Earlier this month, 71-year-old Dick Trickle killed himself in North Carolina. And now, one last time, we can all feel really bad about making fun of his name. Tommy Tomlinson has a great remembrance:
He ran 303 times in NASCAR’s top circuit — now called the Sprint Cup — and never won a race. He even made fun of his winless streak in a commercial. But he didn’t start running a full-time schedule until 1989, when he was 48. That year, as a grandfather, he was NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year.
Before that he won hundreds of races on smaller speedways and dirt tracks in the Midwest. By some accounts, he won more than any stock-car driver in history. In 1972 alone, he won 67 times. NASCAR called more than once back then, and Trickle ran a couple of times a year on the big tracks. But for decades he hung around the Midwest. The money was good and his needs were simple: coffee, beer and cigarettes. He kept a cigarette lighter in his race car so he could smoke on the track.