Skip

Is Tia Norfleet NASCARS's first African American Female driver?
March 8, 2013 7:39 AM   Subscribe

According to her website and several news stories, Tia Norfleet has an impressive racing resume, and is said to be the first African American women to compete in Nascar. However, it appears those claims may be exaggerated. The result has caused an uproar on her Facebook page between her supporters and detractors. Further clouding matters, Tia’s father Bobby, has in the past accused NASCAR of Racism for denying him the chance to race. For a sport hailing the achievements of Danica Patrick and desperately trying to promote diversity, could this incident hurt the progress NASCAR has slowly started to make on that front?
posted by remo (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Her Web site, Tianorfleet34.com, indicates that she intends to compete in a full schedule this season in Nascar’s Nationwide Series, one rung below the top-tier Sprint Cup series.

But Norfleet is not licensed to compete at that level. In fact, the only sanctioned race that Norfleet has entered, according to the sport’s officials, was a low-level event last year at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., where she completed one lap before driving onto pit road and parking her racecar.


She said "intends to" that's not the same thing as "will", but it sounds like some aggressive marketing is going on here. She can drive or she can't drive. I would think if she could drive, NASCAR would be falling over itself to get her out on the track. The fans only show up for the crashes you know.
posted by three blind mice at 7:46 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


That New York Times article contains a screenshot of her webpage that reads "I am the first African American NASCAR driver in history" which is confusing both because everywhere else I've seen her claim as first African American female driver and because that's pretty demonstrably untrue.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:51 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


She was in one sanctioned race, and pulled out after one lap. That's not going to get her to where Patrick is now. Most of the press reporting on her know nothing about NASCAR--I'm slightly stunned that the NYT did so much digging, compared to the others.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2013


Strange to me that the NYT doesn't realize NASCAR is an acronym, and instead spells it Nascar.
posted by jbickers at 7:57 AM on March 8, 2013


Is she the one who has the mechanic shop where she hires only women (ok, kind of cool), but only if they are "hot"?
posted by sparklemotion at 8:02 AM on March 8, 2013


It's crazy that we're so hungry for stories of people being first in any sort of arena that big venues like ESPN and others took her on her word and published articles about a supposed star of car racing without any mention of her results in races.

Also, I love that another driver commenting on her abilities in her one race was named Lemons. A CAR DRIVER NAMED LEMONS YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP.
posted by mathowie at 8:04 AM on March 8, 2013


Is she the one who has the mechanic shop where she hires only women (ok, kind of cool), but only if they are "hot"?

Are you saying there's a mechanic's shop parallel to Hooters and that it's owned by a woman?

I... I just.... so many.... I have no words.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:07 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: A CAR DRIVER NAMED LEMONS YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP.

Ahem.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:08 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Damn it, Rock Steady beat me to it. NASCAR is really the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to outstanding names. This is a list of the top 50 drivers of all time, that NASCAR compiled in 1998. It features: a Buck, a Rusty, a Cotton, a Buddy, 2 Reds, and a LeeRoy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The NYT mentioning that the NASCAR officials were concerned about her criminal record is one thing. Running her booking photo under the photo of her in racing gear is just...

Stay classy on the subject of race, Gray Lady.

Glad to know there aren't any white men with criminal records driving in circles to the left on weekends at high speed. Can't have the children thinking that the Mark of Cain that comes with entering the justice system is something one can EVER rise above.

Might give them airs and ideas.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:15 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The criminal record thing is something that I would be curious to see some more digging on, in terms of how often criminal records are an issue for white male drivers. It could be that the criminal record thing is a total red herring and guys named Buddy get on the circuit with an assault conviction on their record; it definitely wouldn't surprise if NASCAR gave her heightened scrutiny, but I'd really like to know the general policy, if there is one.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:22 AM on March 8, 2013


I was just about to ask about the criminal record thing too. Does NASCAR prohibit the use of drivers with criminal records? Does it depend on the type or severity of the crime ? (I don't follow NASCAR at all...)
posted by Kabanos at 8:23 AM on March 8, 2013


Does NASCAR prohibit the use of drivers with criminal records?

Given that stock car racing as a sport was founded exclusively by bootleggers, it's probably good to point out that if a criminal record stood between you and racing, the sport wouldn't exist.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wait, people are actually concerned about criminal records in a racing association that started because of bootleggers and moonshiners outrunning the law?

Pfft. If anything that's just a prerequisite.
posted by loquacious at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2013


Huh, looks like she is posting photos of her race licenses to her instagram account in response to the NYT piece.
posted by mathowie at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2013


I race and there are no outright bans for drivers with criminal records. However, NASCAR has a substance abuse policy, which her criminal charges would be in violation of. In general some tracks, sponsors and sanctioning bodies have on occasion banned drivers from a race or a track due to a criminal incident or record (mainly assaulting someone or a drug related charge). The smaller tracks need the drivers out there, so unless you did something at the track, the odds are good you can race and no one will check your record.
posted by remo at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2013


mathowie: Huh, looks like she is posting photos of her race licenses to her instagram account in response to the NYT piece.

The article address that.
For the past four years, Norfleet has purchased a license to race at the lowest level of stock-car racing. There is no vetting process for such a license; individual racetracks must approve drivers for competition.

To move up to a higher level of competition — a regional touring series like the K&N Pro Series East or the K&N Pro Series West — a driver must earn approval from Nascar. Norfleet has not done that yet.
It seems like she has Whelen All-American Series licenses. NASCAR seems to be saying that those licenses do not make someone a "NASCAR Driver", but rather a driver who races on NASCAR sanctioned tracks. It's a fine point, but I think an important one (from their perspective), since there is no vetting done at that level.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:52 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The license she has in those photos are not like the license Danica Patrick or a Nationwide (the series she initially claimed she was going to race) driver has. Her license is a entry level one that anybody off the street regardless if they ever plan on racing (or even have a regular drivers license) can purchase for $190 dollars. To get a Sprint Cup or Nationwide License takes plenty of seat time and success at lower levels to get the endorsement.
posted by remo at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2013


"I started doing research on NASCAR, and obviously one of the important questions I wanted to look at was the whole role of moonshine," Pierce said. "I pretty much assumed that what I was going to find was that it was something that had been mythologized and overblown, that there was Junior Johnson and a few other people that were involved in the early days.

"That was my expectation, but the deeper I looked into the whole thing and the more research I did, the more liquor I found. It was just so foundational. I knew it played a role, but the thing that surprised me was that it was so much a part of the foundation of the sport."


-NASCAR'S Earliest Days Forever Connected To Bootlegging
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:00 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strange to me that the NYT doesn't realize NASCAR is an acronym, and instead spells it Nascar.

It's a style thing. I can't remember offhand if it's actually AP style or just the Times' house style, but they do this to all acronyms that are I think four letters long or longer and pronounceable.
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


See also: Unesco
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:28 AM on March 8, 2013


I can't remember offhand if it's actually AP style or just the Times' house style, but they do this to all acronyms that are I think four letters long or longer and pronounceable.

I think it's a house thing. I was wondering exactly this earlier this morning, so I looked it up; AP prefers all-caps, for NASCAR anyway.
posted by Chutzler at 9:57 AM on March 8, 2013


I drove my 94 Civic painted like Tony Stewart's old Home Depot Car at an "Official NASCAR Hometown Track" once. I guess I better get going on that website. No criminal record, but I could post some 3 year old speeding tickets.

On the bootlegging thing. That's well established. Junior Johnson had to take time off from NASCAR to serve time on a bootlegging conviction. I guess Bill France Sr. saw everything he needed for racing - cars souped out to out run law enforcement and guys who could drive them fast.
posted by empty vessel at 10:16 AM on March 8, 2013


Running her booking photo under the photo of her in racing gear is just...

Well, there's a question regarding identity. The newspaper found no records for "Tia Norfleet" but did find records for someone with a similar name. She refused to confirm her age or date of birth, and her father indicated to the newspaper that they shouldn't print anything suggesting she had admitted to having a criminal past ("Somebody’s going to eventually have to write a retraction.").

It's a cute game to play chicken with the newspaper, trying to deliberately create the impression of a denial without actually crossing the line of saying outright, "No, I am not Shauntia Latrice Norfleet and that is not my record," but if she's going to play that game then it seems fair for the newspaper to print the two photos and let the reader decide.
posted by cribcage at 10:20 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was surprised to see that we are from the same town, so I did a little digging around and found this story in the local paper. It also appears she has had a number of court appearances for various things as well.
posted by TedW at 10:25 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her biggest obstacle will be whether or not she can sell car insurance. As long as she can consistently keep a car on the lead lap plus do a killer voiceover for radio and television commercials, she will get the sponsorship. This year, a lot of excellent white male drivers are sitting in the stands because they have no charisma in front of a microphone or camera.
posted by Ardiril at 10:33 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


From that story:

If all goes according to plan, she will open her 2013 campaign in the Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race on Saturday [Feb 16th] at Daytona International Speedway to kick of Speed Week.

It does not appear she was entered.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2013


What bugs me about this whole situation and the sideshow that is Amber and Angela Cope is the negative perception it gives racing. Not to mention, how it diminishes the real accomplishments of the legitimate female and minority drivers out there like Danica Patrick, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Darrell Wallace Jr.
posted by remo at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Though she didn't race NASCAR, I'm pretty sure the title of "First African American professional race driver" belongs to the late Cheryl Glass, who died in 1997.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:00 AM on March 8, 2013


The NYT mentioning that the NASCAR officials were concerned about her criminal record is one thing. Running her booking photo under the photo of her in racing gear is just...

I get that (I guess) but in light of the fact that it looks like this woman might well have lied about a whole lot of things, bringing up a criminal history (and the resulting booking photo) seems like fair game to me.
posted by youandiandaflame at 2:48 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is NASCAR still basically an exclusively Southern thing? I live in Oakland, not to far from Sears Point Infeon Sonoma Raceway. I see from the wikipedia page that there is a NASCAR race there, but it's essentially an non-entity on the local sports scene. I'm not even that into sports, but I know that I have never once heard a discussion amongst co-workers or party guests about car racing. Never hear it broadcast on local radio stations, I may have seen a bus ad once a year when they are in fact at the Raceway. Street racing is something that's on the local radar.

But I'm in Northern California. I'm curious about what life is like across the border in that strange and confusing place they call America. Outside the South, does NASCAR have a following?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:40 PM on March 10, 2013


It's fan base is definitely the South, I would also include almost any rural/agricultural US in there as well. Here in Wisconsin has a large number of local tracks that have and decent history of producing NASCAR drivers.

Ratings and attendance have been dropping the last few years due primarily the economy. This years Daytona 500 seem to indicate a reversal in that trend.

NASCAR has been doing work to expand into more urban markets as well as expanding it's demographic. They have also started a NASCAR Mexico series sponsored by Toyota.

I know a while back there were rumors they were courting Honda after they left F1. Seems like a good move for NASCAR given the number of tuned up civics out there.
posted by empty vessel at 1:28 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older "I'd like to thank God, who was super supportive...   |   "Red is the new Black" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post