Brehanna Daniels

Brehanna Daniels, left, and Breanna O'Leary. Photo: NASCAR

Female tire changers to appear for first time in Daytona 500

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Sunday will be a day Brehanna Daniels and Breanna O’Leary will never forget.

Daniels and O’Leary will become the first female graduates of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program to go over the pit wall in the Daytona 500.

Both will perform tire changing duties on the Rick Ware Racing No. 52 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, driven by Cody Ware. They’ll team with tire carriers and fellow Drive for Diversity pit crew alums Brandon Banks and Phil Thomas.

“The Daytona 500 is such a huge stage and getting to share the experience with Brehanna will make it that much sweeter,” O’Leary, who made her NASCAR Cup debut at Michigan International Speedway last season, said in a media release. “We came in together, trained together and got better together – and now February 17 will be another milestone we get to share together.”

Added Daniels, “I’m really looking forward to pitting in the Daytona 500 and having my teammate alongside me. It’s incredible how far we’ve come in such a short time and I couldn’t be more excited to be back at Daytona International Speedway.”

This will be the second time Daniels and O’Leary have gone over the pit wall at Daytona. The first time they pitted together, also for Rick Ware Racing, was last July’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.

“We are proud to have these remarkable women on our team and we look forward to having them join us more throughout the 2019 season,” Rick Ware said. “Last July, Rick Ware Racing was the perfect fit for Brehanna and Breanna as the first female NASCAR Drive for Diversity tire changers to pit on the same team at the Cup level. We have always stressed our family philosophy at RWR, so we welcomed them into our family and they performed very well.”

Daniels and O’Leary were recruited to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program by veteran pit crew coach for Rev Racing, Phil Horton. Daniels came to the program after playing Division I basketball at Norfolk State University, while O’Leary was an outfielder on the Alcorn State University softball team.

Daniels recently competed in and won on NBC’s Titan Games, hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Daniels and O’Leary have gone over the wall in over 60 races across NASCAR national series and the ARCA Menards Series.

Daniels, O’Leary, Banks and Thomas are among more than 50 graduates of the Pit Crew Development Program currently working in the NASCAR industry, including 28 pitting on NASCAR Cup teams for the 2019 season. Last February, Derrell Edwards became the first Pit Crew Development Program member to be part of a Daytona 500-winning team with winner Austin Dillon.

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Two female pit crew members making history in Daytona Cup race

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Two close friends will make history tonight as the first two women to serve as pit crew members in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the modern era.

Brehanna Daniels and Breanna O’Leary will help service Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet driven by Ray Black Jr. in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC).

Daniels and O’Leary, both roommates in Charlotte, North Carolina, are the fifth and sixth female NASCAR Drive for Diversity crew members to reach the Cup Series.

They 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 Cup Series.

Daniels, making her series debut, is a former Norfolk State University women’s basketball player and 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,” Daniels said in a press release. “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, who used to work in the strength and conditioning department at Alcorn State University, will be making her third appearance in the Cup Series and second in 2018. She also changed tires for the No. 51 last month at Michigan International Speedway.

“The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is unlike any other series,” O’Leary said in a press release. “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.”

NASCAR America: NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity extends to pit crew for third year

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While most attention each week is focused on drivers and crew chiefs, the unsung members of NASCAR’s race teams are often the pit crew members. In its third year, NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Pit Crew search took place last Friday in Charlotte.

One high profile graduate of the program, Brehanna Daniels, hosted NASCAR America’s cameras during this year’s combine as 13 college athletes took part.

The right rear tire changer for the No. 55 Xfinity team, Daniels is NASCAR’s first female African American pit crew member.

“I feel like a hero,” Daniels said. “Like I really am paving the way for others. Just them seeing me do it, it makes them want to be a part of something too.”

Phil Horton, Director of Athletic Performance – Drive for Diversity, oversaw the combine as potential crew members were challenged with a variety of exercises to test their core and stamina. That strength is essential to being a part of a winning team.

“Once we show them how drivers need them to win a race, it’s a huge rush so far as jumping over the wall in front of a car at 45 miles an hour,” said Horton. “It gives them the same feeling they had when they played stick and ball.”

“I just had a guy on my pit crew in the Trucks who came from the Jets,” Parker Kligerman said. “He had played for the New York Jets for a year or two. So that’s incredible to me to see these athletes who were aspiring for stick-and-ball sports, but then find this opportunity to get in the pit crew realm. And for race teams, that’s gold because we want the best athletes we can find and that’s how we make the pit stops faster. And when you make time on pit road, that’s just easy positions on the race track and that’s what all the race teams want”

For more, watch the video above.