The National Association of Stock Car Racing (Nascar) has struggled with incorporating diversity, so Tia Norfleet’s emergence was the proverbial blast of electric air. She appeared to be Nascar’s Tiger Woods: Charismatic, attention-grabbing and full of potential. It isn’t often a black woman chooses professional stock-car racing as a career, so the Georgia native was prime for a media blitz. She would draw national attention to the sport’s Drive for Diversity initiative and secure endorsements and sponsorships as well.
Her strategy was successful at first. Norfleet was named the good-will ambassador for the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition Inc. and landed a gig as the spokeswoman for the SafeTeen Georgia Driving Academy at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But a series of troubling discoveries has derailed her ascent in the sport.
The New York Times found several signs indicating Norfleet is a fraud, including her actual accomplishments versus public statements. She told several publications she’s the first and only African-American female driver in Nascar and the Automobile Racing Club of America (Arca), but Norfleet has never raced for either organization. She has never applied to race with Arca or purchased a license from the organization and has never received approval to race for Nascar. In fact, Norfleet’s most notable race to date is the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia, where she only finished one lap.
Norfleet’s website indicates placement in Arca’s Daytona International Speedway race, but she didn’t participate in a qualifying test last December. These conflicting accounts of events and Nortfleet’s statements are alarming for Nascar and Arca officials.
“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.
Ron Drager, Arca’s president, agrees. “It would be inaccurate for her to say that she’s an Arca driver,” he said.
Norfleet is standing firm in her statements to the press.
“I’ve been racing in nonsanctioned races before. I’ve been racing forever. For as long as I can remember. I race in nonsanctioned races,” she explained to The New York Times.
That is accurate. Norfleet has only participated in are non-sanctioned races, which the New York Times refers to as the “lowest level of stock-car racing.” Racetracks approve drivers for these competitions, so there is no overarching organization issuing regulations.
Jadotte sees this as Norfleet’s attempt to dodge Nascar’s extensive vetting process. “I am uncomfortable with attempts Ms. Norfleet and her representatives have made to forgo the sport’s development process,” he said in an email to The New York Times.
It doesn’t end there.
Tia Norfleet is really Shauntia Latrice Norfleet, a 24- or 26-year-old (she won’t confirm her age) with a criminal record in both Virginia and Georgia. The New York Times uncovered court records showing separate convictions for assault and drug-related offenses.
Norfleet can explain that. “People make mistakes in their life and move forward and make a better way,” she said in a telephone interview. “I think things that I’ve done, people make mistakes, as a child, as a teen, and basically, its things that you may not be proud of but you move forward and you help others.”
None of these allegations are deterring Norfleet’s Nascar aspirations. “My immediate goal is to become a Nationwide driver. And we’re out here every day building my driving skills and everything else so that I can reach that goal this year.”
Do you think Tia Norfleet is a fraud?