Tia Norfleet has a really cool dad. Bobby Norfleet, also a NASCAR driver, tinkered with her battery-powered Barbie car upon request so she could beat neighborhood children in races. “She loved it, she loved going fast,” he told Reuters. “I knew then that she was interested in racing.”
“Bobby nurtured his daughter’s talents, and she took advantage. On Aug. 4, Tia, 24, became the first African-American woman to race in NASCAR. She placed 23rd out of 25 competitors at the CMC Supply Twin 100s at Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va,” writes ESPN. “Turns out, the little girl who drove a souped-up Hot Wheels convertible hot rod until the wheels fell off is now pushing speeds of up to 200 mph in NASCAR’s late-model K&N Pro Series.”
Although she raced Barbie’s car at 7, Norfleet moved on to go-karts at 14, and drag racing followed until she finally made it to NASCAR. The organization started Drive for Diversity in 2004 to give minorities and women the opportunity to compete but Norfleet does not appear on their roster.
“It’s crazy that blacks are still achieving firsts in sport,” she said, “but at the same time, it’s amazing to see we are evolving as a people. We can do the things we always wanted to do because our ancestors have paid the price for us to be where we are.”
Norfleet told Final Call she ignores haters on the internet who would try to bring her down, she has other problems. “The biggest challenges that I’m facing at this moment because of the economic downfall would have to be finding a sponsor, a major sponsor,” she said. That’s made even tougher considering she turns down any sponsorships from alcohol and tobacco companies.
The driver says she considers herself a role model. “I don’t think people in the limelight understand that when you are in the limelight whether you want to be a role model or not, you are. I speak to the kids, I’m all about empowerment and motivation and just positivity and letting them know that dreams come true,” she said. “It may sound cliché but the truth never changes. I love to let them know that they can be anything they want to be as long as they’re positive and they keep God first, anything can happen.”