When the call comes Saturday night for drivers to start their engines, Brehanna Daniels admits there will be considerable butterflies fluttering around in her stomach.
While she has worked nearly every weekend changing tires for JP Motorsports cars in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, at 7 p.m. Saturday she will become the first black female to change tires in a Monster Energy Cup Series race.
“Huge,” she said Friday as she prepared to head to Daytona International Speedway for Friday night’s Xfinity race. She was changing front tires for the No. 45 car driven by Josh Bilicki in that race.
“I’m usually a rear-tire changer, but since I’m going to be changing the front tires in the Cup race, I guess they have me doing fronts to get ready,” Daniels said.
Daniels is in her second year as an independent tire changer in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. After finishing her basketball career at Norfolk State, the Virginia Beach resident completed a tryout with other NSU athletes and advanced through the system.
Lamar Neal, a Virginia Beach resident and former NSU football player, has been a tire changer in the Xfinity Series for two years.
“I only did about eight races last year,” Daniels said. “But I’ve worked every weekend for JP Motorsports this year. I’ve had two or three races each weekend for the past month, so I’m keeping busy.”
Saturday night in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona, Daniels will be changing tires for Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 car, driven by Ray Black Jr. She will be teaming with roommate Breanna O’Leary, a former Alcorn State basketball player, to become the first all-female tire-changing crew in Cup history.
When she first got into the program, Daniels said she asked how long it would take to move up to Cup.
“They said three to four years, and I wasn’t about that,” said Daniels, who also works as a coach in the diversity program. “It’s taken me less than two years and it took a lot of effort.”
Daniels said she hopes to continue her rise in racing but isn’t giving up on her real dream.
“I kind of fell into this and I can see me sticking around,” the Salem High School graduate said. “I really love it. The action, the team thing, it’s serious business.
“I still want to become an actress, but right now, this is exciting. Yeah, I’m gonna be nervous Saturday night, but I’m just gonna do what I do.”