Photo via: Image: Melissa Harville-Lebron
Historically, the sport of stock car racing has lacked ethnic diversity. From the drivers to the pit crew to the team owners, racing organizations such as the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) have remained primarily comprised of white men. In 2014, that all changed when Melissa Harville-Lebron threw caution to the wind and opened her entertainment company, W.M. Stone Enterprises. Soon after, she then created “E2 Northeast Motorsports,” leading her to eventually sign a deal with NASCAR making her the first Black woman to own a NASCAR team.
The single mother, raising her own and her sibling’s children, decided to start her own music label after previously serving as an intern with Sony Music. Simultaneously, she also worked for the NYC Department of Corrections. After some health challenges rushed her into an early retirement, she created W.M. Stone Enterprises to continue to demonstrate her passion for the entertainment industry. She reflected upon her unexpected introduction into the world of racing when she was invited to attend a NASCAR experience event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. She told Black Enterprise Magazine, “I got invited to a NASCAR experience and I brought my boys along thinking that it would discourage them from driving.” She had no idea that both she and her sons would be intrigued and inspired to personally begin to change the demographics of the sport.
Her team, E2 Northeast Motorsports, is the first multicultural team to race competitively in NASCAR. The team is comprised of four black and Latino drivers, two of which being her sons, Eric and Eniko Lebron. This year, her team made their debut in the Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) on February 16, 2018. In this Daytona race, her driver, Scott Stenzel, finished in 15th place. Reacting to her driver’s performance, she reportedly exclaimed: “15th is EXCELLENT For a 1st run and no damage!”
In a statement made after the race, Harville-Lebron shared, “This team truly exemplifies diversity that is sure to attract a younger multicultural fan base.” She went on to emphasize, “It’s important for our culture to push generational wealth to our children. It’s important to lead by example. I think it’s very important for people of our culture actually succeeding in business.”
The team’s next race will be the Stratosphere 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 2nd. They are also eagerly anticipating the debut of a stock car at the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series and the launch of their newly created motorcycle division. “Our goal is to impact all forms of motorsports worldwide,” said Harville-Lebron.