Happy Hump Day!
Today’s featured auto racers are (and I’m sure there are some POUers that will be extra happy with the features today!) Nicole Lyons and Tia Norfleet.
Nicole Lyons, 29, was exposed to street racing at an early age. Her father, Jack Davis was a well-known street racer, and she shared his passion for all things car-related. So it’s no surprise Lyons went into the dangerous but thrilling sport herself, one of few African-American women to do so. In 2005, Lyons became the first black woman in professional stock racing. The following year she built an 1,100 horsepower engine, which broke records at the time. Her life-long love of cars and racing has translated into a full-time career, while her image has opened the doors of possibility to younger African-American women.
Here is an interview with MadameNoire.com in which Nicole discusses her career:
Madame Noire: Describe what a pro race car driver does.
Nicole Lyons: There are several different race car competitions, NASCAR, NHRA, Indy. You have to be licensed in a particular field of racing. You definitely have to be making money…Danica Patrick, for example, makes upwards of 20 to 30 million a year…Ways to make money [include] winning races, getting sponsors, getting paid as a driver. The money [you can make] is endless when it comes to winnings, sponsorships…
MN: How much do you make?
NL: I probably pocket upwards of $500,000 to one million a year…
MN: How in the world did you get started? You’re a rare gem, so who was your role model?
NL: Old school women racers who were white women; my dad was a race car driver himself… My father passed away a week before my 1st NHRA season opener in 2005. And right off the bat, I’d beat the #3 person from the year before. I feel like he’s there—we can literally talk to each other. My mom was in the pic…she didn’t race but she cheered.
MN: How do you interact with cars in your pastime?
NL: I own 13 muscle cars, besides my race cars. [My husband and I] probably own a $2,000,000 collection; I also own Cole Muscle Cars, a muscle car restoration shop… I believe a driver’s role should not just be as a driver, but you should be able to do anything that’s needed on your car as well.
MN: How does the NHRA treat African American women in the business?
NL: They have some pride there; you’re not hearing scrutinizing from heads of NHRA—the scrutinizing comments come from corporations. A big motor vehicle company [that was considering sponsoring me] said, we’d really love to sponsor you, but we’re concerned that if we part ways, black people would stop buying our vehicles. [Some also] feel like women are going to take time to have kids—you’ve just gotten millions, and you’re going to say, ‘oh guess what I’m pregnant and you’re going to want a family and not want to do this anymore…
Read more here.
Tia Norfleet (born May 1, 1988 in Suffolk, Virginia) is an African-American drag racing and stock car racing driver. The daughter of NASCAR driver Bobby Norfleet, she is the first African-American woman to receive a NASCAR racing license. As of 2012 Norfleet competes in late model races at short tracks throughout the southeastern United States.
Norfleet’s interest in racing began at the age of 7, when her father, NASCAR driver Bobby Norfleet, doubled the battery power of a Hot Wheels Barbie car to increase its speed. Norfleet’s racing career began at age 14, when she began competing in kart racing events; she went on to a successful career in drag racing at the local and regional level, where she won 37 of 52 events she competed in.
In 2000 Norfleet switched to stock car racing, competing in Bandolero cars, then moving to late model stock car racing on short tracks starting with the 2004 racing season; she became the first female African-American driver to receive a NASCAR racing license.
Norfleet competes in local events at tracks near her Augusta, Georgia home, starting her Late Model career in 2004. She plans to compete in NASCAR national touring series competition starting in the summer of 2012, and is operating a grassroots funding initiative to finance her racing career.