By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 scheduled to be driven by Ray Black, Jr., will be among the 41 entrants in Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
However, it’s Black’s pit crew who are the subject matter as NASCAR announced Tuesday that tire changers Brehanna Daniels and Breanna O’Leary will go over the wall in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the first time, serving Black’s car.
Daniels, a former Norfolk State University women’s basketball athlete, has pitted in more than 25 races across the ARCA Racing Series and both Trucks and Xfinity Series. It’s believed that she’ll make NASCAR history as the first ever African-American pit crew member to go over the wall in a NASCAR national series race.
Daniels said after changing tires for two years, she finds Saturday’s opportunity rewarding.
“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, a former outfield for Alcorn State University’s softball program, already had pit road experience in Cup, as she’s changed tires for Ware’s team at Michigan International Speedway June 10, when B.J. McLeod was behind the wheel.
O’Leary described the pit road atmosphere as she’s set to go over the wall for the third time in her Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
“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.”
Since 2016, they’ve been a part of the NASCAR Driver Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development program, chosen by pit crew coach Phil Horton. They were among 20 former college athletes invited at the Pit Crew Combine, and both were selected to join the program and began their year-round training at Rev Racing, changing tires.
“We knew upon their arrival that Brehanna and Breanna had the potential to one day compete on pit road in our top series,” said NASCAR Senior Manager, Racing Operations and Event Management Jusan Hamilton. “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.”
The Charlotte roommates are only the fifth and sixth Drive for Diversity female crew members to have reached NASCAR’s Premiere Series, and among the 50+ graduates from the Pit Crew Program who are currently active in the sport.