Tragic news struck the NASCAR community today when it learned of the passing of Dick Trickle.
Trickle drove in a not one era of NASCAR, but from 1970 all the way until 2002, an unheard of career length. And through it all, as NASCAR transitioned from not only in generations of cars but national exposure, Trickle remained the same, and everybody seemed to love it.
Trickle will always be remembered by racers not for his lengthy career in NASCAR’s major series, but for the amount of racing he did on the rough short tracks of the Midwest. The same tracks that propelled names such as Rusty Wallace and Matt Kenseth to national prominence were first dominated by Dick Trickle. To this day, Wallace mentions Trickle as his biggest mentor on the ASA Series.
The gritty and determined Trickle was an absolute legend around the Midwest before he ever stepped foot in a NASCAR car. Often running over a 100 races a year surrounding his native Wisconsin, Trickle would amass over 1000 feature wins, a majority of them dominant, and all of them surely met with exuberance and joy akin to any driver stepping into NASCAR victory lane. Trickle won 67 features in 1972, a feat that will never be matched.
Amicable from the start, Trickle’s personality is overall what allowed him to continue not only to be successful on the track, but reach a cult following and garner as much attention as Richard Petty. He is infamously the oldest Rookie of the Year at the age of 48 with Stavola Brothers Racing, the team which found success previously with Bobby Allison and gave Jeff Burton his start in Sprint Cup.
As the 90s continued, Trickle was synonymous with Sportscenter’s NASCAR coverage, and took the many puns of his name all in stride. Even as NASCAR grew more mainstream, Trickle refused to change, his Midwestern grit showing prominently whenever given the chance.
Regardless if it was a fan story or something caught on camera, if it was about Dick Trickle, it was eccentric.
In 1990, during a caution at Talladega SuperSpeedway, Trickle cemented himself in NASCAR lore when he lit a cigarette and smoked through the open visor of his helmet, all caught by his in-car camera. A collection of Trickle quotes can be found on Ryan McGee’s Twitter, and they all read of a man who enjoyed the life he lived, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s what makes Trickle’s death all the more disturbing. A suicide in the cemetery which his granddaughter was buried, Trickle’s last words were more than likely spoken to the 911 operator, saying there would be a dead body, and it would be his.
Trickle’s death has nothing to do with NASCAR. It is implicitly tragic, something which has shocked the racing community. Although removed from the sport permanently now, Dick Trickle will forever be remembered by the drivers who he mentored, ranging from the aforementioned Wallace to former open-wheel driver Max Papis.
To the fans, casual or devoted, this suicide marks a tragic and uncharacteristic end to a charismatic career. But the lore will live on. Dick Trickle will live on. His character and determination to win live on in the heart of every Midwestern driver who lays rubber on one of the tracks which Trickle dominated long ago.
The never give up attitude, the resourcefulness and most importantly, the idea that racing is about winning through passion is not just something that should be viewed as old-school, but something that Dick Trickle should be remembered by.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486