Dick Trickle's brother: Pain was issue

CONCORD, N.C. -- Short-track legend Dick Trickle wouldn't have committed suicide were he not in such severe pain, his brother told ESPN.com on Friday.

Trickle, 71, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday in the same cemetery where his granddaughter is buried in Boger City, N.C.

A day earlier, according to Chuck Trickle, the man known as the sport's greatest local short-track racer went to Duke University for more tests to help determine what was causing pain under his left breast.

"Last week he told me, 'I don't know how much longer I can put up with this,'" Chuck Trickle, 68, said by phone from Las Vegas. "They were going to put something in him to help with the pain. It was a five-step process. I don't know how far along he was.

"He must have just decided the pain was too high, because he would have never done it for any other reason."

The Lincoln County sheriff's department said the incident occurred at 12:02 p.m. at Forest Lawn Cemetery off Highway 150.

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 near his pickup truck when they arrived.

A private ceremony for family members is being planned for Monday, Chuck said. Trickle is survived by his wife, Darlene, and three children -- Vicky, Tod and Chad.

Chuck said he hasn't heard what was in the note found at the cemetery with his brother.

"I'm at a loss for words," he said. "I wish I knew the answer. This is not a thing he would do. I believe the pain was the problem."

Chuck said he didn't realize how bad the pain was until last week when his brother cursed during a phone conversation.

"He never cussed in his life," Chuck said. "The type of person he is, he never was sad. There were some words that came out last week that were not very good."

He said his brother was talking to or meeting with doctors twice a day.

"With all the technology in the world, there is no way in the world they shouldn't find this [cause for the pain]," Chuck said. "He had so many MRIs and CT scans that he said 'My skin is hurting.'"

The entire NASCAR community was mourning Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway as drivers and crew members began preparation for Saturday night's All-Star Race.

Those who knew Trickle best were looking for answers.

"I thought about it pretty hard last night," said ESPN analyst and former Sprint Cup crew chief Ray Evernham. "The only thing you can say is Trickle lived on his terms and died on his terms, and that's the only sense I can make of it."

Trickle tried to qualify one of then-Evernham Motorsports speedway development cars at Talladega in the mid-2000s. He was also scheduled to do an interview on one of his old cars being restored for Evernham's new television series "AmericaCarna," set to debut in January.

"He raced the way he wanted to race," Evernham said. "He came up with that one hour sleep for every hundred miles. He partied hard. He raced hard. He did nothing his whole life but race and help people that raced. He lived for it.

"His life was racing. He didn't conform. He didn't worry about all the other things. He lived on his terms."

Many remember Trickle for having a working cigarette lighter in his car so he could smoke during a race. Others remember him for being a part of almost every ESPN race report just because of his colorful last name.

They all remember him for being an amazing talent on short tracks, where he won more than 1,000 feature events, many in his home state of Wisconsin.

"Man, Dick was a legend, you know, especially up in Wisconsin, short-track racing where I grew up," said 2003 Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth of Cambridge, Wis. "That era of stock car racing up in that area really died with him.

"It's just crazy, surprising news."

Kenseth last talked to Trickle in July at the Slinger (Wis.) Nationals. They spent most of the two-hour conversation discussing Kenseth's move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

"He kind of peeked in the trailer afterward, and of course he asked if we had any beer in there," Kenseth said. "He had a unique way of looking at things. He had a ton of common sense, and he was really smart and always had a really funny way of putting things.

"Man, he went on for about an hour just about my move and what he thought was great about it and just a lot of other interesting things that made me feel good. Ninety percent of the stuff he told me through all the years I raced with him ... stuff always proved to be right. That's the last time I saw him. I'm still in shock. I don't really get it."

Neither does Mark Martin, who was mentored by Trickle early in his career.

"I'm confused and broken-hearted about what happened," the 54-year-old Michael Waltrip Racing driver said.

Martin remembers Trickle as much for how he helped him off the track as for how he helped on it.

"For the influence that he had on us and the etiquette and the way he raced," Martin said. "He raced us real hard on the racetrack, but off the racetrack he was very free with parts or advice. He gave freely. Really, really good dude."

Trickle didn't move to NASCAR's top series until 1989, winning the rookie of the year award at 48, an age many in the sport are retired or close to it.

"He was in his element -- short-track racing where he didn't have to look over his shoulder or worry about anything," Martin said. "That's why he didn't come NASCAR racing when he might have and was young enough that he really could have gotten his feet planted firmly here.

"He was doing it his way."

Trickle's only victory in NASCAR's premier series was a non-points victory in the 1990 Winston Open, the preliminary to the All-Star Race.

Martin said Trickle wasn't a person to let others see him down. Chuck agreed, saying that is what tipped him off that the pain was becoming unbearable.

"You can talk to any of the NASCAR guys, and every one of them would tell you this is not Dick Trickle," Chuck said.

The Trickle family is not a stranger to tragedy. Chuck's son, Chris, was shot in 1997 and died the next year. Police never solved the case. Trickle's granddaughter, Nicole Ann Bowman, was killed in an accident in front of East Lincoln High School in 2001.

"Whether that was part of the toll, I don't know," Chuck said. "I don't believe so. I believe the pain was the problem."