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Breanna O'Leary poses for a photo at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine.
NASCAR

Tire changer O’Leary ‘excited, nervous’ for Monster opportunity

BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine alum Breanna O’Leary was full of emotions prior to her Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series showing on pit road in Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

O’Leary graduated from the Pit Crew Combine in 2016, working her way up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series. She currently serves as a tire changer for the No. 45 Toyota for J.P. Motorsports.

RELATED: College athletes put to the test in 2018 Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine

On Sunday in the Irish Hills, O’Leary was on pit road in NASCAR’s premier series changing tires for the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing team and driver B.J. McLeod.

“I’m excited, definitely nervous,” O’Leary told NASCAR.com. “I’m just trying to keep myself level-headed. I’m mostly trying to tell myself it’s just another race. It’s just another pit stop.”

O’Leary, a 26-year-old Austin, Texas native, played softball at Alcorn State University. Before joining the NASCAR D4D program, O’Leary was working to earn her master’s degree in athletic administration and coaching at Alcorn State. O’Leary would have never guessed just how substantial of a turn her life would take when the opportunity in the sport was initially presented.

“At the time, I was actually a graduate assistant for our strength and conditioning coach at Alcorn,” O’Leary said. “They set it up through him. He was like, ‘I want you to do it.’ I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, I just knew they were coming and it was something to be competitive in, so I went for it.”

Now, O’Leary is an inspiration to others from all different walks of life and backgrounds who would like to follow a similar NASCAR path — all because she wasn’t afraid to take a risk.

“Probably never in my life I thought I would be here right now,” O’Leary said. “Being a tire changer, especially at this level, I would have never dreamt it. I would have never thought it.”

When asked what her mindset is going to be on Sunday in preparation for one of the biggest moment in her young NASCAR journey, O’Leary sounded like a seasoned veteran.

“I’m going to treat (the race) like any other race day, just for my nerves and try not to hype it up too much. Remind myself I’m here to do a job. Typically, before a stop, I’ll just count in my head ‘1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5’ so I’m not thinking or anything.”