Meet Tia Norfleet, The First African American Female NASCAR Driver
8 months ago
While the jury is still out on whether or not we live in a "post-racial" society, the argument could be made that the color lines are beginning to blur.
For much of its existence, the most colorful things about NASCAR have been its logo and the flashy cars barreling down race tracks. NASCAR's fan base is most closely associated with the southern portion of the United States, creating an almost unavoidable association with the rebel flag in the minds of many outsiders to the sport.
But recent efforts over the past ten years have given NASCAR's image a much needed tune up. The auto racing body's first attempts at diversity included creating the Executive Steering Committee for Diversity and making basketball legend, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the committee's co-chair. And the efforts didn't stall there. NASCAR continued its drive to promote inclusion; opening the door for people like Tia Norfleet, the first African American female racer in NASCAR history.
Daughter of former NASCAR driver, Bobby Norfleet, Tia got interested in racing by following her father around. By age 14, she was already competing in kart racing events.
Earlier this year, after shooting though the amateur ranks, Norfleet became the first black woman to ever earn a NASCAR racing license.
In August 2012, she competed in her first race as a NASCAR driver and is looking forward to paving a new road for others.
Loop 21 caught up with Tia and her father to talk about her career and her future.
Loop 21: So, how did racing and NASCAR even become a big thing in the Norfleet household?
Bobby Norfleet: I raced every day of my life. I'm 63 and I never played any sports. All I ever did was race bicycles as a kid and graduated to drag racing. Growing up, Wendell Scott--the first African American to ever drive in NASCAR--was my mentor and that's how I ended up in the sport.
Tia Norfleet: I guess when I was really young. All I ever saw my dad do was race, so when I was five, he got me a Barbie corvette and took out the batteries and put two car batteries in it to make it go faster. That was the initial thing that made me think this is what I wanted to do.
Loop 21: How do you nurture a child's interest in racing--it's not like with baseball, football or basketball where you can just find an open field or court.
Bobby: She would come with me to events and be around when I was working on a car. It wasn't too hard, but it was hard from a financial point. When you're a basketball or football player, all you have to do is find a court, field or place to play. In motor sports, you have to find a lot of back roads, or a racetrack.
Loop 21: How and where do you practice?
Bobby: We have to go and rent tracks all around the country. Usually it's one similar to the one we're about to race on. You can't rent the track you're scheduled to race on because it gives you an unfair advantage. You basically pay to use it, test your car and do what you have to do.