Sports

NASCAR’s Dick Trickle Tragically Took His Own Life After Years of Pain

Dick Trickle’s parents had to know naming their child Richard would be problematic given their last name. Never could they have imagined ESPN SportsCenter anchors would regularly mock his name during the NASCAR highlights throughout the 1990s. To his credit, Trickle overcame a potential identity crisis and became much more than just a funny name. 

He was one of the best short-track racers ever. His skill on the shorter speedways became the stuff of legend. And he gladly shared that knowledge mentoring the likes of Rusty and Kenny Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, and Mark Martin. But behind the funny name and skillset was a man in immense pain. He ended that pain with a single self-inflicted gunshot. Here’s a look back at the life and painfully tragic death of Dick Trickle. 

Dick Trickle career’s short track career and teaching others

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The name Dick Trickle is legendary in the Wisconsin racing community. He is the greatest short track racer ever recording more than 1,000 victories in his two decades. In the early years, Trickle raced in cars with engines he had personally built. That changed in 1966.

When Alan Kulwicki’s father Jerry started building his engines, those second-place finishes transformed into victories. Racing more than 100 events each year, Trickle would bounce around from track to track racing up to five nights a week. And a large percentage of the time, he was victorious.

In the mid-1980s, he started racing out of state and competing in various American Speed Association races. It was with this racing series where he encountered Rusty Wallace and made an impression. 

“Dick Trickle was my mentor. He and I had such a good time telling little stories, but he was the guy that taught me almost everything in the American Speed Association. And he was the guy that I battled right to the end for my 1983 ASA championship. I barely beat the guy that taught me everything.

“He was a legend. A man that 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. Could just do magic with the race car and he taught me so much about racing. My success in the ASA and what Trickle taught me is what got me into NASCAR.”

Trickle gains popularity in NASCAR

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In 1989, Dick Trickle joined the NASCAR Cup Series full time in the No. 84 Miller High Life Buick. He earned six top-5 finishes during his rookie campaign and was awarded the Rookie of the Year. 

At the season-ending awards banquet, the 48-year-old showed his humorous side when accepting the award. “I guess I’d just like to thank everyone who gave a young guy like me a chance,” he joked. 

Trickle never won a Cup Series race his entire career. His best career finish was third, and he did it five times. In his 303 races, he earned 15 top-5 and 36 top-10 finishes. Despite not winning any races, Trickle’s name and finishing position somehow managed to make it on SportsCenter every weekend when Dan Patrick or Keith Olbermann reported NASCAR highlights. 

The good-natured Trickle, who was notorious for his cigarette smoking, even while racing, always took the ribbing in stride. His last full season of smoking and racing in NASCAR came in 1998 when he had one top-10 finish. He was 57 years old.

Dick Trickle takes his own life

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In Dick Trickle’s retirement, he returned to Wisconsin and raced in occasional events, including the 2001 and 2007, Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway and in the ASA Midwest Tour. In 2001, something else happened. Trickle and his family suffered a horrible tragedy when his granddaughter died in a car accident. 

That always bothered him. On May 16, 2013, Dick Trickle drove to the cemetery where his granddaughter was buried. He called 911 and told the operator there was going to be a dead body at that location. Moments later, he pulled the trigger. When authorities arrived, his body was found beside his pickup truck. 

His family released a statement following his suicide. “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, he’s no longer suffering and we take comfort knowing he’s with his very special angel.”

Despite the sad ending, Trickle’s NASCAR legacy will forever be one of a driver who got to the dance late, was passionate about his craft, loved to smoke, and never took himself too seriously. It was his sense of humor that connected with others. And he had that name…oh that name.