Racer Tia Norfleet accused of lying about NASCAR career
Nearly two years ago, Tia Norfleet told Sporting News that she was working toward becoming the first female African-American driver in NASCAR and hoping to pave the way for other African-American drivers to enter the sport.
Since then, she’s been promoting herself as an accomplished driver working her way through the NASCAR ranks and claims that she plans to race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year.
But, according to a report in The New York Times, much of what Norfleet has been promoting is not true.
According to a March 6 story in The New York Times, Norfleet is not licensed to compete in NASCAR and has drawn the ire of NASCAR officials for the way she has been promoting herself.
“I am uncomfortable with Tia representing herself in the way that she has,” Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR’s vice president for public affairs and multicultural development, told The New York Times.
In May of 2011, Norfleet, the daughter of former NASCAR driver Bobby Norfleet, told Sporting News that she planned to make her NASCAR debut later that year and hoped pave the way for other African-American women to race.
“That’s one of the things I want to change,” Norfleet said in an interview with SN’s David Steele. “We want to bring a different light to NASCAR. You ask the average person, black, what NASCAR is, and they say, ‘You drive around in a circle, and that’s it—so what?’
“Well,” she continued, “they don’t see anyone there they recognize, or that they can identify with.”
Norfleet has made similar comments and told a similar story in several media interviews over the past two years, including with such media outlets as ESPNw, The Washington Post, Huffington Post and Essence Magazine.
Now one website is calling her story a hoax and comparing her to Manti Te’o.
According to The New York Times, much of Norfleet’s story does not ring true.
According to The Times, a press release distributed by Platinum Sports Entertainment Group, which represents her, claims that Norfleet is “the first and only African-American female driver in NASCAR and ARCA.”
Norfleet’s website, TiaNorfleet34.com, also says that she planned to race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year.
But according to The Times, Norfleet is not licensed to compete in NASCAR nor ARCA, another stock-car racing series, and the only NASCAR-sanctioned event she has competed in was in a low-level event last year at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., where she completed just one lap before parking her car.
The Times also reports that Norfleet, who is from Augusta, Ga., has a criminal record in Georgia and Virginia and was found guilty in 2005 and 2009 of assault and drug-related offenses.
“Ms. Norfleet is one of thousands of individuals who have purchased licenses in the Late Model Division of our sport,” Jadotte said in an e-mail. “I am uncomfortable with attempts Ms. Norfleet and her representatives have made to forgo the sport’s development process.”
NASCAR has run a Drive for Diversity program since 2004 designed to help develop minority drivers and has selected several African-American drivers to participate in the program. African-American driver Darrell Wallace Jr. came through the program and currently is racing full time in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.
NASCAR officials said Norfleet, whose father participated in the truck series in the early ‘90s, has been invited to apply for the program but she has never applied and therefore never received an invitation to participate in the program’s tryouts.
When asked by the Times about her career and claims about her racing background, Norfleet said, “I’ve been racing in non-sanctioned races before. I’ve been racing forever. For as long as I can remember. I race in non-sanctioned races.”
Norfleet responded to The Times report on her website by saying, “I'm not going to let a biased, smear campaign stop me. I've been dealing with this type of obstruction since I got my license back in 2010.”