CONCORD, N.C. -- Dick Trickle, the oldest driver to capture NASCAR's Rookie of the Year title and a legendary racing figure from the nation's heartland, passed away Thursday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to officials with the Lincoln County (N.C.) Sheriff's office.
A popular and successful racer often seen with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Trickle, 71, made sporadic starts at NASCAR's top level before landing a fulltime ride in 1989 with Bill and Mickey Stavola, owners of Stavola Brothers Racing.
With crew chief Jimmy Fennig calling the shots that season, Trickle scored six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and finished a career-best 15th in the series points standings. He earned rookie of the year honors for a class that included Jimmy Spencer, Hut Stricklin, Larry Pearson, Rick Mast and current Camping World Truck Series Director Chad Little.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement released by the sanctioning body. "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."
Trickle continued to compete fulltime in the series through 1998, driving for such team owners as NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore and Junie Donlavey.
"(His was) kind of more of the Midwest style of racing, which was track by track when NASCAR was more of a regional, southern sport," Keselowski said "before it had developed into the national platform that it is now.
"He was the superstar of that style ? and era. Very sad to see him go."
Rusty Wallace, who won the Cup title the same year Trickle won rookie honors, called the personable Trickle "my mentor."
Cutting his teeth on many of the same midwestern short tracks, Wallace said Trickle "was the guy that taught me almost everything in the American Speed Association (ASA).
"And he was the guy that I battled right to the end for my 1983 ASA championship. He was a legend. A man that'd won over a thousand short track races, was one of the most winning short trackers in America, was a role model to many short track racers coming up."
Trickle didn't start all 29 races for the Stavola Brothers in '89. He was hired to replace Mike Alexander after the completion of the season-opening Daytona 500. Alexander, who had suffered injuries in a racing incident during the annual Snowball Derby in December of the previous year, stepped out of the ride after finishing 27th at Daytona.
According to a release from the sheriff's office, the Lincoln County Communications Center received a telephone call thought to be from the victim that "there would be a dead body and it would be his."
Emergency units dispatched to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City located Trickle's body "near the victim's pickup truck."
A native of Wisconsin, Trickle had lived in Lincoln County since the early 1990s.
Comments are currently unavailable. We're working on the development of a NASCAR fan forum ? please stay tuned.
-- Brad Keselowski