Meet Melissa Harville-Lebron: The First Black Woman to Own a NASCAR Team
by Selena Hill
February 22, 2018
Melissa Harville-Lebron never imagined that her entrepreneurial pursuits and ambitions would lead her to make history as the first African American woman to own a race team licensed by NASCAR.
Harville-Lebron, a 47-year-old single mother raising her three biological children as well as her siblings’ four kids, started her career in the entertainment industry as an intern at Sony Music. In 2005, she launched her own music label while working for New York City’s Department of Correction office. Nearly a decade later, she suffered from a severe asthma attack that forced her into early retirement and inspired her to take the risk of launching a multifaceted entertainment company, W.M. Stone Enterprises Inc., in 2014
Harville-Lebron says her journey into auto racing began unexpectedly when she took her sons to a NASCAR experience event at Charlotte Super Speedway in hopes of deterring them from taking up such a dangerous hobby. Instead, the experience only piqued her sons’ interests and eventually led to her investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop her own team.
“I got invited to a NASCAR experience and I brought my boys along thinking that it would discourage them from driving,” she told Black Enterprise. But “it did not work that way.” They drove 149 mph and 150 mph during their first session and loved every minute of it while she watched in awe.
Nonetheless, seeing the passion and joy that her sons had for racing compelled Harville-Lebron to want to help them follow their heart. However, as she explored the sport’s history, she noticed its notorious lack of diversity. There were little to no drivers of color, let alone an owner. That motivated her all the more to fill the gap.