Modified Tour driver Melissa Fifield is living life just the way she likes it — coated in motorsports


Melissa Fifield
(Photo: Kostas Lymperopoulos/NASCAR)

Those who purchase vehicles from Pine Knoll Auto Sales can rest assured their cars are top-notch. In this case, the token quality assurance claim that comes with a typical dealership experience is sincere.

The promise is a given when the products are personally vetted by a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver.

Automotive wholesalers who work with Melissa Fifield say the owner and operator of the lot just outside Wakefield, New Hampshire is the pickiest dealer around. The 31-year-old Wakefield native says she’s critical of what’s placed on her lot because she knows such a high standard will sell.

“[Customers] are always like, ‘Well, if Melissa likes it, I know it’s good,'” she said. “When I drive it, I think I can find more quirks with it than the average person can.”

This is an example of how Fifield’s automotive-drenched world operates with ideal synchronicity, the result of nearly two decades of perseverance. The girl who grew up piloting snowmobiles and soaking in modified races at nearby New Hampshire Motor Speedway found a way to keep the thrill of motorsports paramount in her adult life.

“I juggle a lot,” Fifield allowed. “I may go from race team owner to working on a finance deal for a customer. [But] I certainly love what I do. I’m not a person who enjoys the quiet time.”

RELATED: See the 2024 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule

Melissa Fifield
(Photo: Veasey Conway/NASCAR)

Fifield is preparing for her 11th NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, another full-time campaign that will see her eclipse 150 career starts just a few races into the year. She’s already run more laps than any other woman in the nearly 40-year history of the Tour.

That she’s accomplished so much with a relative lack of resources — not to mention the mountain of challenges associated with being a female race-car driver — is remarkable.

Fifield’s career began in karts after a racing-obsessed 11-year-old convinced her parents to let her compete. A Londonderry track championship quickly followed, as did a World Karting Association ranking of No. 4 in the country. She moved on to compete in Allison Legacy cars and late models before her first venture into modified racing with the Valenti Modified Racing Series.

Everything changed when Fifield decided to make the jump to the Whelen Modified Tour in 2014. She needed a new car, complete with a new engine, new parts … new everything. She needed crew members. She needed a truck and trailer.

Fortunately, Fifield’s passion for racing is rivaled only by her drive on the business side of motorsports. When she first started racing, she established her own car detailing operation to provide funding. She later accepted jobs at car dealerships and dabbled in multiple departments, an experience she says prepared her to operate her own lot.

Now Fifield’s race shop is connected to her business. Her race cars even grace a section of the sales building; she says customers appreciate that “cool and unique” experience in the show room.

“It definitely took a few years to get everything together,” Fifield said of her Modified Tour operation. “Just getting everything started to get one car, and then get the second car. And try to build up an inventory of parts when you need something.”

Melissa Fifield
(Photo: Kostas Lymperopoulos/NASCAR)

But challenges persist a decade into Fifield’s race program. She still splits races between her two cars. She needs more spare parts. And, of course, there’s the people problem.

Fifield is grateful for the help of her father Kenneth, who has been by her side since Day 1 of the racing effort. He continues to work in the race shop and keeps the operation moving when his daughter has to spend time managing the car lot. She also has former driver Jake Marosz working as crew chief and her fiancé Hunter Smith serving as spotter.

From a help standpoint on a consistent basis, that’s about it.

“I’m still looking for crew members who are able to come every week,” Fifield explained. “Some weeks I may have a full pit crew, and some weeks I may only have one or two guys. So certainly we don’t have the fastest pit stops on those weeks, and it may take a few extra laps to get things done.”

Fifield has also never benefitted from the aid of a driver coach. Her race craft is the product of trial and error — “sometimes more error,” she jokes — and the random nuggets of information she’s gained over a decade of Modified Tour racing. She utilizes a simulator to provide visual keys and potential setup parameters.

Yet the obstacles do nothing to govern the way Fifield operates as she continues to pursue her first top-10 finish in Modified Tour competition.

“I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t racing,” she said. “I think I’d be lost.”

Melissa Fifield
Melissa Fifield in action at Richmond Raceway on March 31, 2023. (Photo: Rob Branning/NASCAR)

Fifield is engaged and scheduled to marry Smith in November, a strategic date since the Modified Tour season runs through October. Neither she nor Smith, who manages his own motorsports performance company, want the additional stress of wedding planning during their busy seasons.

Her engagement to a fellow racing enthusiast is ideal in the sense that Smith can understand and relate to her chaotic schedule. It’s another example of Fifield’s life continuing to revolve around motorsports.

That’s part of the reason Fifield is only partially joking when she claims she wants to race until she’s 65 or 70.

“I’m going to race as long as I can,” she said, adding that the last year and a half has delivered a wave of growth for both herself and her team. “Just more consistent runs; having some new ideas for this year on some small things that we’re hoping make a little bit of improvement.”

From the business she manages to her career as a race-car driver to her soon-to-be husband, Fifield’s life in and around cars continues to provide fulfillment.

Asked which of those aspects provides the most joy, she answered as only a racer can.

“When I actually get in the race car,” she said. “Everything else is no longer on my mind. I’m just concentrated on that, and I can go run the best that I can to my ability.

“Everything slows down. I’m in my own world. I love that moment.”

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