The future of femalekind in NASCAR has arrived. And her name is ... Tia Norfleet. Ah, you were expecting Danica Patrick?
It's no wonder. For years, the IndyCar Series and Nationwide Series driver has been the only female name associated with the sport. She was the first person with a uterus to lead a lap at Daytona. The first one with breasts to win an IndyCar race. But just as Danica has paved the way for more women to climb into a car, Tia Norfleet stands the chance to do something just as big. She's gunning to join the Nationwide Series in the near future.
The 23-year-old is a black female in a sport where only one of the top NASCAR races has featured more than one driver of color. Ever. To put that in perspective: this is a sport where they race weekend after weekend from February to fall. And only once, in 1971, there were two drivers -- both men, it should be noted -- who were black driving in one race. Otherwise, there has been, at the most, one black man in the seat ... if that.
NASCAR has a female problem. But in 2011, racing still has a race problem. But Tia Norfleet's just another name we haven't heard of, so why such faith that she could be a bigger deal than Danica? Take a look:
1. The race thing. It isn't racism to say it matters. Tia is essentially a double minority -- female and black -- and taking down two barriers at once. That's history making.
2. She's got talent. A driver who has mostly done drag racing and driven in NASCAR late model series, Norfleet has a record of 52 starts with 37 wins as a drag racer, and two top 15 finishes in 18 starts in late model series.
3. She's got a legacy. Norfleet isn't just a nobody off the street. Her dad is Bobby Norfleet, a controversial driver who fought with NASCAR in the '90s about racial issues. She's got something to prove, and not just for herself.
4. She's driven -- no pun intended. Tia says she takes messages from little girls and other women to heart. “I try to tell them you can do it, no matter where you grew up, no matter how you grew up," she told AOL's Sporting News. Speaking of which ...
5. She's from racing country. Raised in Suffolk, Virginia, Tia is from southeastern Virginia, the same general area that produced NASCAR greats like Elliott Sadler (Emporia), Jeff Burton (South Boston), and Ricky Rudd (Chesapeake).
Will you be keeping an eye out as Tia charges her way up to the Nationwide Series?