Tia Norfleet, meet Manti Te’o. Then again, perhaps you two already know each other. Check it: after years of self-promotion as the “first and only African American woman to race in NASCAR,” an account the Georgia native used to the fullest to make headline grabs in numerous national publications, Norfleet’s intricate web of lies are about to crash and burn just like your boy Te’o.
According to an investigative report by the New York Times , Norfleet is not sanctioned to participate in NASCAR races. In light of that shocking little nugget, her claims on her website, Tianorfleet34.com—that include her intentions to compete in a full schedule, this season, in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series—are like wishing in one hand and defecating in the other, and seeing which hand fills up first. Mainly because the Series, which is one rung below the top-tier Sprint Cup series, is one she isn’t even licensed to compete in.
“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 NY Times. “Ms. Norfleet is one of thousands of individuals who have purchased licenses in the Late Model Division of our sport. I am uncomfortable with attempts Ms. Norfleet and her representatives have made to forgo the sport’s development process.”
Now here’s where it gets tricky. Norfleet has indeed purchased a license to race at the lowest level of stock-car racing for the last four years running, but there is no vetting process for that license. You could pull extras off the Fast and the Furious set and take ’em down to the track and get that license. Individual racetracks have to approve drivers for competition. In order to move up to a higher level of competition, like the regional touring series K&N Pro Series East or West that our man Bubba Wallace will participate in, a driver has to earn approval from NASCAR. Tia’s paperwork must have gotten lost in the mail because she hasn’t done that yet.
To date, the only sanctioned race Norfleet has entered was a low-level event, last year at the Motor Mile Speedway down in VA; but get this: she only completed one lap before parking her racecar onto pit road.
That’s it. That’s her claim to NASCAR fame. The woman didn’t even finish the race. Hell, Tommy Lemons, Jr., who drove the No. 27 car in the race, said he didn’t even want to be on the same track as Norfleet because she was slow (slow ain't good on a racetrack, people) and in the way. Bobby Norfleet’s tall-tale-tellin’ daughter should have listened to Gang Starr. Never run a race trying to chase mass appeal.
“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,” she told the NY Times.
Hindsight being 20/20, TSL is elated that Norfleet gave us the stiff arm after being approached to give an interview for the recent story, NASCAR'S Hopeless Pursuit of Diversity. Good thing because she would’ve tried to catfish us instead of giving us the real, like she’s done with other media outlets. She couldn’t escape the Kung-Fu grip of the ’Times, though, when her criminal past (Shauntia Latrice Norfleet was found guilty of assault and drug-related offenses in ’05 and ’09) was brought to the light.
“People make mistakes in their life and move forward and make a better way,” she told the Times. “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.”
Yeah, Okay. Your hand got caught in the cookie jar, Tia; give it up. Please have several seats. People like Norfleet, Te’o and Rahmell Pettway—who faked his own kidnapping to avoid his girlfriend’s wrath—have issues, full-blown problems, if we’re keepin’ it 100.
But the bigger issue is this: Why does this kind of sham keep happening? Why do we keep falling for the banana in the tailpipe?
Like the "captivating" story of Manti Te'o, we were all so eager to lap up Norfleet's account that no one bothered to dig deeper for the real truth. Norfleet preyed on that, counted on it. She knew that people were clamoring for a minority face to represent a sport long associated with racial exclusion. She knew we’d eat it up.
But lies have a price. More often than not, it’s a hefty price, at that. After word got out that her story was actually fiction, Jason Grant—the man who built a website for Norfleet and used his own company advertisements on the site as placeholders for potential sponsors…you know, the people who actually shell out millions to back a NASCAR driver—pulled his ads from the site.
Let that be a lesson, boys and girls. What’s done in the dark eventually comes to light. But here’s the thing: once you’re caught, you’re caught. Don’t Lance Armstrong us. Come clean. It’s pathetic that Norfleet, after getting put on blast, still thinks we’ll accept that weak sauce.
“My immediate goal is to become a Nationwide driver,” Norfleet told the NY Times. “And we’re out here every day building my driving skills and everything else so that I can reach that goal this year.”
Bow down, Tia; you get the proverbial Gas Face. Don't try to sell us your pipe dreams anymore. We're fresh out of suckers on this end. We'll keep it moving and find someone real to get behind because, truth be told, you can't handle the fast lane.