Since Tia Norfleet was a young girl she knew she had a desire for racing cars. Her passion for racing led to her breaking barriers — becoming the first and only African-American female licensed by NASCAR.
Norfleet obtained her NASCAR license two years ago and made her first NASCAR debut on Aug. 4 at the Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va. Norfleet, who is sponsored by Verizon, finished 23rd out of 25 drivers at the CMC Supply Twin 100s at Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va.
With an early start at five years old racing her Barbie Corvette — replaced with two new car batteries to increase the speed by her father Bobby Norfleet — Norfleet stopped at nothing to make her racing dreams a reality.
“It’s a blessing to do what you love to do,” Norfleet said.
Bobby Norfleet, an inspiration to his daughter, has a long history of racing. Founder of Bobby Norfleet Racing, Inc., he began his career in motorcycle racing, then moved to drag before competing in NASCAR in 1992. His mentor was Wendell Scott, the legendary African-American racer who competed in NASCAR in the ’60s and ’70s and was the only African American to win a race.
Bobby proudly wore Scott’s number “34,” which he then passed on to his eldest daughter, Norfleet, who wears the symbolic number with a long lineage. Bobby has always supported his daughter’s dreams and encouraged her to make the decision to race on her own.
“I didn’t influence her at all — that was her decision,” he said. “She took an interest in racing whereas my boys didn’t. Whatever the kids wanted to do, if it was positive, we are behind them. I just told her she has to want to do it.”
Norfleet was 14 when she realized she wanted to make racing a career. She knew hard work and dedication would be the key to success — despite what anyone else told her.
“There were plenty of people, even recently, that would say they don’t get it or ‘it won’t work,’ trying to discourage me,” she said. “Misery loves company but I didn’t listen to them because had I listened to them I would be right there with them.”
Off the track, Norfleet is engaged in a number of community efforts that include working with children and programs like the National African American Drug Policy Coalition and the Motorsports Institute, Inc.
Norfleet keeps a busy schedule and routine to remain mentally and physically fit. Her racing career is “surreal,” as she describes it.
“I’m just really a driver like everyone else, I just happen to be a Black female,” she said. “I didn’t set out to be the first African-American female — I just wanted to drive.”
Norfleet plans to participate in more races this year. With a strong team behind her, she is enthused for what the future holds.
“Now we’re just preparing to run a lot more races this year and getting ready for Daytona 2013,” Bobby Norfleet said.