Anybody who is even remotely familiar with stock car racing and NASCAR has undoubtedly heard the name Dick Trickle. He last made headlines back in 2013 after his tragic and untimely death. Suddenly, the man with the unusual name was gone. Shock and sadness took everyone in NASCAR and the racing world by storm. Trickle was the everyman’s race car driver—he wore cowboy boots and smoked cigarettes in the car on race day. In a blink, he moved into history.
Where Dick Trickle’s Racing Career Got Its Start
When Richard (Dick) Trickle was eight years old and playing tag with a cousin in the rafters of a house under construction, he fell and crashed down two stories and landed in the basement. All was fine… except for that broken hip. A slow recovery ensued with Trickle being in a cast from his waist to his foot for a number of months.
During that recovery, though, a friend took him to a car race in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. That was all it took for young Richard to become hooked on car racing.
“I thought it was the neatest thing,” stated Trickle in one interview. “Free shows were nothing compared to it. That race never left my mind until I was 16. I knew I was going to drive a race car when I was 16.”
And so the drive (so to speak) to race began.
Short tracks in Wisconsin were where Trickle found his early successes. Some NASCAR historians have him winning upwards of 1,200 races in a nearly 30-year career on the short track. That’s a lot by any standard. It wasn’t until the late 80s that he actually started racing officially for NASCAR—winning 1989 NASCAR Rookie of the Year at the ripe old age of 48.
But that’s where the winning really subsided. His best career Winston Cup finish was third and he hit that mark five times in 303 races. He did win the Winston Open in 1990, but that was a non-points, All-Star Race so it didn’t go in the official books as a win in the Series.
Still, Trickle showed up to race hard each and every opportunity he could. He loved the sport that much. One of the most memorable races that Trickle participated in was the 1998 Winston 500 at Talladega. Trickle started in 40th position and finished in 38th… but that isn’t really the exciting part. The crash that led to the lackluster finish is the real news.
A pile-up of 10-12 cars created a melee down on the track. The carnage occurred on lap 136 when Sterling Marlin’s Chevrolet tapped Ernie Irvan’s Pontiac from behind in turn one. The contact was slight, but that’s all it took. Irvan’s car wobbled and broke loose, sliding backward up the track, slamming into the outside wall, and rolling back down the track. At that moment, Trickle’s Ford had nowhere to go and T-boned Irvan’s car near the rear of the passenger side. That sent it spinning.
“We were a victim of circumstance,” recalled Trickle after the race. “At this track, when a couple of guys get in trouble, it’s a chain reaction deal. There was a lineup of cars and there was a wreck ahead of me, and all of a sudden all you see is smoke and cars going everywhere. I tried to go down but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The #90 Heilig-Meyers car was busted up pretty badly but still able to finish thanks to a great crew and skilled driver.