KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WLUK) - Fans and former competitors alike were in a state of shock after hearing of the passing of racing legend Dick Trickle. He died Thursday of what police say was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Trickle was a Wisconsin racing institution. Hard driving, hard smoking and successful, with legend putting his Wisconsin win total at more than 1,000. The 71-year-old died Thursday in North Carolina of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Trickle said in a 1999 interview, "I don't look at going to the race track as going to work, it is my hobby, and even though it is my career, it's fun, I enjoy it."
That enjoyment was evident to his many fans and friends at racetracks nationwide including Wisconsin International Raceway near Kaukauna, Wis., where Trickle won countless titles.
Roger Van Daalwyk, the owner of WIR, said Trickle was a man of the people. "He'd be in the pits talking to the fans. He'd walk around and talk to the guys. Just friendly, he'd always sign an autograph for the kids or whoever, just a great guy."
Terry Baldry of Waupaca watched Trickle as a fan and later shared the track with him as a competitor. Baldry, like all of the people I talked to, were in a state of disbelief at the news of Trickle's passing. "He was just a fun loving guy. That's why this comes as such a shock. It's unbelievable. He's the last person you ever would think something like this would happen to," Baldry said.
Doug Dohr of Darboy described the Trickle he knew of from the track. "He was just the man. He was always the man to beat. People would come from other areas, Michigan, wherever, but it was always Dick Trickle."
According to Van Daalwyk, Trickle's ability to captivate a crowd and put butts in the seat, is still felt at Wisconsin's race tracks. "Probably 99 percent of the guys here in the pits (at WIR) grew up on that hill watching Dick race and they watched Dick Trickle win everything," Van Daalwyk said.
That's not hyperbole. While the exact number is up for debate, Trickle is widely credited with winning more than 1,200 feature races in his career. Competitors and fans alike shared an admiration for Trickle's smooth style behind the wheel.
Baldry said when driver lined up against Trickle it didn't change their strategy, but drivers were definitely aware. "He was very respected, let's put it that way. I don't know what other way to put it," Baldry said.
Even when Trickle reached NASCAR, Van Daalwyk said Trickle always found a way to continue to run on the tracks of Wisconsin. "It didn't matter if he was over at Michigan the night before. He'd send another car over here. Jump in a plane, fly, land on our drag strip, jump out, qualify, fast time, run and win the feature," Van Daalwyk said.
As word of Trickle's passing spread through the racing community, those who knew him reflected on what they'll remember most about the legend.
"I think mainly his fun loving spirit and obviously a very, very good race car driver but he was just a fun guy to be around," Terry Baldry said.
"Dick Trickle was a fantastic race car driver and a good friend" Van Daalwyk added.
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