Today in awesome black woman news, Tia Norfleet is breaking barriers, speed limits and color lines by attempting to become the first female African-American NASCAR driver. The 24-year-old is following in the racetracks of her father Bobby Norfleet, a minister and professional race car driver, by training in the sport with hopes of one day circling the esteemed tracks at Daytona and Talladega. And that finish line may not be too far off – she’s been successful at drag racing and on the shorter track circuits known as the NASCAR late models, where she recorded two top-15 finishes, The Huffington Post reports.
“Around the age of 14 is when I really, really knew that this was what I wanted to do for a living; this was my passion,” she told the Post. “My finest memory of my racing experience would be when I was about 5. I had a little Corvette car, and my dad put two car batteries in it. I literally drove that car until the wheels fell off. Ever since then, I’ve just been so enthused about racing, [or] any kind of motor sport.”
Her father Bobby is credited with helping race car driving gain traction in the black community during the 1990s as a prominent driver in Suffolk, Va. Just like Tiger did with golf and the Williams sisters did with tennis, Tia has the potential to draw attention to a historically white male sport and maybe even help the financially struggling industry earn a few more dollars. NASCAR is, after all, still a business – a fact that her father is constantly reminding her of. “She understands what not to do,” he told the Post. “She understands who not to be around and the nightmares of the sport. She understands that this is a business like any other business.”
For the Norfleet’s, business extends beyond the racetrack into other entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors that revolves around rousing greater minority interest in the sport. One of those endeavors is Driven to Read, a program that teaches kids the importance of reading and how it relates to racing. Their business model follows the 80/20 rule – “We have adopted a theory of 20 percent on-track and 80 percent of what you do off-track,” the older Norfleet told the Post.
I can already see her face on the Wheaties box.