CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - If you would have told 24-year-old Brehanna Daniels two years ago that she'd be in the pit box Daytona 500 weekend, ready to change tires in a NASCAR Xfinity series race, she would have thought you were crazy.
"I was never a NASCAR fan, it wasn't even a thought," Brehanna told FOX 46. "It was just basketball, track and that's it."
Back then basketball was her life. She played point guard at Norfolk State University. But when her final season was over, her life took a different turn when her friend suggested she take part in a NASCAR try out coming to her school.
“She pulled out her phone, and showed me a video of a pit stop and I was like 'dang, they do stuff that fast.' I found myself not doing anything, I was at the end of my internship, end of basketball, so I was like, 'why not?' My coach ended up putting us through a hard workout, reminded me of an NFL combine, it was tough, I was dying, but I ended up beating some of the boys I went against, so I’m like I know I did good.”
So good that she was invited to the National Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine in Charlotte where once again she shined. She placed in the top 10 and was invited back to train to become a professional pit crew member.
"I got excited, I was like, 'man!'"
Brehanna came to Concord, NC to train with Phil Horton, the pit crew coach for Drive for Diversity, a development program for minority and female driver and crew members. It was there she began her careers as a tire changer.
"That's the position that suits me best, because I'm low to the ground and have good hand-eye coordination."
Brehanna's job is to remove and replace the lug nuts and tires as quickly as possible. She worked on it day after day at Rev Racing in Concord, NC and then at the Xcalibur Pit School in Mooresville, NC, not realizing the magnitude of what she was about to accomplish.
In June of 2017, less than a year after changing her first tire in practice, she changed one in a camping world truck series, becoming the first African American woman to pit in a NASCAR National series race.
Brehanna is now in her second season and scheduled to pit in multiple races at the Xfinity level. The young woman who didn't pay attention to NASCAR two years ago has the NASCAR world paying attention to her.