Chuck Merrill, the founder of Maxim Chassis and a 2014 inductee to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, died on Monday. Merrill was 78 years old.
Working in the family construction business, Merrill‘s Construction, for decades, Merrill eventually became interested in sprint car racing and bought his first car in 1983. After several seasons with drivers, including Mark Kinser, Danny Smith, Jimmy Sills and Andy Hillenburg, he began experimenting with building sprint car chassis.
In late 1988, he created Maxim Chassis and Johnny Herrera debuted the first chassis in 1989, with Jack Hewitt and Rocky Hodges also wheeling the Maxim house car.
At the end of the season, Merrill gave up team ownership to concentrate on building chassis. Everything changed for Merrill and Maxim chassis when Merrill convinced Karl Kinser to try one of his chassis.
On the first night with a Maxim, Kinser‘s driver, Steve Kinser, won a feature in Moberly, Mo. It was the beginning of a long relationship that resulted in many victories and was converted to success for Maxim chassis.
The list of drivers who raced and won in Maxim chassis around the world is endless.
At the time of Merrill‘s induction into the Sprint Car Hall of Fame, Maxim had won 13 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series titles and 10 Knoxville Nationals. Merrill had been named Builder/Manufacturer of the Year eight (410 and 360) times by the North American Sprint Poll.
Merrill also served on the board of directors for the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Foundation and as the board‘s president.
In 1985, Merrill was named Owner of the Year at Knoxville Raceway with a 20-year-old crew chief named Dan Musselman calling the shots for drivers Randy Smith and Tim Green. Musselman went on to become director of operations for Maxim Chassis and along with his brother, Ron, purchased Maxim from Merrill.
The Musselmans continue to operate the company.
At one point, it was reported that Maxim cars were winning more than 100 races a month in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“Everyone has an ego, and I know I have one too,” Merrill said in his Sprint Car Hall of Fame induction bio. “It has always been rewarding for me to watch Maxim cars win races. I‘ve always felt by having a better race car, I can help a guy win a race and help his financial situation, whether he‘s rich or poor. If they can do better in a Maxim by even one or two spots, third to first, last to 10th, then a Maxim pays for itself in no time.”