By: Ashley McCubbin
Through the history of NASCAR, it’s been a male-dominated sport, but that narrative has began to change through more recent seasons. One of those females who is making headlines is Brehanna Daniels, who is currently changing tires on pit road with Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Daniels recently spoke with NEWS FROM THE PITS about what the job is like, her journey to this point, and more.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: Why did you want to be a tire changer?
BREHANNA DANIELS: I wanted to try something new, just being apart of NASCAR in general. I didn’t grow up wanting to be apart of NASCAR. It wasn’t until Coach Joe Horton and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity came to Northern State while I was there to host the try-out. When I found out about it, I thought oh I should try the try-out; somebody told me to go and I went.
ASHLEY: How has the experience overall been for you overall?
BREHANNA: The experience has been phenomenal, just learning a new position. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life so learning a new sport, stepping outside the box – I’ve never been the type to be in the box anyway, but just having parents reach out to me saying my daughter wants to be like you one day when she grows up. That’s just so rewarding to hear that and know that I am being a huge inspiration to people out there.
ASHLEY: I was actually going to ask about that. It’s got to be special being the role model, because it’s not like we see a lot of females in these roles yet within the sport.
BREHANNA: Yes, definitely. Just knowing NASCAR for what it is – it’s a male dominated sport, so the few woman that you see in spots is a blessing. We need more of that. We need more woman out there. We need it to the point that all the men you see, there’s just as many woman. So hopefully the sport can look like that one day – just have more diversity, too, as that’s very important and huge.
ASHLEY: What’s been the toughest part of your journey to get to this point?
BREHANNA: Just being the first in my position – the first black woman to be apart of NASCAR, just getting my start and getting my foot in the sport. It was really a battle for me trying to make a name for myself, and trying to get work. The journey hasn’t been easy at all.
ASHLEY: What are your long-term career goals?
BREHANNA: Hopefully one day to get signed to a NASCAR team and to pit one of the top level cars, like a house car or something. I’m already in the Cup Series now for Rick Ware Racing, so it’d be nice to be on a house car.
ASHLEY: Kind of get one of those ones running up front and have the money stop pressure…
BREHANNA: Yes, the money stop. Definitely it’s always nice to be up front so hopefully get there one day.
ASHLEY: It’s no secret as you mentioned that it’s a male-dominated sport, with females beginning to make their mark. Do you feel you get treated differently?
BREHANNA: I mean, I’ve been on different sports teams where I’ve been the only girl so it’s not so much that it bothers me. It’s more so I got under the guy’s skin starting out. It’s one thing to be a female, but when you’re confident, strong, powerful, some guys are intimidated by a strong African American black woman. So they give me a tough time.
ASHLEY: On the diversity side, like the rest of the world, we’ve seen NASCAR take a stance on racial inequality. What are your thoughts on the message from the sanctioning body so far, and where do you feel we need to go from here?
BREHANNA: When I saw that, I feel like NASCAR is making me happy, seeing them moving forward and changing things up from what people knew NASCAR as, and there’s some people who are still stuck in their ways. “Oh I’m never going to a NASCAR race,” just because they know what NASCAR was back in the day – white dominated sport.
Once people see me and Bubba (Wallace) in the sport, they’re like, “Hey, I didn’t know they had African Americans in NASCAR. I want to watch it now.” So it takes little things like that to get people interested in the sport. Pit crew members, first of all, they don’t get much attention; it’s all on the driver. Then people see Bubba and they’re like, “Oh shoot, he’s out there, I’m going to start watching NASCAR.”
I’m very proud of NASCAR in the steps forward that they’ve been taking in the support of Bubba with the whole confederate flag banning. I feel like those are what we needed at that time. The whole Black Lives Matter movement with NASCAR being behind, that stand, I feel like that’s a great start moving forward. I feel like we just need to keep making steps in that direction – don’t go backwards.
ASHLEY: What do you feel is the toughest part of your job?
BREHANNA: Running and jumping out in front of moving cars. So I’m on the front, running and jumping out in front of a moving car and hoping I won’t get ran over. Me, being a rear tire changer, just not getting ran over by the car behind me, or getting on fire by the gas back there – gas falling out, sparking my gun, just praying to God hoping everything goes right in the stop.
ASHLEY: See, that’s the whole thing for why I don’t think I could do it in having the thought of something that big coming right at you. Just like, “Holy Crap.”
BREHANNA: Yeah, but when you have years under your belt doing it, everything just becomes more familiar and you get to the point like, “Yeah, this is my job, this is what I got to do, I just got to jump in front of this moving car.”
But I feel like with every stop, my adrenaline is up and things happen so fast so say I get whacked in the side of the head on the stop, sometimes I don’t feel like it and then at the end of my stop, one of my teammates is like, “Did you feel me hit you in the head with that tire?” I’m like, “No,” and he’s like, “I hit you so hard…” I was like, “I didn’t feel it because my adrenaline was up.” It gets kind of crazy out there to say the least.
ASHLEY: What’s harder – NASCAR pit road, or being on NBC Titan Games?
BREHANNA: The Titan Games was hard. I’ve been a life long athlete, ever since I was a little girl. I’ve been into sports, involved in sports, very athletic, but being apart of the show that comes from a night of Dwayne Johnson sitting with his friends drinking a lot of tequila coming up with these crazy ideas, and creating challenges off of it.
So it was pretty challenging out there just not knowing what to do ahead of time, just being thrown in the fire literally. Just like, “Hey Brehanna, you’re doing this so you better do it.” Like, dang! So it’s kind of like how that was, but it was a really, really nice and unique experience being able to meet all those people from all over the world, us coming together to do the same thing – but of course different challenges but we’re having to do different things. We all connected and we’re close to do this day, so it was really, really nice, and meeting Dwayne Johnson.
ASHLEY: That was probably the icing on the cake for the whole deal.
BREHANNA: Yes. I was like, “Dwayne Johnson?!? I love him!” He’s dope so…
ASHLEY: So would it be something that you’d do again, and along those lines, would you do America Ninja Warrior?
BREHANNA: I would the Titan Games again. America Ninja Warrior – I really don’t like water that much and I know they’re always falling in water from high up in the air. I can go without America Ninja Warrior. It’s not something to die for. I’d have to be in the mood to do it. It’s cool to try it once, but after I do it once, I probably wouldn’t do it again.
ASHLEY: Maybe that fear of falling in the water would be good motivation to go further to not fall in.
BREHANNA: Right as I’d be like, “Please don’t fall, please don’t fall.” I’d celebrate every jump that I make.
ASHLEY: You talk about yourself being an athlete. I don’t think a lot of people realize the training that goes on behind the scenes for pit crew members. You see the 13 second stop on the weekend, but what’s the schedule like through the week to be ready for that 13 second moment?
BREHANNA: So I practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – sometimes Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and then pretty much in practice, what we do in practice is what we do at the race track. We’re just not doing pit stops and then jumping in front of a moving car on the weekends. We’re doing the same thing in practice which prepares for us, and then we have our side work-outs after that – cardio training.
Pretty much every thing is pretty repetitious – doing the pit stops, doing the adjustments, just different scenarios like any other sports team. To be good at anything, you have to build that muscle memory so with me being a tire changer, you have to zip zip zip zip zip and build that muscle memory. The training is defiantly intense and people just do what they want for different positions. Since I’ve been a lifelong athlete, all I know is working out; I have to work out all the time so it comes easy to me.
ASHLEY: You mentioned it at the beginning. There’s little girls everywhere looking up to you as the inspiration. What would be one piece of advice you’d offer for those girls out there?
BREHANNA: I would tell the little girls out there to always do what it is you feel in your heart. Don’t listen to what anybody has to say. If you can go to sleep at night and can’t stop thinking about it, go after it. You don’t’ want to years later say you wish you did this, you wish you did that; you want to do it right now.
If NASCAR is a sport that you enjoy – make sure you do your research before you get involved, contact me. I’ll put you definitely in the right direction and get you started. But defiantly believe in yourself, be confident in yourself and you can do anything in this world with that confidence.