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.”



Mike Pinholster

April, 2009

NASA Profiles:  Mike Pinholster

mikepinholsterVital Stats

Home: Las Cruces, New Mexico

Job: Dentist

Age: You don’t want to know

Run Group: Race Group, ST1 Class

Vehicle: Dodge Viper GTS, #4

Long before the gypsum particles blew southward off the San Andreas Mountains and formed White Sands National Park, and in a time when little happened in southern New Mexio other than Jim White’s rapid discoveries within the Carlsbad Caverns, one thing was constant:  Mike Pinholster and his reign over the old guard of New Mexican dentistry in Las Cruces.  Starting out as a Dodge Viper enthusiast and car nut in general, naturally, Mike came to the decision that most readers of this section eventually face:  To race, or not to race?  Mike chose to apply his skills, passion, and most importantly, the V10 Dodge Viper that’s sitting in his garage, and do something productive with the little free time he has.

Starting off with a recommendation from a friend living in Las Cruces, Mike made the trip to the legendary Arroyo Seco raceway–a venue that has a cult classic type following for people from New Mexico, Texas and Arizona–and you know how that goes.. “I’m just going to try this out and see if I like it.”  (Haha, good one, Mike).  After that first trip to Arroyo Seco, changes happened in the Pinholster household.  That “pretty red Viper that will never see a track”, was replaced with the iconic blue/white color-schemed Viper GTS that we have the pleasure of racing with at most events in Arizona.  Glass windows were replaced with lexan, as were his scrubs were traded in for a new firesuit.  And in the last five years, Mike has become a staple at Arizona and SoCal NASA events, running in the Race group and doing occasional stints in the Time Trial sessions.  In 2008, Mike even attended NASA Nationals at Mid-Ohio, adding to the impressive commutes Mike and his family endure to indulge in this hobby.


As mentioned above, Mike and his family make the monthly haul from Las Cruces to Phoenix to attend NASA events, which is a mere six-hour tow;  when combined with multiple trips to The Thing (I-10 joke), the Akela Flats fireworks stand and of course, racing with all of us bums at PIR and Firebird, Mike claims the trip is entirely worth the effort!  He credits part of the reason to coming out to NASA Arizona to the camaraderie and social aspect with drivers off the track, almost as much as the good times spent behind the wheel.

Yearly trips to participate in the SoCal and Rocky Mountain region NASA events are on the schedule as well, which allow a stint at his favorite track, Willow Springs.  “I finally managed to learn how not to catch air at Willow coming down the hill”, said Mike during his interview.

Random Facts

Favorite Food: Italian

Best Teeth Whitening Product: Crest White Strips

What exactly is there to do in Las Cruces? Work

Jennifer Garner or Jennifer Lopez: Garner, definitely.

Embarassing Moment: Watching Sex and the City with my wife

Can I drive the Viper? No.


Outside of racing and cleaning  teeth during the week, Mike and his family have an array of hobbies and live an active lifestyle, exploring and relaxing in southern New Mexico by boat, ATV and motorcycle.  Aside from desert hobbies, the Pinholster family indulges in occasional ski trips and Mike is currently trying to massage a “wine tasting trip” to Laguna Seca.. er uh, I mean, Napa Valley, in the near future.  Mike is married with one son, who we all look forward to seeing behind the wheel of a car at a NASA event soon (right, Mike?)!

If you have never met Mike Pinholster before, he’s not difficult to spot in the paddock.  Aside from his bright blue Viper, Mike flaunts his custom enclosed trailer, which he built himself to keep the Viper safe from the elements during the long tows across the desert.  And one thing remains true as well:  Mike Pinholster is someone everyone should get to know, as he is a true gentlemen both on and off the track.

April 11th Wraps Up

NASA Arizona Wraps Up – 4/11 – Firebird Intl. Raceway


When asked about the highlights of the April 11th NASA event at Firebird Intl. Raceway, many people will say it was the appearance of the Bugatti Veyron, or perhaps the scattered rain showers that constantly tinkered with the run groups, or maybe even, the GoGo Girl dance competition (a first ever at a NASA event—most likely not the last, either!  Tryouts for next year are at my place).  Which ever event you may have chosen as your favorite for the night, or perhaps if you missed the spectacle all together, in summary it’s fair to say that there will be no shortage of stories to last NASA enthusiasts and carry momentum into the next decade.  In no particular order, I’m going to try my best to cover every detail!

Modified Tuner Shootout Headlines Weekend


Tuner Shootout entrants line up on grid before the rainy autocross.

Starting early in the morning, so naturally deserving of the first bit of press, was Modified Magazine’s Tuner Shootout.  Taking place over the course of 30 hours, UMS Tuning’s dyno and around the facility at Firebird’s complex, 12 of the fastest import car tuner shops were invited to Arizona by Modified Magazine to battle it out over four events:  Dyno competition, autocross on FIR’s skidpad, drag race battle on the strip at high-noon, and the finale, a time attack under the lights on the FIR Main course.  Points were awarded based on finishing position at the end of each individual event with the overall winner (and cumulative points leader) taking the crown, and a year’s bragging rights for being the best tuner shop car in the United States.  Considering all the speed shops in the United States, it’s not a bad title to have!

Tuner Shooout entrants lined up before the 1pm drag race competition.

Tuner Shooout entrants lined up before the 1pm drag race competition.

With variables as mixed up as they could possibly get—mechanical failures, a rainy autocross, broken glass on the dragstrip (yes, a rear window popped out of a car!) and a variety of ringer drivers—a familiar shop took the top sport overall.  Due to press embargo agreements, the actual winner cannot be named until the August issue of Modified Magazine is released.  The following local and national teams were invited to the Modified Magazine Tuner Shootout:

Local hotshoe, and NASA King Tage Evanson gave everyone a lesson in the autocross portion in the morning, despite inches of standing water flooding the course!  They say road race cars can’t drag race.. until now at least, when the top car from The Shootout crossed the finish line, running the ¼ mile in just a hair over 11 seconds!  They say drag cars can’t road race.. until now, as the same car managed to lap FIR’s course in just a hair over the 1:02 mark!  With dyno numbers for the 12 competitors ranging in the 500hp range, it’s clear that some of the best machinery from around the country was present and managed to put on quite a show for the local NASA drivers and spectators.  Full coverage, photos, vehicle descriptions and technical details are slated to be released in Modified Magazine in early July, printed as the August 2009 issue.  Special thanks go out to Modified Magazine for organizing such a spectacular event, and huge thanks to all the local NASA Arizona people that were able to support Modified and make this event happen every year in Arizona!

Peter Tarach, editor for Modified Magazine.

Peter Tarach, editor for Modified Magazine.

April 11th is about Fan Interation

The unique events that aren’t typically part of the normal NASA schedule are what made April 11th a special day (or, night!) to remember.  Fans are what make professional motorsports the successful venues for sponsors and advertising; taking an amateur program such as the NASA’s April 11th event and adapting it to cater to fans and make it fully interactive, is a major step between bridging the gap between the large organizations like NASCAR, and NASA.

Over 2,000 people attended the April 11th event.  Entrants who brought a canned food donation saved on admission; over 1,000lbs of canned food was donated for the St. Mary's Food Bank!

Over 2,000 people attended the April 11th event. Entrants who brought a canned food donation saved on admission; over 1,000lbs of canned food was donated for the St. Mary's Food Bank!

Fans lined up throughout the night to get their photo taken with Japanese driving superstar Eiji "Tarzan" Yamada.

Fans lined up throughout the night to get their photo taken with Japanese driving superstar Eiji "Tarzan" Yamada.

With the entry fee paid by spectators at the gate, came the ability to fully integrate themselves into the activities in the paddock, vendor showcase and even drive on the track.  Perhaps the most interactive spectator event of the night was the HyperDrive event held on the Firebird West course.  With dedication and expertise from Gary Felton and nearly 25 NASA instructors, spectators were able to drive their cars on the Firebird West course with the aid (and presence!) of an instructor.  All HyperDrive laps were turned at relatively low speeds to ensure safety.  Nearly 50 cars, divided into two run groups, lined up for the run sessions which were over 20 minutes long!  The HyperDrive event started in daylight and went until the sun was well settled in the West, thus causing an interesting experience of driving at night for newcomers, but also displaying the enthusiasm and interest for the HyperDrive format.

People surrounded UMS Tuning's dyno booth all day!

People surrounded UMS Tuning's dyno booth all day!

Spectators and competitors alike were able to put their cars on the dyno for horsepower and torque measurements.

Spectators and competitors alike were able to put their cars on the dyno for horsepower and torque measurements.

NASA Race Groups

Bouncing back to more “Normal NASA” activities, the NASA race group had a night to remember!  As if racing at night wasn’t enough, or two sprint races in a single day didn’t mix things up, the rain started dumping three laps into the first sprint race, making for a memorable, amazingly well synchronized sequence of 360-degree spins down Firebird’s front straight.  For anyone that hasn’t attempted to drive in the rain down Firebird’s rubber-coated dragstrip, it’s not much different than the wet grass inside of PIR’s turn 9, or even a wintery, ice-covered freeway in Michigan.  There were several close calls, a couple kisses with the wall here and there, but all things considered, no major damage in the aftermath.

Everyone rememered to attend the driver's meeting!

Everyone remembered to attend the driver's meeting!

Clay Koevary was on fire in his ST1 Porsche 911, taking the overall pole position for the two sprint races.  The first race was cancelled due to the rain and slick conditions—an excellent decision on behalf of Ramin in control and Race Director Jeff Sussman.  Generally speaking, racing in the rain can be quite entertaining and challenging; when racing in the rain at Firebird Main, the safety risks far outweigh the fun factors, so the race was cut short and rescheduled for May 2nd at PIR.  With another sprint race just a few hours later in the night, and in near darkness, the drivers in the race group didn’t have much time to prepare or make major setup changes, adding to the excitement of the night.  In addition, the cancelled race earlier in the day meant there was extra pressure for all drivers to finish well in order to claim contingency from the various manufacturers.  Starting under the lights at 10:20pm, the second sprint race was green from start to finish on a dry track.  Local favorite and night-driving, distance master Chad Nelson (Re:  2007 2-hour night-enduro where Chad when green to checkered, without stopping) took the ST1 and overall win, finishing 20 seconds ahead of a pair of Dodge Vipers piloted by Mark Alger and Mike Pinholster.  Class results for the night race were as follows:

  • ST1:  Chad Nelson – BMW M3
  • ST2:  Greg Dalgarn – BMW M3
  • PTA:  Jeff Doss – BMW M3

(See a trend developing here?)

  • PTC:  Randy Smalley
  • PTD:  Jeremy Renshaw – Nissan 240SX
  • 944 Spec:  Joe Paluch

Congratulations to all race winners and finishers for enduring the rainy day, wet track and adverse conditions throughout the event!

Exotic Night at Firebird!

If you’ve ever been to the Scottsdale Pavilions car show, one thing you’ll understand is the correlation between darkness, and the appearance of exotic cars.  Whether it’s a car show, the track, or cruising through an exclusive strip of town, one thing remains true over the years:  Not much beats cruising your Ferrari, Lambo or Porsche around on a Saturday night; especially if it means keeping your exotic’s paint job out of the harsh Arizona sun.  As if the three aforementioned marques weren’t enough to raise the hair on most car enthusiasts’ backs, perhaps a silver Bugatti Veyron will change your mind?  Let’s take a look and see:

Bugatti Veyron--all it takes to make a Nissan GTR go by unnoticed!

Bugatti Veyron--all it takes to make a Nissan GTR go by unnoticed!

Tip:  Invest 9 minutes and 43 seconds of your life to watch the infamous Top Gear show from England, reach 253mph (407km/h) in a Veyron!  This is truly an outstanding, and highly informative video.

In addition to that piece of art, Graber Cars brought out their famous La Bala kit car.  La Bala weighs in at a scant 1500lbs and uses Toyota’s famous 4AGE engine that makes around 160hp.

Graber Cars with their award winning "La Bala" kit car.

Graber Cars with their award winning "La Bala" kit car.

The new Hyundai Genesis--modifed and ready to go!

The new Hyundai Genesis--modifed and ready to go!

AZ AWD Has Strong Presence


Arizona AWD (aka. brought out seventy cars from their club to take over the car show lot and win the award of “Biggest showing of AWD cars in Arizona, at one time, probably ever!”  Most of the cars consisted of the popular Subaru WRX, STi and various generations of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.  There were a few AWD Subaru Foresters, Legacys and even the token Nissan 350Z, pretending to be part of the club.  A big thanks to the AZAWD guys and girls for coming out and supporting the night!

DJ Tranzit and the GoGo Girls!

What would a night-time motorsports event that has racing, time attack, drifting, magazine shootouts, a kid’s area and a Bugatti Veyron in attendance, be without a GoGo Girl contest?  I know what some of you “more conservative” folk are thinking:  A Go what?  A YoYo contest?  Yes, a GoGo Contest where girls, wearing some rather revealing clothing, dance it out with the valley’s own DJ Tranzit spinning tunes in the background, to determine a winner that will take home the cash prize.  Think:  Axis Radius with a Lambo parked out front, taken to an entirely new level.  (If this isn’t making any sense, skip to the Time Attack section further down the page!).

Such a large gathering of men could only mean one thing..

Such a large gathering of men could only mean one thing..

The GoGo Dance contest!

The GoGo Dance contest!

Several of the best GoGo Dancers from around the state came out to Firebird and danced it out, despite the unfavorable weather conditions, albeit much to the favor of many single men (and even a few women!) that were attending the April 11th night event.  After the GoGo Contest was finished, Tranzit and his company spent the remainder of the night spinning music much to the delight of the drifter crowd occupying the nearby parking lot.

Trial by Fire Drifting

Drifting has been a staple of night-time events since their inception many years ago.  Night time at Firebird means drifting even more than road racing, thanks to the many organizations that cater to the drifting crowd around Arizona.  This event was no exception, thanks to the sensational work put on by the people at TrialByFire.

Nearly a thousand people came out to watch and participate in the drifting portion of the night.

Nearly a thousand people came out to watch and participate in the drifting portion of the night.

A Nissan 240SX hits the course as the sun goes down.

A Nissan 240SX hits the course as the sun goes down.

With nearly seven hours of drifting available, everyone brought plenty of tires!

With nearly seven hours of drifting available, everyone brought plenty of tires!

Drifters line up for another lap around the course, held on the Firebird skidpad.

Drifters line up for another lap around the course, held on the Firebird skidpad.

The drifting started late in the afternoon and went until closing time, drawing in nearly a thousand spectators and a full-field of drivers.  The experience brought to the table courtesy of TrialByFire meant everyone had a very good and very safe night on Firebird’s skidpad.

Time Trial, Time Attack & The Super Lap Battle

Last but not least, April 11th held points events 6 & 7 for the NASA Time Trial series, points event #4 of the UMS Time Attack series, and the kickoff event for Super Street Magazine’s Super Lap Battle series, which spans nationwide.

The NASA Time Trial series had two points events in the same day; sessions one and two counted as event #6, while sessions three and four counted as event #7.  With rain coming and going throughout the evening, points event #6 saw a mixture of dry and wet track conditions.  Points event #7 started with a damp track, then dried out only to be run under the lights!  Phew!

Apparently people have been anxiously awaiting an event at Firebird Main, as four track records were broken in Time Trial on Saturday!   The new records are listed below:

  • TTR:  Shirl Dickey – Corvette – 1:05.02
  • TTS:  Tage Evanson – Honda Civic – 1:05.67
  • TTD:  Gordon Levy – Ford Mustang – 1:13.39
  • TTE:  Eric Jacobsen – Taurus SHO – 1:13.38

Congratulations to all TT drivers that broke track records!

Results for the TT events are located at:

Seventeen drivers appeared on grid for the fourth round of the UMS Time Attack series—all fighting for the #1 spot in effort to take home the grand prize AMB Transponder!  TA-C favorite JC Meynet suffered from a mechanical failure, thus opening the door and allowing Tony Szirka the class and overall win in his EVO.  TA-B was won by Erin Morely in his Subaru WRX, while TA-A was won for the third time in a row by Brady Dohrmann in a BMW M3.

To round off the timed competitions, Super Street magazine editors made an appearance to promote and organize their Super Lap Battle qualifying round #1.  Each year, Super Street Magazine holds the Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow Raceway, which consists of competitors from around the world competing for the crown of “Fastest Time Attack Machine on Earth!”.  In order to attend the Super Lap Battle, one has to qualify at any of the various qualifying rounds held around the country.  The nine fastest drivers from the TT series earned spots in the 2009 Super Lap Battle.

Super Street’s recap of the Super Lap Battle qualifier, as well as results can be found here:


May 2-3 Event Preview

Looking relatively tame after the April 11th event, the next round on the NASA yearly schedule will be held at Phoenix Intl Raceway on the May 2-3 weekend.  HPDE will have a slightly different structure, as it will contain HPDE 1-4, in addition to the TT series.  All details of the new format are outlined here:

Get on the forums! If you are a regular, new driver, or just have an interest in NASA Arizona, be sure to sign up on the forums and engage in the meaningful conversation the occurs all day, everyday (thus driving the economy further into recession—it’s that addicting!).

Following the Saturday event on May 2nd will be a NASA sponsored BBQ in the paddock!  When you’re done driving for the day, hang out afterwards and be social!  As displayed best by the 944 Spec group, camaraderie in the pits and off track make this hobby much more enjoyable and really turn it into a lifestyle, rather than four 20-minute sessions once a month.  NASA Arizona hopes to see all of you there!

Racers:  Points event #6 that was cancelled due to rain at FIR will be held on Saturday, May 2nd.  Bring your tires, driving gloves and a bottle of determination with you to the track on Saturday!

Thanks for reading this month’s installment of the NASA Arizona event wrap-up!  See you at the track!


Because you can never get enough pictures, here are a few more, as well as galleries from various spectators and drivers.



NASA Director Tage Evanson and Dave Pratte from Modified Magazine, organizing the Tuner Shootout autocross portion

Driving legend Mike Speck blessed us with his presence.

Driving legend Mike Speck blessed us with his presence.

Factor X Racing works on their 750hp NSX before the drag race event.

Factor X Racing works on their 750hp NSX before the drag race event.

Crawford Performance's Subaru WRX STi, just before turning a blistering 1:02 lap with Tarzan Yamada behind the wheel.

Crawford Performance's Subaru WRX STi, just before turning a blistering 1:02 lap with Tarzan Yamada behind the wheel.

Photo-journalist whiz Mike Maez came out to cover the night.

Photo-journalist whiz Mike Maez came out to cover the night.

Saving the best for last!  Tony, when asked what he's doing with his Time Attack winnings, said "I'm going to Disney!"

Saving the best for last! Tony, when asked what he's doing with his Time Attack winnings, said "I'm going to Disney!"

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