First Black Woman Making NASCAR History Without Getting Behind the Wheel
Bubba Wallace became the first Black driver in NASCAR history to lead a lap in the Daytona 500. He was in first place in Lap 129 at the 2021 Daytona 500.
Meanwhile, Michael Jordan–the greatest basketball player of all time–is the first Black principal owner of a full-time Cup Series team in nearly 50 years. Wallace drives for Jordan’s 23XI Racing Team.
Naturally, Bubba Wallace and Michael Jordan will dominate the headlines. However, a Black woman is making NASCAR history as well, and she’s not even a driver.
Meet Brehanna Daniels, a tire changer for NASCAR
27-year-old Brehanna Daniels is the first Black female tire changer in NASCAR history. She joined NASCAR in 2016 as part of the organization’s “Drive for Diversity” program.
In 2016, Daniels was the only woman in a group of men trying out for one of the spots on a NASCAR pit crew team. She found out about the NASCAR tryout from a friend while eating Chick-fil-A.
“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. “I looked at her like, ‘Girl, I don’t even watch NASCAR.’ “
Even though she didn’t watch NASCAR, Daniels fell in love with the competitiveness needed to be a tire changer. She played point guard at Norfolk State University in Virginia, so Daniels already had a large competitive drive.
Since she’s Black and a girl, Brehanna Daniels was nervous the first couple of times she reported over to a team. However, as with anything in life, Daniels became more comfortable at her job since she’s really good at it.
Brehanna Daniels’ first historic moment was in 2017
In 2017, Brehanna Daniels made history by becoming the first Black woman to work the pit crew for a NASCAR race. In 2019, she became the first Black woman to work the pit crew for the historic Daytona 500 race.
“God couldn’t have picked anybody else better to do the job,” Daniels said. “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.”
At the 2021 Daytona 500, Daniels was one of three women working for the pit crew. The other two girls were Breanna O’Leary and Dalanda Ouendeno.
It’s incredible to see more and more women get into NASCAR. Brehanna Daniels will go down in the history books as a legend without sitting behind the wheel. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it.
What does a NASCAR tire changer do?
When a driver comes in for a pit stop, Brehanna Daniels takes a pit gun to the car and quickly unscrews five lug nuts from the tire and replaces them with new ones. This has to be done in seconds, and Daniels is very fast.
Daniels won the crew member award at the 2020 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards Ceremony. She received recognition for her work as an industry ambassador for women of color who want to break into NASCAR.
Brehanna Daniels is involved with the National Pit Crew Combine. She mentors and coaches aspiring youngsters who are interested in joining the program.