this June 4, 1999, file photo, NASCAR driver Dick Trickle speaks
to fans after qualifying on the pole position the NASCAR Busch
series auto race at Dover Downs in Dover, Del. Authorities in
North Carolina said Thursday, May 16, 2013, that Trickle has
died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 71.
CONCORD, N.C. —
There is that lasting image of Dick Trickle in the Winston 500
lighting up a cigarette while driving his stock car with his knees
during a caution lap.
He places the
cigarette through a hole he carved in his helmet for a quick toke and
The green flag hits
and out the window goes the cigarette butt and back to racing goes
"Dick always had
a cigarette lighter in his car," said fellow NASCAR driver Geoff
Trickle was a unique
driver with a unique name who found cult-like status before his death
larger-than-life personality and penchant for fun won him legions of
fans despite a lack of success beyond the nation's small tracks, died
of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said. He was
The Lincoln County
Sheriff's Office said authorities received a call believed to be from
Trickle, who said "there would be a dead body and it would be
his." Authorities tried to call the number back, but no one
Trickle's body was
found near his pickup truck at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City,
N.C., about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte. Sheriff's Lieutenant Tim
Johnson said foul play was not suspected.
this July 13, 2005, photo, Kenny Wallace, left, and Dick Trickle
discuss track conditions at the Slinger Nationals auto race in
Slinger, Wis. Trickle, whose larger-than-life personality and
penchant for fun won him legions of fans despite a lack of
success beyond the nation's small tracks, died Thursday, May 16,
2013, of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities
said. He was 71.
and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his
passing today," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said.
"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."
Trickle earned his
reputation as a successful short track driver before joining the
Winston Cup series and earning rookie of the year in 1989 at age 48.
He competed in more
than 300 Cup races. Although he never won a Cup race and won only two
Busch Series races, Trickle earned cult status in the 1990s.
Former ESPN anchor
Keith Olbermann would regularly mention where Trickle finished after
talking about each NASCAR race. It caught on and drew snickers from
race fans around the country.
Bodine said there was
only one way to describe Trickle, a native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
Bodine said. "Just plain fun."
Trickle was never one
to be told how to live his life.
"It's all just
sad," Bodine said in a telephone interview. "We don't
understand why he would do this. Hopefully we will all learn why he
would do that. There was something that triggered him to take his own
life. We are all really saddened by this in the racing
NASCAR does not keep
track of short-track records, but according to the (Milwaukee)
Journal-Sentinel, Trickle won more than 1,000 short-track races
throughout the country during his prime. He was a seven-time winner in
the regional ARTGO Challenge Series in the late 1970s and mid '80s.
Trickle also captured the ASA AC-Delco Challenge Series in
back-to-back years in 1984-85 before turning to Cup racing.
this Jan. 5, 2006, file photo, former NASCAR driver Dick Trickle
attends a driver's meeting for the Bodine Bobsled Challenge at
the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. Authorities in North
Carolina said Thursday, May 16, 2013, that Trickle has died of
an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 71.
was one of the best race drivers of the '80s, no one knew how many
races he won," said Humpy Wheeler, the former president of
Charlotte Motor Speedway. "He was right there with Red Farmer and
other short track drivers — the wins kind of got so big that they
blended into each other. He was a product of the rich Wisconsin soil,
where they race eight races a week in the season, and he could win all
Wheeler said he asked
Trickle to try NASCAR in the 1980s, but Trickle initially declined
because he was so successful on the short track circuit.
"He could not
make enough money then as he could on those Midwest tracks, so he
deferred," Wheeler recalled. "For a guy who really won at
least 700 races, I could see why. In those days, unless you were a top
Cup driver, you couldn't win enough money to overcompensate for
did move to NASCAR, settling into Iron Station, N.C., where he lived
for more than 20 years. Bodine said Trickle was full of stories and
popular because of it.
everywhere knew his name," Bodine said. "That's why they
used his likeness in that movie 'Days of Thunder.' He was such a
The main character in
that popular niche racing movie, played by Tom Cruise, was named Cole
Bodine said that a
few years ago he had to back out of a celebrity cruise for patients
who were on kidney dialysis. He asked Trickle to fill in.
"He made such an
impression on people on that ship that everyone wanted to know when
Dick was coming back," Bodine said. "They loved him. They
tell me he was the last man to leave most of the bars on the ship and
I believe it."
Bodine also recalled
inviting Trickle to compete in one of his bobsled events in 2004 at
Lake Placid, N.Y.
He said Trickle went
down the first time and crashed. After being cleared by doctors to
continue, Trickle tried again and crashed in the same place.
"They were doing
interviews with him on TV and he was like, 'I don't know what
happened, I did the exact same thing I did the first time,'"
Bodine said. "And we're all looking at him like, 'Hey Dick, maybe
that was the problem.'"