Meet Tia Norfleet, The First African American Female NASCAR Driver
9 months ago
Tia: You have to rent a track. It's almost as intense as a race. Only difference is there's not as many cars out there with you. You may be out there alone some days, but you're basically just testing your car out. You could be out there from sun up to sun down some days. You also spend time communicating with your crew chief because they are your eyes and ears. When you're in the car, you can't look left or right or behind you, so you learn how to listen to them more.
Loop 21: Growing up, were you a loner as far as your interest in racing was concerned? Did you have friends who were doing it too?
Tia: I was pretty much a loner, but my family always supported me. They were always there. I was the only one who wanted to participate in motor sports growing up. As I got older, some of my male friends got more interested in drag racing and street racing. They would collect cars, but I was pretty much by myself.
Loop 21: You finally competed in your first NASCAR race earlier this month. You got a lot of attention, and some criticism, even before your tires met the track. Was it a relief to get it out of the way?
Tia: It was exciting. It was a breath of fresh air, like, it's finally happening. I know we came a long way, but we have a long way to go as well. But finally being in the car, being at the track with my family and support team and actually experiencing it was exciting. It was a blessing that I was actually there. As far as criticism, I don't really pay attention to what people say about me. I just do me. I was a little nervous before the race. But once I got in the car, started the engine and got the smell of the rubber--I was in my element.
Loop 21: You are being heavily promoted as the first black female NASCAR driver. Is that something you set out to do? Is it a burden at all?
Tia: It's not a burden; it's something I love to do. I'm a racer. I'm a driver. I just happen to be an African American female. It's nothing we set out to do, I just like to race. But we are trying to expose a different demographic to the sport. I'm just pleased to be a part of the situation.
Loop 21: From the outside looking in, it still doesn't look like a lot of black people are involved or interested in NASCAR. Is that the truth?
Bobby: The sport is changing. It's not like it was when I first got in. You are seeing more minority participation in the sport. NASCAR is doing more to promote inclusion. They are trying to show people that it's not like it was 20 years ago. NASCAR is big business, and in order to succeed in big business, you have to include everybody. I've seen rapid growth in the last six years. They are trying to come up with new ways to get more people involved in the sport. Keep in mind, NASCAR is 60 years old and this is all brand new to them, but they are making an assertive effort.
Loop 21: Lastly, do NASCAR drivers get a lot of speeding tickets?
Tia: Well, I don't want to incriminate myself, but I speed anyway. But, no, I don't have a lot of speeding tickets. I can only speak for myself though.
Bobby: Actually, I drive below the speed limit. After you're spending all this time in these cars where it can get 160 degrees inside, the last thing you want to do is drive, let alone speed. You want to chill on a back porch somewhere and chill.
Find out more about Tia Norfleet and her community work at TiaNorfleet34.com