As Iron Lady of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Melissa Fifield strives to inspire others
In many ways, Melissa Fifield has served as a pioneer for NASCAR‘s oldest division in the Whelen Modified Tour.
While she has not logged the statistical feats of series legends like NASCAR Hall-of-Famers Richie Evans, Mike Stefanik and Jerry Cook, Fifield has amassed more starts than any other woman in the Whelen Modified Tour with more than 125 dating back to her debut in 2014.
Fifield has emerged as a mainstay on the Tour despite a lack of the funding utilized by her competition. That makes the distinction of being the “Iron Lady” of the series a primary source of pride for the Wakefield, New Hampshire native.
“This is a pretty great milestone for me,” Fifield said. “I‘m very proud to have made this many starts and hope to keep making many more. It‘s been tough during some of these years, but I‘m proud of this accomplishment and all the hard work that‘s gone into it.”
RACING REFERENCE: Career stats for Melissa Fifield
Watching the seasoned veterans of the Tour mix it up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during her childhood is what initially piqued Fifield‘s interest to one day race in the series herself.
It took Fifield a few years to convince her parents on pursuing a career in auto racing.
Once she got behind the wheel at age 12, Fifield quickly showcased her capability as a driver by winning a Champ Kart championship at Londonderry Raceway in 2006.
There were opportunities for Fifield to head down south and further develop her talents in a late model, but she admitted her heart belonged in the northeast. She was determined to chart her own path in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, even if it meant doing just about everything herself.
After formally breaking into Modified racing in 2012 and garnering valuable track time competing against drivers like Rowan Pennink and Jon McKennedy, Fifield finally accomplished her childhood dream in 2014 by making her Modified Tour debut with her own operation.
Fifield will be the first to tell anyone her time on the Tour has been far from a smooth ride. She is still searching for her first top 10 in the series, with her best finish being a 15th at Wall Stadium in 2019.
Despite dealing with the pitfalls of owning a small team, Fifield still enjoys every chance to take a green flag on the Tour.
She added that nothing compares to racing alongside the best drivers from both the northeast and around the country.
“I just love racing,” Fifield said. “[The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour] is one of the best series out there, and I think we have the best drivers. Not only with our regulars, but we also have races where we get to compete with NASCAR Cup [Series] stars. Racing with those people only makes you a better driver.”
Maintaining her Modified team is only one of many responsibilities Fifield must handle daily.
When she‘s not at the track, Fifield runs a car dealership that’s connected to her race shop in New Hampshire. The two jobs frequently overlap for Fifield, who is not hesitant to assist customers on race day and provide them a glimpse into what she does on weekends.
Putting equal emphasis on multiple occupations is a trait Fifield shares with many of her fellow competitors on the Modified Tour. This lifestyle leads to numerous long days and nights for Fifield, but she still has a strong passion for both jobs and welcomes the obstacles each new day brings.
“Some days are better than others as far as both businesses go,” Fifield said. “I love being an entrepreneur and having the challenge of balancing out two businesses. It makes for some exciting times and also some stressful ones.”
Another passion to which Fifield devotes herself is spreading awareness on highway safety. She serves as an official spokesperson on the topic in New Hampshire.
With distracted driving becoming a more pressing issue, especially amongst teenagers and young adults, Fifield wanted to use her platform to encourage responsibility on the highways. She frequently visits high schools around the state to provide insight that could save a student‘s life.
The main goal of Fifield‘s activism on highway safety is to set a positive example for the next generation by using her own experiences to show them hard work and positive choices can turn their own dreams into a reality.
“I try to correlate having safety in the car and what it‘s like to drive on the track with how to drive safe on the road,” Fifield said. “That involves wearing your seatbelt and not driving distracted. There are no distractions in a race car. So it all goes well together.”
Inspiring others is a major reason why Fifield remains motivated to improve her equipment and show she can be competitive.
Only a handful of female drivers have raced on the Modified Tour since its inception in 1985. Among the most successful was Renee Dupuis, who earned a pair of top-10 finishes across her 116 starts in the series and is the only woman to earn a front-row starting position.
Fifield would love to eclipse the milestones established by Dupuis during her time on Tour, but she said doing so will require her to find more funding and build consistency with the resources currently at her disposal.
Simply being able to qualify and compete in Whelen Modified Tour events is something Fifield considers a victory. She’s optimistic her involvement in the series will set a precedent for other women who want to race against drivers like Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore and others.
“I hope [what I‘ve done] sets an example for other drivers or anyone out there that does have a dream,” Fifield said. “Don‘t ever give up on it, even if you face a lot of opposition. You have to keep going for it because you can accomplish anything you can put your mind and heart to.”
Now in her 10th year, the resolve of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour‘s “Iron Lady” is still strong as she looks to keep adding to her own legacy in the series.