Melissa Tellez

May, 2009

NASA Profiles:  Melissa Tellez


Vital Stats

Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ

Job: Student

Run Group: HPDE4

Vehicle: ’95 BMW M3

Attends all Downloads: Of course

One thing that has become apparent after several months of the NASA Who’s Who column, the Saturday night social, or simply the countless hours spent side-by-side at the track with our racing comrades, is the fact that each and every person has their own unique story.  Sure, an outsider to NASA would look at the cars going around in endless circles and be oblivious to the stories each driver has relating to their involvement with NASA and racing in general.  Understanding the true reasons and motivating factors for all of the drivers, and more importantly, the diversity and adversity each and everyone has overcome, is what makes spending those two weekend days a month together, that much more interesting and special.  NASA’s HPDE driver Melissa Tellez, is no different; After spending some time with Melissa and getting to know her (and her story) better, it was clear who the next Who’s Who candidate would be.

Twas’ a brisk autumn day in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Dave Tellez took delivery of his brand new 1995 BMW M3 and pulled into the family driveway with that unmistakable grin on his face.  Within seconds, the family came rushing outside to check out the new car.  First up for a ride:  Melissa, the youngest of the three daughters.  Literally within miles, the remaining family members heard tires screeching, followed quickly by repeated yelling echoing around the neighborhood.  When Melissa proceeded to spill soda all over the seats, carpet and console of the freshly-delivered M3, she knew that car was her destiny.  Fast forward 14 years, including countless NASA events with Dave behind the wheel, the M3 and Melissa have come full circle.  Three years of NASA membership and participation only scratches the surface into the diverse life and passion Melissa has for the sport and the automotive industry.


As mentioned, Melissa has two sisters, both with different passions and paths in life.  What kicked off a remarkable story was the requirement for all of them to attend NASA’s HPDE1 program upon receiving their driver’s license, in order to understand the basic concepts of vehicle dynamics, safety and car control.  Melissa, obviously, stuck with the racing path, and took over the driver’s seat of her father’s E36 when he eventually moved onto a different car.  Melissa says the passion began earlier however, as the numerous hours in the garage helping her dad tinker with the M3, not only counted for a daughter/father bonding experience, but fueled a desire to learn more about the industry, and eventually choose it as a career path.

Of course my question on who got rights to the M3 was much more basic..

Brady: So let me guess:  Your dad entered the three of you into a NASA-sanctioned time attack with the traditional 2-lap format, with the fast lap winner getting rights to the M3??

Melissa: Not quite.

Well, it was nice thought at least.  According to Melissa, taking the wheel and becoming an active NASA member was a natural progression due to the lifelong love for vehicles, driving, learning, and of course, the best all around track vehicle ever:  the BMW M3.  (Random M3 plugs throughout are one of the benefits to being the author!)  😉


Currently Melissa is attending Arizona State University at the east-valley Polytechnic campus where she is nearing her degree in Automotive Mechanical Engineering.  Aspirations to continue a future in motorsports and automotive development are what helps drive the passion for participation in NASA events and learning about cars, racing and “the life” in general.  “Ultimately I want to work for BMW.  More short-term, a gig with a major racing program–ultimately in Formula 1– would be a dream come true and great way to spend the years after graduating,” said Melissa.

Random Facts

Favorite Restaurant: Cafe Pino

Hollywood Hunk: Hugh Jackman

Beach or City: City

Favorite Movie: Anything Batman

To further solidify an already solid background in automobiles, BMW and driving, Melissa is spending part of her summer abroad in Regensburg, Germany to study for a semester.  When she’s not studying, Melissa likes watching movies, her favorite TV shows, being sarcastic, driving and she’s entering the world of shifter kart racing soon.  More long term, while Melissa has no plans to ever sell the M3, she does wish to move into the instructor ranks.  Of course, when she returns from Germany, be sure to ask her to settle life’s greatest debate:  Is the Nurburgring really better than Firebird East??

Lastly, to conclude what could only be described as the most spectacular of interviews with another NASA member, I would like to leave the readers with this final thought and something I appropriately dubbed:

The Tellez Family Theory of Regulating Motion

As usual, my job is to dig for scandalous information with the Who’s Who candidates, with hopes to make them feel just a little less comfortable at the next NASA event.  [Ask Mike Pinholster about the unprecedented amount of dental advice he gave out on May 2-3 thanks to last month’s feature]  Much to my surprise, Melissa shared the most intimate of family secrets, so naturally I felt the need to share it with the NASA community.  While releasing any responsibility on her behalf, I will quote Melissa one last time:

“Thing is, city streets have speed limits.  Freeways and highways have speed limits.  On-ramps, however, fail to have speed limits and proper signage.  That being said, it’s up to the driver—one can accelerate up to the speed limit, or slow down to reach the appropriate speed limit.  The max velocity achieved on the on-ramp itself is not relevant.  However you chose to obtain the lawful freeway speed limit, is fair game so long as it’s reached.”