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NASCAR's First Black
Woman Driver Talks Race
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Contact: eMail | TiaNorfleet34.com
NASCAR's First Black Woman
Driver Talks Race & Racing
Some little girls play with dolls. Others take
up sewing. But for a five-year-old Tia
Norfleetnow 24it was a battery-operated
toy Corvette that held the most appeal.
It wasnt an obsession that was too
surprising to her dad, NASCAR racing pioneer Bobby
Norfleet. But now that hes retired from the
sport, Tia is looking to fill his patch-covered
racing jumpsuit and helmut as the first African
American female NASCAR driver. BE Next sat down
with the Suffolk, Virginia, nativeand the
first woman to ever be issued a license by
NASCARto discuss her plight as she looks to
move beyond drag racing and qualify for the longer
distance tracks, such as Daytona and Talladega.
What do you love about the sport?
Norfleet: I love it all, especially the
adrenaline rushIm sort of a adrenaline
junkie. I love the speed, the competitiveness and
the fact that my familyparticularly my
father, my first mentoris participating in my
Have you ever had any close calls out on the
There are always those gasping moments, those
close calls. But so far nothing too serious. I
think the key to not getting hurt is to remain
fearful of the car youre driving. When you
get too relaxed or too comfortable with it,
thats when something goes wrong.
What is it like to be such an anomaly in
NASCAR, a sport that is overwhelmingly made up of
I dont really think too much about being
the first of my kind. I just consider myself a race
car driver who happens to be a Black female. So far
most of my experiences have been good but
occasionally Ill come across a naysayer,
someone who will try to tell me I shouldnt do
this and that I should leave [this sport]
to the guys. They try to discourage me from living
my dream and reaching my goal. I just tune them
What do you need at this point in order to
officially become a NASCAR driver?
Money, and lots of it! NASCAR is an extremely
expensive sport. Our truck and trailer alone costs
about $600,000a majority of it is paid in
endorsements. It costs $10,000 just for me to test
[for a race]. Then, consider the fact that
it takes anywhere from $5-30 million a year just to
operate your team, if youre going to be
competitive. You also have to have a new or
different car at every race track. A new engine
costs $75,000 and you can go through 20, 30, 40 of
them a year. All of this is why my team and I spend
so much time appealing to my potential investors,
Fortune 500 companies that pour literally millions
of dollars into the sport each year. For them,
theres a huge payoff: while they cant
put branding all over Lebron James jersey
they can plaster my jacket and my car. Its a
very lucrative situation for them since there are
hundreds of thousands of spectators at any given
How are your fundraising efforts
Its not been easy but we do have support.
We have some investors as well as endorsements that
are currently being considered and negotiated.
How many Black folks do you normally see up
in the stands? Do you see the sport growing in
popularity among people of color?
The number of African American fans stands at
around 8.8 percent right now. Thats a lot
better than it was 10 years ago when it was
probably 1.1 percent. We love the
sportwere into the fast cars, painting
our cars like NASCAR drivers and going to see
movies about it (i.e. The Fast and the Furious
franchise) but we need more role models in it. I
think it will really take off for us when
[Black people] see people who looks like
them racing, kinda like how it was with Tiger Woods
and golf. Thats where I hope to come in.
What is your take on the recent Obama/NASCAR
I dont know the specifics of that
situation but lets just say if I were ever
invited to The White House to meet President Obama
I would go.
What is your message to young women who want
to follow your lead?
Follow your heart and your passion and
dont let anyone discourage you from being who
you were meant to be.
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