Fifield gets Whelen Modified award by popular demand again
Melissa Fifield of Wakefield accomplished something this year that doesn’t appear on the resumes of Danica Patrick and other female drivers. She won the Most Popular Driver Award for a third year in a row as the only full-time female driver on the Whelen Modified Tour.
“It’s quite an honor, something I’m proud of,” said the 24-year-old Fifield, a graduate of Spaulding High of Rochester. Voting for the award occurs online, and Fifield said mingling with fans at the speedways across the country has contributed to her popularity.
“I started racing when I was 12 years old and attended many races with my parents,” said Fifield. “I used to try to meet and get autographs and pictures taken with many drivers. Now as a female representing the sport, I take the time to sign autographs and chat with fans who want to meet me. It’s my hope someone looks up to me like I did to other racers who inspired me to become a driver when I was growing up.”
Three years ago, Fifield achieved another goal when she raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
“I started watching racing there when I was seven years old, and when I arrived there to drive, I actually pinched myself to make sure this was real. To drive in front of family and friends just down the road from my hometown is a blessing from God.”
At the Magic Mile, Fifield has run into some bad luck trying to achieve a top-20 finish. In a race last July, she blew an alternator, which killed the engine battery. In September, she was on pace for a top-15 finish until her clutch burned out heading into the final lap.
“Those are things that just happen, something you can’t predict,” said Fifield. “Hopefully, those things won’t happen again there.”
Fifield’s path to NHMS started as a junior champion karts competitor at the Londonderry Raceway at age 12. She joined the World Karting Association as an eighth-grader, which preceded a five-year tour in the Allison Legacy Series.
At age 19, she competed in the Valenti Modified Racing Series before joining the Whelen Modified Tour four years ago.
“I’ve always loved cars, love working on them and racing them,” she said. She also sells cars during the off-season at a local dealership.
She said she met Patrick last year in Loudon and took a picture with her.
“It was brief, but pretty neat at the same time,” said Fifield. “We each wished each other luck.”
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The fans have spoken, and they have selected a pair of series champions as well as a pair of repeat award winners in balloting for the NASCAR regional touring series’ 2014 Most Popular Driver Awards.
The Most Popular Driver Award winners for 2014 are:
• Ben Rhodes (Louisville, Ky.), NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
• Brandon McReynolds (Mooresville, N.C.), NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
• J.R. Fitzpatrick (Ayr, Ont.), NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1
• Rodrigo Marban (Mexico City), NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series
• Freddy Nordstrom (London), NASCAR Whelen Euro Series
• Melissa Fifield (Wakefield, N.H.), NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
• Andy Seuss (Hampstead, N.H.), NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
First-time award winners from the group include Rhodes, McReynolds, Marban and Fifield while Nordstrom and Seuss retained their popular status from last year’s balloting.
Rhodes, the 2014 champion of the K&N Pro Series East, garnered the most votes of any driver in 2014, 450 more than Marban of the Mexico Toyota Series. K&N Pro Series East drivers also received the most collective votes of any series, 2,133 more than the Mexico Toyota Series.
The closest race was in the Canadian Tire Series where championship runner-up Fitzpatrick edged Alex Tagliani by just 48 votes. Fitzpatrick was also the Most Popular Driver in the series’ inaugural 2007 season.
McReynolds captured 42-percent of the K&N Pro Series West vote for the largest individual share of any series while the largest margin of victory came in the Mexico Toyota Series where Marban outdistanced the nearest competition by 1,226 votes.
Fifield, a rookie in 2014, made history as the first female competitor to take home the Most Popular Driver Award in 30 years of Whelen Modified Tour competition.
Nordstrom and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour titlist Seuss now have the most career awards among the 2014 selectees with three apiece. Nordstrom’s have come in successive fashion while Seuss previously won in 2009 and 2013.
The Most Popular Driver Award winners will be recognized as part of the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Dec. 13 in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.