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Once a Racer, Always a Racer—How Bruce Maichle found his way back to heads-up racing

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Written By Steve Baur

Photography by Kevin DiOssi

Despite having parents that weren’t interested in cars for anything more than basic transportation, Bruce Maichle’s parents had good taste in them, with Dad driving a ’68 GTO, and Mom wheeling a ’70 Dodge Dart.

“I’ve always liked cars and by the time I was done skateboarding, my older brother had a ’78 Camaro Z28,” recalled Maichle. “I was 14; he was 18 and I bought it wrecked from him after a couple of years.”

With the Camaro, the budding car enthusiast would find his way into the world of street racing.

“At 16, I was putting my own car together.” Maichle was learning how to race and wrench, and sometimes things didn’t always go as planned, but that’s part of the race car life.

“My parents got a new asphalt driveway and the first trans I ever pulled,” Maichle told us. “I didn’t know I had to drain the fluid and it ruined the driveway. It still has a stain to this day.”

Eventually, Maichle got some formal training, though.

“When I was 20, I went to the automotive training center because my parents wanted me to do something with my life, but I didn’t plan on working on them for living.”

Throughout his high school years, Maichle tried out several different cars, including a ’75 Malibu and a ’74 Camaro. When he graduated high school, he bought the hottest car around, a 1979 Trans Am. And it wasn’t but three years later that it was no longer a Trans am, but just a Firebird.

“It turned into a full-blown race car,” Maichle said. “I had that car from 18-34 years of age. It was a good relationship—hard to end that one.” Hard yes, and perhaps a learning lesson as he had grown to hate what he had done to it and sold it.

Maichle campaigned that car, which was equipped with a 525ci BES Racing Engines Pontiac engine, in the NMCA’s Real Street category in the late 90’s, and then moved over to the now-defunct NSCA series from 1999 to 2005. Real Street back then (in both sanctions) was a naturally aspirated class that later turned into NMCA Pro Stock and eventually became the series’ current NA 10.5 eliminator.

As his racing efforts ramped up, Maichle ran most of the ’99 NSCA season, sat out much of 2000-2001, and then came back strong with runner up finishes for the NSCA Real Street championship in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he finally grabbed the top spot by grabbing five event win and claiming the elapsed time and mph records for the season.

With a runner-up finish for the 2005 season, Maichle started looking at what it would take to stay at the top of the class.

“I wanted to build a new car and it was right when the 25.5 chassis certification was coming in to play,” Maichle told us. Deciding it was easier to start with a fresh chassis Maichle parted ways with the second-generation TA, picked up a fourth-generation 2002 model, and spent 2006 building it.

“Me and Ron Rhodes built the 2002,”Maichle explained. “We did a bunch of burnouts outside the shop and then tore it apart. Ron and I have been best friends for about 20 years now.”

In 2004, Maichle’s friend, Josh Schwartz started High Horse Performance, selling exhaust systems for Mustangs while he was in the Air Force reserves. Maichle and Tracy Mears opened the shop side of the business in 2006, as they were both dealer techs for Chrysler before that.

“He started carrying the first parts for the Hemi and we started having Bischoff do complete engines within two months of starting at HHP,” Maichle recalled. The market was wide open. “2006 was the first year for the SRT Charger, Jeep, and 300C. That’s when the shop started blowing up on the Hemi side. We did our own head/cam package and ran 11.98. Were installing two of those per week for months.”

While installing HEMI parts during the day, Maichle made the most of having the lone GM car in the shop, as he drove his Trans Am to the 2007 NMCA Pro Stock championship. It also caught the eye of fellow NMCA competitor Don Baskin, who asked about buying the car throughout the 2007 season.

“I was ready for a break, and I had the opportunity to get out of it what I had into it,” Maichle said of his decision to part ways with his race car. Baskin still tasked Maichle with piloting the Firebird for the first half of 2008, until Maichle got married and moved to Kansas, where he would live for the next four years. During that time, he continued to be the liaison between HHP and BES Racing Engines.

Maichle would spend the next four years in Kansas, and it didn’t take him very long to get back in the racing game.

“If you’re a racer, you’re always a racer,” Maichle exclaimed. “I stayed out for two years and then bought the blue car to go Xtreme Street racing. I started working on the car at home. Race cars take a lot of time, amazingly, so do infants.”

Said blue car is his current ride, a 2002 Firebird that began life as a V-6-powered street car, and things got off to a rocky start with the new project.

“Josh called me and said, ‘I think you should buy yourself a car to give you something to do.’ I told him that I didn’t think I wanted to buy one and he said he would buy it. Two days later, I found this one,” Maichle told us. “The body was supposedly perfect with one little scratch, and I bought it sight unseen. I get it and there’s no paint on one fender and the side was banged up. I bring the car home and don’t have the title. Two months go by and I find out the owner is in the ICU from an accident. I talk to his grandma and asked where the title was. She said there was still a lien on it. I called the bank and ended up having to pay it off and pay for the car twice.”

While Maichle was working on the new race car’s construction, he was also tasked with building a street car for NMCA Street Outlaw racer Rob Goss, and just a couple of years later, Goss told Maichle that he wanted him to build him a race car.

“He called me in 2012 about building a race car and I was working on my car,” Maichle said. “I told him I was a year out before I could look at it. He bought the Drag Pak in 2012, and it took us a year before we went to our first X275 race.”

In between building cars, Maichle ended up moving back east and going back to work for High Horse Performance. He had done a good bit of work to his Firebird at his home in Kansas, and once he was back east, the car was moved into the HHP shop where the build was accelerated.

“That car was built in-house, and it’s the only one,” Maichle explained. “Our original intention was that High Horse would sell LS parts and this would be our introduction to the market. By the time I got done, we were so busy with Hemi stuff that we decided not to.”

HHP did indeed get busy with Hemi customers and the business has expanded. The company now has 11 employees working in two buildings—one for offices, sales, and warehousing, and another that is the installation shop with dyno.

“The Hellcat split our business up,” Maichle said. “They are different from the regular Hemi customer and are a whole new clientele. The Hellcat definitely brought back a lot of car enthusiasts—you’re able to buy a car that is already fast, and with minimal effort, can make it run 9s.”

In addition to the direction of the company changing, Maichle decided to change direction with regard to the class he intended to run, opting to move up into the Street Outlaw/X275 category with the Firebird.

“By the time it got done, it was set up for X275. There is so much X racing locally that it made more sense—of course, I’ve raced the car locally twice,” Maichle quipped. “These classes have evolved so much in the last couple of years that you have a wide range of places to race.

Maichle finally got behind the wheel in the summer of 2016, but eventually handed the driving duties over to Mike Cerminaro, who drove it in 2017.

“I’ve known Mike from racing for a long time. He has a Nova that he was racing in X, but didn’t want to cut it up to get down to the current weights. And he’s a 175lb jockey,” Maichle joked. “He’s a good driver, a good mechanic, and he can drive the rig all night without sleep. Really, he was just someone I trusted to drive my car. It’s also hard to find someone you can race with.”

With Cerminaro racing the Firebird, Maichle was able to concentrate on Rob Goss’ program. The Drag Pak had received a whole new chassis and Maichle wanted to focus his efforts on getting the most from it.

“Mike’s first year included burning up lots of motors while learning how to run the LS on alcohol,” Maichle said. “It was definitely a learning curve with the M1. The first race this year (2019), we went to the Memphis finals and lost.” Despite the learning curve, Cerminaro finished third in the NMCA Street Outlaw championship points for 2019.

“We sorted out some ignition problems and went to Georgia and won No Mercy—it was 100 percent consistency and luck. With the rain, they were fighting the track. It’s a survival race, just like World Cup. We went 6.72 there, rolled into the second round and broke the trans before we could take the light!”

Maichle also noted that he had some help in the tuning department that turned things around with the Firebird’s program.

“We brought on Wade Hopkins at Southern Speed to handle the tuning and he was the missing piece of the puzzle.”

With the NMCA pulling its Street Outlaw schedule back to three events for 2020, Maichle and Cerminaro have decided to focus on the X275 championship. That might not be all that surprising, given that Maichle expressed that he prefers to race for championships, but what is happening with his racing program in the off-season sure is.

“We’re putting a Gen III Hemi in it,” Maichle told us. “We’re taking the old engine out of Rob’s car—he’s getting a new one. We’ll have it ready for Lights Out in Georgia in February. We sell Gen III Hemi parts—it makes business sense.”

That combination is sure to turn heads no matter how it performs, but Maichle is confident that the Hemi will be a good match for the Firebird’s chassis. He’s just the right guy to figure out how to make it quick and fast, too.

“I just love racing. If I have to work 56 days a week to pay for it, it doesn’t bother me.”

 

Owner/Driver

Owner: Bruce Maichle

Hometown: Lewes, DE

Occupation: Manager, High Horse Performance

Driver: Mike Cerminaro

Hometown: Townsend, DE

Occupation: Construction

Class: Street Outlaw/X275

Crew: Bruce Maichle/Wade Hopkins-The Staff at HHP.

 

Powertrain 

Engine: LS

Engine builder: BES Racing Engines

Displacement: 450 ci

Block: Bill Mitchell Solid

Bore: 4.125

Stroke: 4.250

Crank: Windberg

Rods: GRP

Pistons: Ross

Cylinder heads: CID

Valvetrain: T&D

Camshaft—Brand: Comp Cam  Type: Solid Roller

Carburetor or EFI system: FuelTech FT600 EFI

Fuel Injectors:—brand: Billet Atomizer Model: 800 lb/hr

Power-adder: ProCharger F3D 102

Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels M1

Spark plug brand: NGK

Headers and exhaust: Rhodes Custom Auto stainless steel Zoomies, Parts from Kooks and Stainlessheaders.com

Transmission: Turbo 400

Transmission Builder: Proformance

Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Coan Engineering

Rearend: Burkhart Chassis 9-inch

Differential: Moser spool, Richmond gears

 

Chassis 

Body and/or chassis builder: High Horse Performance/Rhodes Custom Auto/Delaware Chassis Works/AIR Fuel Fire/ABS Collision Service

Suspension (Front): Santhuff Front Struts

Suspension (Rear): Santhuff Coil Overs with TRZ Torque Arm and Anti Roll

Brakes (Front) Brand: The Brake Man Disc

Brakes (Rear) Brand: The Brake Man Disc

Wheels (front) Brand: Weld V-Series  Size: 3.5

Wheels (Rear) Brand: Weld V-Series  Size: 15×12.0

Tires (Front) Brand: Mickey Thompson front runner Size: 26.0×15

Tires (Rear) Brand: Mickey Thompson ET Street Pro Size: 275/60/15

Body modifications:

Fiberglass/Carbon body components: VFN fiberglass Front End and Hood, Carbon Doors from Mike Kostick

Safety equipment: 25.3 Chassis

Vehicle weight: 2,875 lbs

Quickest et: 4.31 (1/8) 6.72 (1/4)

Best 60-foot: 1.03

Fastest mph: 165.00 (1/8) 205 (1/4)

Sponsors: High Horse Performance, G3 Performance, BES Racing Engines, Southern Speed, ProCharger, Coan Engineering, TRZ Motorsports, FuelTech, Billet Atomizer, Moroso, Rob Goss Racing, Chris Alston CDS, Visner Manifolds, Ross Racing Pistons, Fragola


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