In a sport liberally populated with memorable characters, Dick Trickle stood out.
At about noon on Thursday, the Lincoln County Communications Center received a call indicating that there would be a dead body at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City, and it would be the speaker's. Return calls to the number went unanswered. Crews arriving at the scene found Trickle's body lying near his pickup truck.At the moment, no one knows why.
His name alone made him memorable and the butt of late night comedians' jokes for years. The fact is that he was a hard nosed race car driver who was quite successful in regional racing across the nation. He never did win a Winston/Sprint Cup race, but he did win in the Busch/Nationwide series.
I remember when Dick Trickle finally won a #NASCAR Busch race, Hickory '97. In Victory Lane he says "I get free beer, right?"From all accounts, he would have made an excellent ambassador for a beer sponsor.
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) May 16, 2013
One reason he didn't excel in the top tier of NASCAR's hierarchy is that he didn't start until most drivers had retired - he won the Rookie of the Year honors in 1989 - at the young age of 48. Mark Martin is the "old man of the sea" in NASCAR right now, and he is currently 54, but he started in NASCAR before Dick, in 1981.
He was also from Wisconsin - a rarity in NASCAR back in the day. He said and did what he wanted, political correctness be damned. He was probably the last of the blatantly public cigarette smokers in high profile stock car series - the video shows him lighting up one during a caution. Not long after that, NASCAR's high command decided that had to stop. He had permission before - but the powers that be decided it was detrimental to their image. He had cigarette lighters installed in his cars, and in some helmets he had holes drilled to insert a cigarette.
I had the opportunity to see him in person at Texas Motor Speedway many moons ago. We happened to be in the infield in the area between the two series' garages during practice. The Busch series had wrapped up, and the Winston Cup was getting ready to start. The "double dippers (drivers who had entered both races) were hustling across that area to get to their Winston rides. Dick and Michael Waltrip were walking and talking together - Dick hurriedly burning one. It was quite a contrast - Michael is 6'5", and Dick was considerably shorter. For every two steps Mikey made, I think poor Dick had to make three or four.
He was a legend in stock car circles in and around Wisconsin and much of the Midwest area. His kind isn't made much anymore, nor are they all that welcome. Truly a shame, and I hope he found rest from what ever was driving him to suicide.
Rest in peace, race car driver.