Less than two years after relocating to North Carolina to pursue careers as professional tire-changers, NASCAR Drive for Diversity pit crew members Brehanna Daniels and Breanna O’Leary will go over the wall together in Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™ race at Daytona International Speedway.
The crew members will both pit for Rick Ware Racing and Ray Black Jr., driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Daniels will be making her debut in the sport’s top series at the World Center of Racing on Saturday. Since early 2017, she has pitted in more than 25 NASCAR Xfinity Series™, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™ and ARCA Series races.
The former Norfolk State University women’s basketball player is believed to be the first female African-American crew member to compete in a NASCAR national series event.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve only been changing tires for two years and now I’m here at the Monster Energy Series level,” said Daniels. “What I’m doing in NASCAR is so much bigger than me. It’s been so rewarding to be part of history while at the same time inspiring others to take on challenges they thought might not be possible.”
O’Leary will be making her third appearance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and second this season. She changed tires for the No. 51 car at Michigan International Speedway on June 10.
O’Leary and Daniels, who are roommates and share an apartment in Charlotte, N.C., are the fifth and sixth female NASCAR Drive for Diversity crew members, respectively, to reach NASCAR’s highest level.
Previous alums to pit in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series are Nicole Addison, Stephanie Russo, Pyper Braly and Shannon Sands.
“The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is unlike any other series,” said O’Leary. “There’s a certain energy and hustle and bustle – both in the garage and on pit road. But as a tire changer, the mindset is still the same. Five lug nuts on and five off.”
Both Daniels and O’Leary were recruited to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development program in 2016 by longtime pit crew coach Phil Horton as part of a nationwide talent search conducted by NASCAR and Rev Racing, the program’s operational arm.
At the time, Daniels was preparing to graduate from Norfolk State and O’Leary was working in the strength and conditioning department at Alcorn State University after completing her career as an outfielder on the softball team.
The women were among 20 former college athletes invited to compete in the inaugural NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine in Concord, N.C. Following strong individual performances at the combine, both were selected to join the crew member program and train year-round as tire-changers with Rev Racing.
The athletes now split their training during the week between Rev Racing and the Xcalibur Pit School in Mooresville, N.C., before traveling to join NASCAR national series teams on race weekends.
“We knew upon their arrival that Brehanna and Breanna had the potential to one day compete on pit road in our top series,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager, racing operations and event management. “They’ve demonstrated the commitment, put in the work and earned the opportunity to go over the wall as teammates on NASCAR’s biggest stage – Daytona International Speedway.”
Daniels and O’Leary are among more than 50 graduates of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development program currently working in the NASCAR industry. Twenty-five are pitting in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
In February, Derrell Edwards became the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity pit crew member to win the DAYTONA 500 when driver Austin Dillon raced to Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Coke Zero Sugar 400 will be broadcast live on Saturday, July 7 at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, with additional coverage on NASCAR.com.
NASCAR PR/Photo Credit Blaine Ohigashi/Getty Images