Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trickle is a legend in the making

“My mother named me Richard."
— Dick Trickle, on how he got his name
Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2012 11:33 pm
By Tom Gillispie

The first time I met racing icon Dick Trickle was probably 1990 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, and I didn’t know much about him.

That day, I learned he’d won 1,000 or more short-track races around the Midwest and that he was practically a legend in that region. I learned Trickle had run a Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) race now and then since 1970, and he didn’t run Cup full-time until he was 48, making him the oldest rookie of the year in any sport.

I immediately asked him how he got the name Dick Trickle, and he answered bluntly. “My mother named me Richard,” he said.

Asked why he waited so long to go to Cup full-time, he said he was making a good living on the short tracks, and he couldn’t afford to go Cup.

Trickle only won two races in NASCAR’s two highest divisions. Both wins came in the Busch (now Nationwide) Series, and one was at Hickory Motor Speedway.

On March 29, 1997, Trickle won the Galaxy Foods 300 at HMS, with two-time Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie and Tim Fedewa, 2000 Busch champion Jeff Green and Todd Bodine rounding out the top five.

Interestingly, Dale Earnhardt Jr., then a neophyte in Busch, was among those who failed to make the race. When Dick got his second and final Busch win in the Dura-Lube 200 on Sept. 5, 1998 at Darlington Raceway, the runner-up was Dale Jr.

Trickle’s career was an alphabet soup of acronyms, as he competed in the ASA, ARTGO, ARCA, All Pro, IMCA, NASCAR and USAC series, and the Cup Series was the only one he didn’t win in.
It’s hard to quantify Trickle’s short-track career. There are claims that he won more than 1,100 features. Then in the late 1980s, he left his home in Wisconsin and moved to Iron Station and became a Winston Cup and Busch celebrity.

He wound up running 303 Cup races from 1970 until the end, with 15 top-five finishes. His last full-time Cup season was 1998, when he ran 32 of 33 races, but he’d run partial schedules until 2002, when he was 60.

His first of 158 Busch (Nationwide) races came in 1984. His last came in 2001, when he was 59. He won twice and posted 24 top-five and 42 top-10 finishes.

In 2007, when I was working on the book Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr., I asked Trickle about Earnhardt. That told me something about Dick, too.

Most racing folk in the 1990s knew Trickle liked to smoke when a race was under caution, a la the great David Pearson, and he kept doing it when he moved up to Winston Cup in 1989. At least once, Earnhardt got on him about it.

“You know, I've been known to smoke, and usually I have a cigarette during yellow,” Trickle told me matter-of-factly. “Usually, when the race goes green, I'll flick the cigarette up in the air out the window. And after a race, I forget which race it was, (Dale) Earnhardt come up to me kinda jokingly and said, ‘Trickle, on that restart, when you flipped that cigarette, it came in my car,’ which I know it didn't.

“You couldn’t hardly get it to do that if you tried. I was going to, sometime when we were side-by-side under yellow or something, but I never got to do it because we lost him (in 2001).”

For years, Dick smoked the competition as one of the characters of racing. Shortly after I first met him, he bungee jumped on his 50th birthday. Someone asked him about it, and he said he’d jump again on his 100th birthday. (He’s getting there slowly; he turned 71 on Oct. 27.)

ESPN’s Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann picked up on the name, and after every race they’d list the winner and where Dick Trickle finished. It gave Trickle, and probably the two broadcasters, a little more notoriety.

When Trickle turned 55, we were at Darlington, and reporters were kidding Dick about being old enough to retire. He proudly said, “I can get a discount at any Shoney’s in the country,” and that quieted the jokers.

Trickle was always good for a blunt quote. He once was asked for his best story, and he said, “Probably the biggest story was when I got married in ’61.” That impressed us, since most of us were in elementary or middle school in 1961.

Dick once claimed to race on his honeymoon; knowing him, it’s likely true.

“We bought a ticket and got up in the stands,” he said. “We got there fairly early and were sitting for what seemed like a half hour, 45 minutes, when all of sudden, here comes my truck and my car across the track. I told (wife) Darlene, ‘I can't believe Big John (Boettcher) brought my car up here.’ So I raced. That was my honeymoon.”

Finally, someone once asked him about being a short-track legend, and he replied, “Not yet. When I’m gone, I’ll be a legend. Right now, I’m just very good at what I do.”

Tom Gillispie, the co-author of “Then Junior Said to Jeff…,” writes about racing at Hickory Motor Speedway for HDR Sports. He can be reached at