When we think of women in NASCAR we often think of internationally celebrated Danica Patrick, however there’s one woman in particular we should be paying more attention to. Meet Tia Norfleet, the first African-American female NASCAR driver and daughter of legendary NASCAR driver Bobby Norfleet.
The adrenaline and skill of driving at high speeds resides in the bloodline of the Norfleet family, and the love and passion for the sport has been held by Tia since age seven. Having a Hot Wheels Barbie car was a top priority for millions of young girls in the early 90s, but Norfleet’s car would trump others when Mr. Norfleet doubled the battery power of her Barbie Corvette. Barely a teen, and roughly 10 years removed from the legal age to drive, Bobby Norfleet handed his pre-teen daughter the keys to their family mini-van, knowing she could handle the road alone. At nine years old Tia, now a semi pro behind the wheel, embarked on daily trips to karate practice, convenient stores, and traveling around her neighborhood in preparation of becoming one out of a handful of women in a high speed and dangerous male dominated sport.
At age 14, Norfleet began competing on a local and regional level in kart racing, leading into a successful drag racing career resulting in top rank stats: winning 37 out of 52 events. In 2000, she switched her focus, setting her sights on dominating the track in entry level spec racing, competing in Bandolero cars. Eventually in 2004, Norfleet would move on to late model stock car racing on short tracks, later becoming the first African-American to obtain a NASCAR late model series racing license.
The Norfleet family has deep connections to trailblazing, legendary racer “No. 34,” Wendell Scott. Scott was the first African-American NASCAR driver and the first African-American to win a race in NASCAR’s highest ranked Grand National Series. Under the mentorship of Scott, Bobby Norfleet would honorably represent the legacy of Wendell Scott, and race as number 34 throughout his career.
Familiar with bumps in the road, Tia Norfleet came to face her own challenges as a Black woman in NASCAR, having difficulty acquiring sponsorship, the key essential component to competing. It takes millions of dollars per year to race, and backers weren’t lined up to endorse Norfleet as one of their brand ambassadors. When opportunities did arrive, let’s just say she chose the high road to remain true to herself. With the support of her family, and leadership from her mentor and father, Tia Norfleet sets her sights on breaking barriers the “Norfleet” way.
Proudly racing as number 34, Tia Norfleet carries on the tradition and legacy of the great African-American drivers to come before her. HERSource recognizes Tia Norfleet during Women’s History Month as she continues to pave the way and inspire young girls, and competitive drivers all over the world.