Retired NASCAR driver Dick Trickle dies of apparent self-inflicted wound

Retired NASCAR driver Dick Trickle dies of apparent self-inflicted wound

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Dick Trickle died May 16, 2013, from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. The incident occurred at 12:02PM at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City, North Carolina. The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call, apparently from the victim, saying that “there would be a dead body and it would be his.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today. Dick was a legend in the short-track racing community, particularly in his home state of Wisconsin, and he was a true fan favorite.  Personalities like Dick Trickle helped shape our sport. He will be missed.”

– Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO

Eight-year-old Dick Trickle was playing tag with his cousin Verlon on the rafters in a house under construction when he fell two floors to the basement and broke his hip.He was transferred from a local hospital to the University of Wisconsin Hospital with slow recovery. His recovery was so slow that the doctors gave up and sent him home presuming that he would be an invalid for the rest of his life.

Trickle later began to walk, although he walked with a slight limp for the rest of his life. He spent three years in a cast from his waist to his foot. While he was recovering as a nine-year-old, a friend took him to his first races at Crown Speedway in his hometown of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. “When I got there I was flabbergasted,” Trickle said. “I thought it was the neatest thing. Free shows were nothing compared to it. That race never left my mind until I was 16. I knew I was going to drive a race car when I was 16.”

Trickle married his wife Darlene in 1961. They originally lived at his grandmother’s house for a while before they bought a trailer home on someone else’s property. His nephew, Chris Trickle, was an up-and-coming race car driver before dying in a drive-by shooting.

Trickle’s family lived on welfare, so there was no money available for racing.Trickle spent his summers from young on working for area farmers, starting as a 13-year-old. He also spent a lot of time at the Rudolph Blacksmith shop that his father was a partner in. While his father was ill, his uncle Leonard ran the shop.

“I worked part time at the shop to earn a nickel or dime,” Trickle said. “At that age, it was mostly sweeping the shop, but I started to play with the welder and soon I could make an arc and then weld. I started junking machinery. I save some things getting a head start for when I would go racing at 16. I didn’t have any money, but I had this pile of stuff to build a race car with. It was a hope chest.

When I turned 16, I let the farmer I was working for keep most the money I earned until fall. That fall I collected my money and went down Main Street wheeling and dealing. I finally bought a 1950 Ford in good condition for $100. It was going to be my street car, but the urge to race got too strong and I cut up and made a stock car out of it.”

I did run the car a little bit before I cut it up and I ended up drag racing a classmate, Melvin Hunsinger, who had a 1949 Ford. He beat me. It seems kind of dumb when I already knew there was a car that could beat me. Eventually, I bought Hunsinger’s 1949 Ford for $32.50 and put the motor in my car”.

Trickle raced at over 100 events each year for over 15 years. He was racing at Tomah-Sparta Speedway when Francis Kelly noticed that Trickle was always in contention for winning the races, but he lost a lot of them because he had junky motors. One day Kelly approached Trickle and asked him what it would cost for Trickle to win. Trickle told him a new motor; Kelly asked Trickle to compile a list of parts that he needed. When Kelly asked who would assemble the motor, Trickle responded that he could but he was a junkyard mechanic. Trickle suggested that Alan Kulwicki’s father Jerry Kulwicki, who was building motors for Norm Nelson’s USAC stock cars, should build the engine.

In 1989 Trickle made his full schedule debut driving the #84 Miller High Life Buick for Stavola Brothers Racing. He had raced an occasional race during the 1970s and 1980s.He was Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Winston Cup (now the Sprint Cup) at age 48 (and a grandfather), becoming the oldest driver in Winston Cup history to do so. His best career Winston Cup finish was third (5 times). He started 303 races, with 15 Top 5 and 36 Top 10 finishes.

In 1990, he won the Winston Open (now the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race) in the #66 TropArtic Pontiac. It was a non-points All-Star event for drivers who did not win in the previous year. He beat Rob Moroso by 8 inches, the smallest margin of victory at the event. He also won his only career Cup pole at Dover Downs International Speedway. In the middle of the 1991 season he went to drive the #24 Team III Racing Pontiac. His best finish was 6th at Dover International Speedway. In 1992 he teamed up once again with the Stavola Brothers, driving the #8 Snickers Ford. In 1993 he drove the #75 Carolina Pottery Ford for Butch Mock Motorsports and then the #41 Manheim Auctions Chevy for Larry Hedrick Motorsports.

Part of his popularity stemmed from his unusual, double-entendre name. ESPN’s Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann often made it a point to mention where he finished whenever NASCAR highlights were featured on Sportscenter. He was either referred as Mr. Trickle or “The Man”. He was also widely noted for having drilled a hole in his safety helmet so that he could smoke while racing, and for installing cigarette lighters in his race cars. [1] Trickle was allowed by NASCAR to smoke in the race car during yellow flag periods, and in the 1990 Winston 500 (now the Aaron’s 499), Trickle was seen on live television by the in-car camera lighting up and smoking a cigarette.

Trickle even made fun of his lack of success in NASCAR’s top-level series in a 1997 TV commercial for Napa Auto Parts. In it, Trickle announces a contest where fans can win $100,000 if they pick the winner of that year’s Napa 500 race. “A little tip…it’s gonna be me!” he says, as an on-screen graphic points out “Dick is 0 for 243 in Cup races”. “I think we get champagne (after winning),” says Trickle.

Dick also raced in the Busch Series, where he won two races. He had 158 career starts, with 24 Top 5 and 42 Top 10 finishes. He made his Busch Series debut in 1984.

Until his death in 2013, Trickle continued to race in occasional events in Wisconsin, including the 2007 Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway and in the ASA Midwest Tour.

The La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway created the Dick Trickle 99 race, a 99 lap Super Late Model event during its annual Oktoberfest race weekend.Wisconsin International Raceway has named a building in Turn 2 the “Dick Trickle Pavilion”.

His crashes at the Lake Placid bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at the Geoff Bodine Challenge (NASCAR and NHRA drivers raise funds for the United States bobsleigh team to build the sleds) has that turn (17, 18, 19, the “heart curve”) named the Trickle Turn.

Although he won no points-paying races in NASCAR Winston Cup, he was very successful elsewhere:

  • 1 NASCAR Winston Open (exhibition race, 1990)
  • 2 NASCAR Busch Series wins
  • 32 American Speed Association wins
  • 68 ARTGO Challenge Series wins
  • 2 NASCAR Southwest Tour wins
  • 2 USAC wins

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