Ex-driver Dick Trickle dead at 71

CONCORD, N.C. -- Retired stock-car driver Dick Trickle, known for his colorful name and short-track prowess, died on Thursday from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 71.

According to the Lincoln County, N.C., sheriff's department, the incident occurred at 12:02 p.m. ET at Forest Lawn Cemetery off Highway 150 in Boger City.

The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call, apparently from Trickle, that "there would be a dead body and it would be his." Center workers tried to place a return call to the number but did not get an answer.

Emergency units found Trickle's body lying near his pickup truck when they arrived.

Lt. Tim Johnson, who heads the Lincoln County detective department, said that at the family's request, no additional information would be released at this time.

Johnson said there would be an investigation, which is standard in cases such as these.

"He called in," Johnson said. "It's not the first time we've had these. It's always a sad situation ... even sadder for the family."

Trickle, a native of Wisconsin, has been a resident of Lincoln County since the early 1990s. His only victory in NASCAR's premier series was a non-points victory in the 1990 Winston Open, the preliminary to the All-Star race.

Trickle is survived by his wife, Darlene, and three children -- Vicky, Todd and Chad.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement. "Dick was a legend in the short-track racing community, particularly in his home state of Wisconsin, and he was a true fan favorite. Personalities like Dick Trickle helped shape our sport. He will be missed."

Trickle has been billed as the winningest short-track driver in the history of stock-car racing, recording about 1,000 victories in feature races, including 67 in 1972.

He was the rookie of the year in NASCAR's premier series in 1989 with six top-five finishes and nine top 10s.

Much of Trickle's short-track success came in Wisconsin, where he was nicknamed the "White Knight'' because of his SuperAmerica paint scheme.

Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said Trickle was "the guy'' when it came to Midwest short-track racing.

"He meant a lot to the local short-track racers,'' Keselowski said after unveiling his Miller Lite fan mosaic paint scheme for Saturday's All-Star race. "Kind of more the Midwest style of racing, which was track by track when NASCAR was more of a regional Southern sport before it had developed to the national platform it is now. He was the superstar of that style.

"It is very sad to see him go, and obviously difficult with the way it went.''

NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace competed for years against Trickle at many levels of racing. Trickle won his Cup series rookie of the year award the same season that Wallace won his only championship at NASCAR's top level. The two old friends and rivals were then honored together at the 1989 NASCAR awards banquet in New York City.

"I'm in 100 percent shock. Dick Trickle was my mentor. When I was short track racing, I would call him every Monday morning and he would always help me with race setups and stuff," Wallace said. "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. I'd not seen Dick as much as I'd like to of late. He was a legend. A man that'd 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. That's what got me hired by Cliff Stewart back in '84. Between Larry Phillips and Dick Trickle, they taught me everything."