With NASCAR season underway, Brehanna Daniels who took the world by storm becoming the first African American female to change tires has done it again! A phenomenal woman away from the track, Brehanna Daniels reached yet another milestone in the NASCAR world becoming the first ever female to work in a pit crew in a Cup Race. For those unaware of how amazing this milestone is Daniels has become the first African American female to compete at the highest level of NASCAR.
It’s not every day that the presence of a female tire changer would attract an unprecedented amount of publicity in and around the world of sport. Daniels, a 24-year-old mass communications major is not only known for her skills in the pit crew but a former division 1 basketball player for Norfolk State University. A Virginia Beach, Virginia native from Salem High School, Daniels is a huge inspiration for not only women in sport but the culture of providing hope for women to flourish in a sport.
However, NASCAR was something Daniels expressed that she was never really interested in. It was something that never crossed her mind. Her interest soon changed after Daniels former athletic administrator for Norfolk State University encouraged her to explore the avenue of the NASCAR world. Coach Phil Horton, head of NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program visited Norfolk State University to recruit athletes for the program. Coach Horton was immediately impressed by Daniels work ethic – which enabled her to advance into the final stages of training to become a tire changer. She expresses during her decision to pursue NASCAR that, “I just wanted to try something new. Even though I’ve been playing basketball for the majority of my life, I just felt like it wouldn’t hurt to just try something new to see where it takes me.”
In my most recent interview with Daniels, I asked how does it feel to be the first African American female tire changer for the sport? Her response was nothing short of inspirational. Daniels expresses her empathy towards the culture of the sport and welcomes those who have a desire to compete at a high level to take a chance. Daniels goes on to say;
“Honestly, it’s kind of sad that I am the first African American Female Tire Changer in NASCAR. I made that happen and made history last year in 2017. Why did it take so long for this change to happen? I’m also happy that I am apart of change and that I’m really making a difference in a dominated white male sport. I’m glad I can be that example. I hope that other minorities and people that look like me actually feel welcomed now that they see me in the sport. Because who wants to really be apart of something if they don’t see people who look like them in it? I’m glad I took a chance and never put myself in a box.
Daniels has a beautiful heart, kind spirit and a work ethic that is beyond words. I asked how her lifestyle has changed since becoming one of the most popular names in not only the NASCAR world but for African American community and for women in sports? Daniels expresses that, “I’ve been handling media pretty well. I’m becoming more fluent the more interviews I have. But I’ve also had a couple instances where I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed because I noticed it starting getting in the way of work and what I have to do to prepare for my race. But I usually handle it well. Thanks to most of my NASCAR PR people that help out with coordinating those interviews. It really takes a load off my shoulders.”
Daniels is quite the comedian away from the basketball court and pit crew inspiring to become an actress – a long-term dream of hers. As a former teammate and close friend of mine, I asked who her biggest inspiration is? Daniels shared that her biggest inspiration would be her late mother. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her late mother I know that she would be so proud of Daniels and what she is doing for not only the African American community but also women in sports. Daniels goes on to say about her mother;
She has displayed strength in so many ways throughout her battle with breast cancer. There were even sometimes when I forgot that she was sick because she did so much for my brother and I. She made sure we had everything we need. She took us to our sports events. We went to a lot of places. She was literally my superwoman and still is. Whenever I think about giving up or quitting during a workout, I always think about her. Thinking of her gives me that extra push to get through and keep going.
To conclude the interview, I asked Daniels to share a few words of wisdom for young adults about her experience to succeed. In her final words, she shares, “I would just say to do any and everything your heart desires. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Everyone doesn’t have the same vision as you and they cant see the big goals you have set for yourself. Stay focused, keep your loved ones close, and don’t get distracted from going after what you want in life.”
In closing, I am both honored and humbled by Brehanna Daniels. Her ability to remain a true friend throughout this exciting time of her life is truly appreciated. You are an amazing athlete and I wish you nothing but the absolute very best in your career.
Daniels encourages readers to follow her on all of her social media platforms including her Youtube Channel.