Tia Norfleet The First Black Woman NASCAR Racecar Driver
Tia Norfleet is the first and only black woman racecar driver to be licensed by NASCAR. The Suffolk, Virginia native actually began driving at age 4 when she spotted the keys in the ignition of her parent’s minivan. Her inner-driver made its first debut all the way through the front porch of their home.
Three years later, at age 7, her curiosity was fed with a Hot Wheels Barbie car in which her father added an extra battery for power and speed; then onto go-karts and stock cars. Only a few years later, Norfleet had racked up 22 finishes in the top 10. At 24 years old, she was embraced by NASCAR officials.
She races with the number 34, which is the same number as her father, Bobby Norfleet, also a legendary driver who holds the only minority-owned sponsorship to motorsports. Consequently, the number 34 was also the number of Wendell Scott, the first black to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The young woman driver credits her father for teaching her the ups and downs of racing based on his experience as an African-American man in a predominately non-minority sport.
Earlier this month, Norfleet made her NASCAR debut at the Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Virginia. Like her father and Wendell Scott, Norfleet started financing her own racing career through a grassroots initiative. As a result of her success, she has since been offered funds by various companies but has refused monies offered by alcohol and tobacco companies. She is currently sponsored by Verizon.
Beyond the track, both Bobby and Tia Norfleet take part in philanthropic work with organizations such as the National African American Drug policy Coalition and the Motorsports Institute, Inc.
Making a number of appearances to benefit the community each year, Norfleet uses her celebrity to mentor youth on the importance of education and following their dreams, including her Driven to Read program, which teaches kids the importance of reading and its kinship to racing.