Breanna O’Leary makes the most of her opportunities as a tire changer in NASCAR on any given race weekend. From her practice sessions to race day, it’s all about being precise and cool under intense pressure.
Starting this month, O’Leary will provide her perspective and thoughts with life on the road and her progress in racing, as seen in Part One. In the second and final part of her debut journal entry, O’Leary reflects on her inspirational coaches in softball and NASCAR, her love of music, and her competitive side to a beloved Nintendo 64 video game!
Rob Tiongson : We talked a bit last month about some of your favorite sports heroes and they were the dóttirs in Crossfit like Sara Sigmundsdóttir and Katrín Davíðsdóttir.
As far as the coaching side, especially with your athletics in Alcorn State and with being in the pit crews, who have been some of your favorite coaches and what advice have they passed on to you that you incorporate to this day?
Breanna O’Leary : My high school coach, Coach (Steve) Singleton, played a big role in getting me to where I am because he was always so positive and reminding us that you have to work hard. At the end of the day, you have to remember that you’re not representing yourself when you’re a part of the team.
You’re representing the team as a whole, the name in the front of your jersey. So, it’s important to carry yourself well and with pride. And that’s kind of always stuck with me. You’re always representing something bigger than yourself. That’s definitely always stuck with me.
My junior college coach at Frank Phillips, Coach Grider, he just always had faith in me and always believed in me and that’s kind of helped me to believe in myself. In junior college, I had a position change from infield to outfield and that was a big struggle for me because I never played outfield in my life. And he just never let me get down on myself.
And so now, I’m able to take that with me. It’s kind of, you can get your head down, slow down, be sad about it for a little bit, and then you’ve gotta pick up and keep going because life’s not going to wait on you for sure.
And then there’s Coach Horton. I literally wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He always likes to joke around about how he rescued me from Alcorn. He loves to tell me that. But he saw something in me, and he took a chance on me. Now, I’m here and it’s something I never would’ve imagined. I’m doing something that I definitely wouldn’t have dreamed have at all.
Rob Tiongson : I would say that you’ve definitely had some good coaches and they’ve given you great mantras for sports and for life. You could have all the talent in the world but if you’re in your best mental shape, what’s it all for? So, I’d say you’ve had some great inspirations like Coaches Horton and Grider. In a way, you’re carrying on Coach Horton’s legacy and those who’ve you been with which is pretty cool.
Breanna O’Leary : Yea, I definitely just hope that everything I’ve taken from them…I’ve used and learned from it and made them proud. At the end of the day, I hope that I’ve made them proud because I know they’ve helped me a lot to get me where I am and helped my mindset and everything. I hope that I can continue to do well.
Rob Tiongson : You’re well on your way! Now, I’m going to have to circle back to what we talked about back in Texas, so I hope you’ve got answers on these ones…
Breanna O’Leary : I didn’t even do my research either! I’ll give you the same answers, I think, as last time. (laughs)
Rob Tiongson : (laughs) That’s alright. Well, I know you love country. So, if you could name the top five songs that would be your soundtrack of your life, what would they be? I realize they’ll change, but what would those consistent songs be for you?
Breanna O’Leary : OK, so I don’t know if I would say that I have songs that speak about my life. I would say I listen to country music. I just listen to a few songs and put them on repeat until I find the next few songs, if we’re being honest. (chuckles)
Rob Tiongson : Oh yea, I mean I’ll listen to the same songs for a while. But what’s one song that even three years ago that you still enjoy to this day?
Breanna O’Leary : Oh, man. I wouldn’t even know anything. I’m stuck on Kane Brown. Whether it was three years ago or when his album came out a few months ago, I will sing my heart out to it.
Rob Tiongson : Do you sing along to it in the car before or after work and do you sing loudly and shamelessly even when someone sees you stopped at a traffic light?
Breanna O’Leary : Oh, definitely! I definitely have a pretty good drive to work, so I have a lot of time to jam out to all of my country songs. Especially when I’m driving by myself, everything’s on full volume and I jam out. (laughs)
Rob Tiongson : Do you have a guilty pleasure song at the moment?
Breanna O’Leary : You know what, I will sing any song, probably. I wouldn’t say it’s a guilty pleasure. I will sing it and I don’t care how old it is. If I like it, then I’m going to sing it. (laughs)
Rob Tiongson : So if you heard Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart,” you’d sing it?
Breanna O’Leary : Oh yes. Yea, I used to sing that song when I was younger to my sister all of the time. Just a few words! (laughs)
Rob Tiongson : I will never look at that song the same way now. I don’t know how I’m going to top this moment now. Were you much of a video gamer during your childhood and what games did you enjoy playing with your siblings?
Breanna O’Leary : I literally was never into video games and I’m still not. But, there is one game that I will always play and that’s Mario Kart 64. I don’t care for Mario Kart on any other system, but on the N64? Oh yea!
Rob Tiongson : So if I busted out the N64 with you one day, you’d be pretty competitive and not take it easy on me?
Breanna O’Leary : Definitely! I definitely love that one.
Rob Tiongson : It would seem like I am the old man of the group as I expected Nintendo or Super Nintendo. (laughs) Ah well!
Now, we talked about this recently, but I know that sometimes, you don’t really get to have a say on the food that you get to eat. But, if you had a chance to have a say and decide on a go-to restaurant, in terms of a good place that you enjoy dining at, what do you like?
Breanna O’Leary : Well, when we have time, or early races or races the next day and we’re staying overnight, and we have time to sit down, I don’t know why, but I guess maybe it’s cause I’m going and going…but Olive Garden or some pasta sounds good on the way. And I’m like, “Olive Garden!” Some of the guys are like, “You always say Olive Garden every time!” (laughs) I’m like, “Well!”
I don’t know what it is. On the road, that’s just always what I’m craving. If we drive by one, I’m like “Olive Garden!” If I get enough of the guys to go with Olive Garden, then that’s where we’re going. And that’s funny, cause that’s where we went last Saturday night after the Talladega XFINITY race.
So, on good weekends when we have time and I can get them to agree, for some reason, I’m always ready for Olive Garden.
Rob Tiongson : When you’re here, you’re family! It must be that you like the commercials or love to carb load. That’s an interesting choice!
Breanna O’Leary : I would say that the advertising works on me and you can’t go wrong with the salad, breadsticks, and pasta. (chuckles)
Rob Tiongson : See, that’s pretty simple if you ask me right there!
Special thanks to Breanna for sharing her perspectives, on and off the track! If you’d like to learn more about Breanna and the NASCAR Diversity program, “Follow” them on Twitter! Look for Breanna’s next journal in early June!