This is Daniels’ fourth year on Pit Road and her skill has more than spoken for itself. “I love proving people wrong,” she says. “I’m one of the hardest working people and I’m strong. I know what I’m capable of.”
Her fighter’s mentality is hard won. Daniels lost her mother to breast cancer when she was in high school. “Whenever I’m going through something and I think about giving up, I always think about her. She fought hard. I can do that too,” Daniels says. “So I don’t really worry about what people have to say—if anything, I just use it as motivation.”
NASCAR—a sport that has for decades been characterized by stereotypes of beer-drinking Confederate flag-waving rednecks—is in the midst of a reckoning. In June, the organization officially banned the Confederate flag from races after pressure from Bubba Wallace, the sport’s only Black driver. (Following the ban, a rope tied like a noose was found in Wallace’s garage. An FBI investigation determined he was not the victim of a hate crime but the president of NASCAR responded by releasing a photo of the noose and telling reporters “As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba,” per the New York Times.)
The past few weeks have been “multiple strides in the right direction” for NASCAR, Daniels says, which will include sensitivity training for all NASCAR employees. “When Keedron Bryant sang the National Anthem—I don’t remember the last time we had an African American sing the National Anthem,” Daniels says. “To see that diversity, to me that means a lot. It means, NASCAR is starting to realize maybe we do need to change some things.”
Daniels has become the perfect poster woman for the future of what the sport could look like. “Before I started NASCAR, I was a little nervous about joining because of how I might be looked at, how I might be judged, because I knew that there weren’t people here that look like me,” Daniels says. “Not only am I a woman but I’m an African American woman. But you know, I’ve never put myself in a box, and I’ve always given myself the opportunity to be able to try new things. This is one of those new things I wanted to try and it’s gotten me a long way.”
When Daniels became the first Black woman in history to work the pit crew for a NASCAR race, it was 2017. The moment was bittersweet, she says. She’d just made actual history, but why had it taken that long? “Whenever I think about giving up, I just keep going that much harder,” she says. “I hope I can give motivation to others out there who look like me to step forward.”
Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour, covering wellness and women’s equality in sports.