BOGER CITY — Many people only knew racecar driver Dick Trickle because he had one of the most unusual names in NASCAR history a name that constantly was used as a punch line during the 1990s on ESPNs SportsCenter.
But there was a man behind that name. And to those who knew that man well, Trickle was a delight. Fun-loving. Big-hearted. Fiercely competitive.
So Trickles suicide at age 71 Thursday he shot himself in a Lincoln County cemetery stunned the racing community. Few people had seemed to love life more than Trickle did.
Trickle had struggled with chronic pain the last few years, however, his family said.
Trickles family released a statement Friday that read in part: He had been suffering for some time with severe chronic pain, had seen many doctors, none of which could find the source of his pain. His family as well as all those who knew him find his death very hard to accept, and though we will hurt from losing him for some time, hes no longer suffering . Many thought when he retired he would continue as a car owner, but he was a driver at heart. He wanted to be behind the wheel and be in control of his destiny. We believe he felt himself no longer able to be behind that wheel of life or be the man he only knew how to be because of the pain and suffering.
Trickles friends remember him as much for his magnetic personality as his hard-nosed racing.
Dick was serious about racing, said Geoff Bodine, a longtime competitor and friend of Trickles. But he had fun doing it, fun before and fun after. One of his theories was that he only needed one hour of sleep per 100 miles of race. So the night before a race hed stay up late and close the bar down. Then hed get five hours of sleep if it was a 500-mile race the next day, and hed be fine.
Waddell Wilson, a well-known NASCAR crew chief and engine builder, worked with Trickle as part of two different race teams. He remembered Trickle showing up every morning with a cigarette in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other and a quip at the ready.
He was so personable, Wilson said. Dick was a lot of fun to be around, and he also knew a lot about a race car and could work on them himself. All the crew guys got along with him, and that doesnt always happen. Sometimes those guys cant stand the drivers. But they all loved Dick. He was one of them. If he had come South in his heyday instead of waiting until he was in his late 40s, he would have won all kinds of NASCAR races.
Smoked during races
Trickle actually smoked during caution flags during races there is footage of him doing just that on YouTube. He had cigarette lighters installed in many of his racecars. He sometimes cut a cigarette-sized hole out of his racing helmets.
During one of his first Winston Cup races, in 1989, Trickle wore cowboy boots to drive. The boots got so uncomfortable that during a pit stop one of his pit crew had to wriggle inside the car and help him change into standard racing shoes.
Originally from Wisconsin, Trickle was a famous short-track racer in that area with hundreds of wins to his credit. He walked with a slight limp, the aftermath of a horrible fall as a child that shattered a hip. He was told early in his life that he might not walk again because of that childhood injury.
Dick was so energetic and enthusiastic, and he was an absolute legend up there in Wisconsin, NASCAR hall of fame driver Bobby Allison said. One time I raced him in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on a short track. And I have a picture of the flagman waving the checkered flag and my car just about 6 inches in front of Trickles car at the finish. But the promoter called Trickle out as the winner that night, because he was such a big deal there. We jousted about that one for years all in fun and he never would relinquish that win to me.
Trickle didnt become a full-time NASCAR driver until 1989. He was NASCARs rookie of the year in the top series that season a rookie who was 48 years old and already had two grandchildren.
The oldest of those grandchildren was Nicole Bowman, a fine athlete and student at East Lincoln High. Bowman died in a car wreck in Lincoln County in 2001 at age 16. She and her family did not live far from Trickle and his wife, Darlene, who was his high school sweetheart in Wisconsin.
Dick and Darlene Trickle moved to Lincoln County in 1990, to a small town called Iron Station that is 27 miles northwest of Charlotte. They never left. And his granddaughters death was something he never quite got over, several of his friends said.
On Thursday, the Lincoln County emergency communications center received a call from Trickle at 12:02 p.m., stating that theres going to be a dead body, using the word suicide and saying Im the one.
Trickle said the body would be found at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City near Lincolnton off Highway 150, specifying it would be near a pickup truck. It was the same cemetery where his granddaughter had been buried 12 years earlier. He then hung up, and a return call from the operator went unanswered.
Emergency responders found both Trickles truck and his body at the cemetery.
The place where Trickle ended his own life was peaceful once again on Friday, 24 hours after his death. Birds chirped. Oak trees swayed.
It was hard for his many racing acquaintances to reconcile the Trickle they knew with the sad story of his death.
It was a major shock, Wilson said. He would be the last person I would ever have expected to do anything like that.
Trickle never won a points race in 303 starts in NASCARs premier series. But he did win twice in what is now known as the Nationwide series.
A SportsCenter favorite
Trickle was also a cult figure thanks to ESPN co-anchors Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. For much of the 1990s, they would mention the winner of a NASCAR race and with a broad wink to Trickles double entendre of a name also note where Trickle had finished.
Tweeted Olbermann Thursday: No sports figure Dan and I had fun with took it more graciously. In fact, gratefully. And, Olbermann continued: The late Dick Trickle helped mainstream NASCAR coverage on SportsCenter. We gave prominent attention to him, then his races, then ALL races.
Longtime Observer racing writer Tom Higgins, a friend of Trickles, recalled the racer as extremely charitable with his time.
Whenever you wanted to pay tribute for somebody or raise money for somebody, he was the first in line, and thats the truth, Higgins said.
Trickles family said in its statement Friday that Trickles funeral service would be private. His survivors include his wife, three children and three grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in memory of Trickle to the racing charity Victory Junction (4500 Adams Way, Randleman, NC, 27317).
Former NASCAR driver Richard Dick Trickle, 71, of Iron Station, died Thursday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. An obituary posted Friday said he had struggled with chronic pain.
He is survived by his wife, Darlene (McMahon) Trickle, three children Victoria Bowman (John), Tod Trickle, and Chad Trickle (Shannon), and three grandchildren, Lucas Bowman, Courtney Trickle and Carlee Trickle. Also surviving are brothers Duaine Trickle and Charles Trickle and sisters Delores Iwanski and Susan Trickle.
He was preceded in death by parents Leo and Lauretta Trickle.
His oldest grandchild, Nicole Bowman, died in a car accident nearly 12 years ago.
The family plans a private funeral. In lieu of flowers, they has asked that a donation be made in his memory to Victory Junction, 4500 Adams Way, Randleman, N.C. 27317.
Scott Fowler: email@example.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler