.”
Five years after her start in the sport, Daniels is making her way in a male dominated sport.
“I remember one of the first times I reported over to a team, I went to the crew chief and I said, ‘Hey my name is Brehanna Daniels and I’ll be your changer for the day,’” she recalled in an interview with Glamour in 2020. “And he was like, ‘You’re changing my tires?’ It was really, really tough in the beginning.”
“At first I think a lot of people were like, ‘She’s not doing it for real; she’s just here for show,’” she added. “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.”