Branna O’Leary makes history as one of the first women to participate in the Daytona 500

Breanna O’Leary sat out on her journey with NASCAR in 2016 in an attempt to try something new. Three years later, after enduring the rigorous training and challenges of the Drive for Diversity Crew Member Development Program, the Alcorn State University alumna’s name will be forever etched in NASCAR’s history books.

O'Leary was one of two women to work as tire changers at Sunday’s Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. O’Leary and her teammate, Brehanna Daniels, changed tires for the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. 

As O’Leary looked back on her journey, she never imagined reaching historic heights as a pit crew member. She hopes that her impact inspires others to pursue their dreams and break barriers.

“It was exciting to participate in the Daytona 500,” said O’Leary. “I never would’ve imagined the impact I would have in this sport. I hope that my success makes my supporters and young girls proud.”

Being on such a huge stage could be nerve-racking, so O’Leary made sure to block out distractions so that she could do her best work.

“Once I started to focus on the task at hand, I began to treat the job like any other race. My goal was to stay calm so that the pressure of being on the big stage wouldn’t affect my performance.”

The grind that comes with achieving success in NASCAR didn’t stop O’Leary from overcoming obstacles. She credits her perseverance for her achievements. 

“I’ve put in hours of hard work to get here, and I still have a lot more work to do. I’ve been challenged mentally, physically, and even emotionally on this journey, but I have put my head down and moved forward.”

O’Leary motivates others to believe in themselves and block out negativity. 

“I encourage others who want to pursue a career in NASCAR to work hard and don’t let others’ opinions deter you from pursuing your dream.”