ASU grad student trying out for NASCAR pit crew

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 5, 2016

As a graduate student in athletic administration and coaching at Alcorn State, Breanna O’Leary knows she wants a career in sports.

She never thought that would lead her to the prospect of becoming a NASCAR pit crew member.

O’Leary was selected to participate in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Pit Crew Program. Admission to the program requires several tryouts and a combine in Charlette, N.C.

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“At first, I had no knowledge of NASCAR beforehand,” O’Leary said. “I was excited because it was something new, and I was finishing up school, so I wasn’t sure what the next step was for me. “

Half of the 18 participants who were invited to tryout in the national combine were selected to receive professional pit-crew training with the goal of gaining full-time employment with NASCAR national series race teams.

“We train for the first six months, and when the new race season starts, they hope to have us ready to start,” O’Leary said “Right now, it’s just training, and we aren’t at the races. It’s up to us, and how well we do will decide if we’ll be placed with a racing team at all.”

Earlier this month, three D4D alums — Raphael Diaz, Kevin Richardson and Richie Williams — celebrated as members of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Chris Buescher’s pit crew after he won his first premier series race at Pocono Raceway.

O’Leary said the program is geared toward athletes as opposed to mechanics and engineers.

“Its still a competition, so athletes are used to that pressure and that environment,” she said.

O’Leary said not unlike her training as an Alcorn State softball player, she will work out and lift weights daily. She expects some initial classroom work before she can get hands-on experience with her job as a tire changer.

“From the sound of it it’s going to be repetition,” O’Leary said. “We all know what our job is. We’ll learn the rules and the safety for the first month and start regular practices.”

O’Leary is one of two women accepted to the program that aims to add diversity to the NASCAR ranks.

“Right now, I’m just excited for this opportunity, and I have what it takes to hang with the boys,” O’Leary said.