Tia Norfleet‘s claims of being the first and only African American female NASCAR driver has media outlets comparing her to Manti Te’o following a recent exposé. It’s cold in these parking lots.
According to a story in The New York Times last week, the 20-something Georgia native is not licensed to compete in NASCAR — and is receieving the Cam’ron side-eye of death from officials for reportedly exaggerating her racing qualifications.
“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 an email.
Writer Viv Bernstein also points out that Norfleet’s website inaccurately labels her season schedule as NASCAR’s Nationwide Series.
Get that “they’re pulling the race car” joke out of your system and place your reading glasses on the bridge of your nose like E-40 after the jump.
When asked Monday about the nature of her competitive career, Norfleet said: “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.”
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.
Meanwhile, publications and Web sites like The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and ESPN have heralded her ascent. “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 officials said they were also concerned with questions about Norfleet’s legal record. Public records indicate that Tia Norfleet’s full name is Shauntia Latrice Norfleet, and that she has a criminal record in Virginia and Georgia. (No public records were found with the name Tia Norfleet.) According to her Web site, her hometown is Augusta, Ga.
Court records show that in 2005 and 2009, Norfleet was found guilty of assault and drug-related offenses. Norfleet did not deny having a criminal record.
“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, it’s things that you may not be proud of but you move forward and you help others. And they may be in the same situation and you can relate and they can relate to you, and you help them as much as possible.”
Bobby Norfleet, Tia’s father and a former racecar driver, later said that her comments were not an admission that she was involved in a crime. “Somebody’s got something wrong,” he said. “Somebody’s going to eventually have to write a retraction.”
According to public records, Norfleet is 26 years old. Some news reports earlier this year said she was 24. Tia and Bobby Norfleet refused to confirm her birth date.
According to a news release distributed by Platinum Sports Entertainment Group, Norfleet is now a good-will ambassador for the National African American Drug Policy Coalition Inc. She was also the safe driving spokeswoman for the SafeTeen Georgia Driving Academy at Atlanta Motor Speedway in May.
One of the first public mentions of a Tia Norfleet appears to be in a news release in January 2010, a month after Shauntia Norfleet’s conviction in Lincoln County, Ga., for crossing a guard line at a jail with contraband and possession of marijuana.
The release announced Tia Norfleet as “the first and only African-American female driver in Nascar and Arca,” and said she had signed to be represented by Platinum Sports Entertainment Group.
At that time, Norfleet had not raced for Nascar or Arca, another auto racing organization in the United States.