Tiffany Daniels: Engineer, Racer, Sorority Girl
Tiffany Daniels isn’t your average 22-year-old.
In May, she graduated from UNC Charlotte with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with Concentration in Motorsports and a minor in Public Relations. After graduation, she started working at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates as a support engineer.
Daniels travels to tests with the No. 40 Cup team and works in the shop during the week. Luckily, she avoids the brutal NASCAR race schedule and does not go to the races on the weekends, which allows her to continue pursuing a career in racing.
How did you get started racing?
I grew up around racing. My Dad raced Grand Stocks and Late Model Stock cars when I was little. As they say, racing is in your blood, and it was definitely in mine. After my dad retired from driving, my younger brother Cliff, who is now 19, started racing Bandoleros, which are similar to go-karts but have full bodies and roll cages. After seeing him race at Charlotte where there was a huge field of cars, I decided I wanted to start racing. I played softball and field hockey in high school, so my parents wanted to make sure I understood the commitment involved in racing. They had me work on Cliff's Bandolero car until he moved up to Legends after three years. Then we both started racing Legend cars in the Fall of 2001, when I was 16.
So far, what is your greatest accomplishment in racing?
My greatest accomplishment in racing would either be winning the Women's National Legends Championship in 2003 or finishing 3rd in the Summer Shootout Series in Charlotte in the Legends Pro Division in 2005, which was the highest for a female and getting named Speed51.com's Most Popular Pro Division Driver as a part of that series.
How did you balance college life with a racing life?
Balancing college life and racing was tough. I stayed busy all the time, focusing on school during the week, while checking in on how things were going with my race car, which was in Smithfield, Va., and then focusing on racing on the weekends. I have graduated college, so now I am balancing work and racing. I am still in North Carolina, Ganassi is located in Concord, and my race car is still 5 hours away in VA. I work and travel to tests with the Nextel Cup team during the week, and I am either racing or driving home to work on my car every weekend. My schedule is tough, but I am lucky that I get to be around racing 24/7.
I understand you were in a sorority in college, what did the sisters think of you being a race car driver?
My sorority sisters are very supportive of my racing career. They understood when I had to miss events because of racing. However, not many of them really follow racing. They think it's awesome that I race, but it isn't something that they really know a lot about.
You’ve been chosen as a NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver, tell us a little about that?
It's a huge honor to be picked to participate in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity Combine. I was chosen as 1 of 24 candidates out of all of the minority racers across the country. Participating in the Combine is a great opportunity, and I'm really looking forward to it. I am expecting to perform well on the track and in the media sessions. South Boston Speedway is the closest thing I have to a home track, so I was thrilled to find out that the Combine was being held there this year. Having seat time at the track should really help me in the Combine since I will have to adjust to a different type of race car.
We will be in Grand National Division (Busch East series) cars, and I race Late Model Stock Cars, which are lighter but have a lot less horsepower. My PR education should help me in the media aspect of the Combine, so I am expecting to do well. I am going to do my best to impress the owners and NASCAR officials who will be attending, and hopefully I will get a lot of good exposure, a great learning experience, and maybe even a ride out of my participation in the Combine.
What do you see in your racing future?
My long term goal is to continue moving up the racing ladder, being successful and winning races and championships along the way, and eventually reaching the Nextel Cup level - winning races and championships there as well. My short term goals are to finish out this season with some solid Late Model runs and to move up to Busch East next year or the following year as the next step for my driving career.
As if Tiffany's dance card wasn't full enough, she will join a prestigious group of women in a few weeks at the Lyn St. James Driver Development Program.
By Linda Przygodski