Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I Love NASCAR: Remembering... By: Chief 187™

Dick Trickle October 2006
Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR
It was difficult to sit down and type this week’s article as a tragic end struck one of NASCAR’s finest.

Dick Trickle, for reasons only now becoming apparent, ended his life last Thursday.

NASCAR, a true family as well as an organization and sport, was shocked, reeling from the news, and deeply saddened.

News was scarce, emotions were high, and questions piled up.

Small tidbits – press releases – were published on every site covering NASCAR.

Some people were judgmental, angered and confused why any human being would choose this end. But that was a small minority.

Most people posted understanding, compassionate, and empathetic comments. Life is tough, navigating it even tougher.

NASCAR folk, on the whole, did what they do best in this time. They reached out, prayed, and reminisced.

The sum of Dick Trickle’s life was not in any way diminished by his actions on Thursday. The years raced, hundreds of races won, and countless fans delighted, define him.

Whether you followed Trickle’s career and can recount his numerous short-track wins, his smoking in the cockpit during caution laps, his approachable persona or simply knew his name - because let’s face it, it was a funny one - you probably had some knowledge of this driver.

Trickle wasn't a champion Cup driver, but he was a champion in other series. And, if you didn't know his name before 1990, you certainly became familiar with it after the movie Days of Thunder premiered. Tom Cruise’s lead character was named Cole Trickle, loosely based on Tim Richmond and incorporated real-life actions of other NASCAR personalities. Although the role wasn't based on Dick Trickle, the name made the masses curious about the real Trickle running in NASCAR.

Just the year before Days of Thunder premiered, in 1989, Trickle earned the NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award, an awesome accomplishment that was all the more special because Trickle was 48 years old.

Now-a-days a rookie that age would be unheard of, but back then drivers like Harry Gant and Trickle were testing the NASCAR Cup waters after a life spent racing on regional tracks.

Trickle raced all around his native Wisconsin, logging a reported one million laps of racing and an estimated 1200 victories out of 2200 contests entered. Known for short-track racing, Trickle was truly a driver with talent, prowess, and stamina.

No stranger to hard work, Trickle earned every dollar needed to race by tending to farms and working in the family blacksmith shop. It took years but he was able to collect enough money to buy a 1950 Ford, a car he morphed into a ‘stock car.’ The car lost the first unofficial drag race he entered against a classmate, so Trickle bought the winning car and put the motor in his Ford.

Once racing was in his blood, Trickle stopped doing it part time. He ran approximately 100 races per year for 15 years. He was a strong racer but had inferior engines.  As a “junkyard mechanic,” he always worked with the only materials available to him and his measly budget.

Trickle's 1989 Rookie of the Year car for Stavola Brothers
Credit: us44mt via Wiki Commons
Eventually Trickle got on the radar with those who notice talent. His equipment improved and his finishing position did, too. Trickle started collecting wins. Over the years he had to change manufacturers to continue to win regionally, but he adapted and kept racing.

Trickle had much success on the national level, too. From USAC and ASA to NASCAR, Trickle made his name known. Drivers such as NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Rusty Wallace have called Trickle a mentor.

I could list all of Trickle’s accomplishments, but you could look them up easily.

And I wish I could tell you I knew him, but sadly I never had the opportunity to meet him.

But I can tell you that I am most happy to have been a race fan when Trickle was competing in NASCAR.

I never met a race fan who didn’t have something nice to say about Trickle. His “racing man” persona, unapologetic personality, and actions on the track earned him great respect.

We’re left now with just memories, but that is legacy enough.

Tragedy strikes all families; NASCAR is no different. Like all who mourn the loss of a loved one, we must take our time, go through our emotions individually to come to terms with the news, and get to a place where we can think about the one we lost and smile.

Being surrounded by fans who remember the best of the drivers in our NASCAR family is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.


Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.

2 comments :

"Tricky Dick" was from my hometown of Wisconsin Rapids, and a friend of my father, "Wild Wally" Ecker. My father was a tire dealer and had a big box truck laden with racing tires and mounting equipment that he would drive to the local race tracks to sell race tires to the teams. Sometimes he would take me with him -- what a thrill to get to hang out in the pits!!

One day, after laying down the quickest lap in time trials, Dick approached my father and asked him, knowing I was at the track, if it was okay for him to ask me to hold the American flag out the right side of his car while he did parade laps around the track during the National Anthem (as is customary at local tracks for the fastest car in time trials to do). I will NEVER forget the trip around that track, holding the flag with all my might, reveling in my ride in a race car -- not even realizing at the time just how much of an icon of the sport the man who was driving would become. Later, though, watching him win at least half of the time he took the track, I became an even bigger fan than I already was.

My father used to throw parties about twice a year for the drivers. Local guys like Jim Back, Tom Reffner (Brian's father), Jim Sauter (Johnny's father), Larry Detjens, and Lyle Nabbefelt would be there, but so would guys like Dick Trickle, Dave Marcis, and I think Alan Kulwicki was over once too. What a joy for a young race fan like myself to meet all these gladiators of the short track!!

Jim Back, Larry Detjens, Alan Kulwicki, Lyle Nabbefelt, and Dick Trickle are now running on that great short track in the sky, and my mother is up there cheering for Jimbo and my father is selling them all tires. An era past, but never forgotten. R.I.P. guys. We miss you.

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