While any death is tragic, especially when it is unexpected, reactions are even more complicated when the person takes his own life. This was definitely demonstrated after the NASCAR family learned of Dick Trickle’s death of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a local cemetery.
As a NASCAR fan and citizen journalist, as well as a mental health professional, I was most interested to see how the NASCAR community would react on learning this news. And as the story has unfolded, the reactions did indeed mirror those that are normal when learning of a death by suicide.
When news of Trickle’s suicide first broke, there was the most normal initial reaction of shock. Most expressed that they could not understand how someone with Trickle’s apparent love of life could turn around and end his own.
“He had a special personality,” Mark Martin, veteran NASCAR Cup Series driver, said. “He was tough, but he was fun.”
“He was just a very unique person,” Martin continued. “He was doing it his way.”
Jimmie Johnson, five-time NASCAR champ, also expressed his feelings on Trickle’s death in much the same way as his colleague Mark Martin. While Johnson had never raced with Trickle, he had gotten to know Trickle while racing in the IROC Series.
“I’m shocked and saddened by it,” Johnson said. “His stories were legendary.”
NASCAR racer and now television analyst Rusty Wallace described it best.
“I am in 100 percent shock,” Wallace said on learning the news of Trickle’s suicide. “Dick Trickle was my mentor.”
“He was a legend,” Wallace continued. “He was a role model to many short track racers coming up.”
Geoff Bodine, another veteran racer of the genre of Trickle, was also shocked by his passing at his own hand.
“He was fun. Just plain fun,” Bodine said. “People everywhere knew his name.”
“That’s why they used his likeness in the movie ‘Days of Thunder’ with Tom Cruise portraying a driver named Cole Trickle,” Bodine continued. “He was such a character.”
There was also a real sense in the NASCAR community after the news broke of responsibility and even some guilt. Many of those calling in to Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90 wondered why they did not see the signs and why they had not reached out to Trickle sooner in the hopes that the suicide could have been prevented.
“It’s crazy surprising news,” Matt Kenseth, NASCAR champion and fellow Wisconsin native to Trickle, said. “I don’t really know all the circumstances.”
“I’m still in shock,” Kenseth continued. “I don’t really get it.”
In addition to that wondering and guilt about being able to step in and stop the suicide, anger is also a very normal reaction when someone has taken their life, especially someone so vibrant and colorful.
“I know one thing: next time I see him I’m going to slap him,” Butch Fedewa, who raced against Trickle in the 1960s said. “I had just talked to him a few weeks ago.”
“He wasn’t a coward,” Fedewa continued. “I don’t understand it. I don’t.”
“But he had to have a reason.”
Unlike many suicides, where the reason is never known to those left behind, the motive for Dick Trickle’s suicide has been made public. This may assist those in the NASCAR community to understand Trickle’s taking of his own life, however, still does not totally ease the pain of the manner in which he died.
Trickle shot himself in the Forest Lawn Cemetery, the same cemetery where his granddaughter was buried, in Boger City, North Carolina. Police revealed a note was found with the body and the audio from the 911 call that Trickle placed himself said “There’s going to be a dead body. Suicide. I’m the one.”
When emergency responders went to the scene after being unable to reach Trickle, they did indeed find his body lying next to his 1993 Ford pickup in the cemetery.
Chuck Trickle shared after the suicide became public that his brother Dick had been having chest pain that no doctor seemed to be able to diagnose or ease. In fact, Trickle had just been to the local hospital at Duke University for testing to try to identify the cause of the pain, which he described as being under his left breast.
“He was very down,” Chuck Trickle said, sharing some insight into the why of his brother’s suicide. “He more or less said he didn’t know how much longer he could take the pain.”
“He must have just decided that the pain was too high, because he would have never done it for any other reason.”
“I thought about it pretty hard last night,” former Sprint Cup crew chief and now television analyst Ray Evernham, said. “The only thing you can say is Trickle lived on his own terms and died on his terms, and that’s the only sense I can make of it.”
“He raced the way he wanted to race,” Evernham continued. “He came up with that one hour sleep rule for every hundred miles he raced.”
“He partied hard and he raced hard,” Evernham said. “He didn’t conform.”
“That’s helping me try to make sense of it in my mind.”
Perhaps the biggest reaction in the garage, especially now that the potential cause for Trickle’s suicide is somewhat explained, is that of loss and sadness for Trickle’s passing and his legacy and meaning to the sport of racing.
Not only was Trickle a character of the largest proportions, he was also an outstanding short track racer, winning around 1,200 feature races throughout his time on the track. He had 303 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1989-1998 and also had two NASCAR Nationwide Series wins under his belt.
“The era of stock car racing up in that area really died with him,” Matt Kenseth said of his fellow Wisconsin racer. “He had a unique way of looking at things, a ton of common sense and he was really smart.”
“He was a very talented racer,” Jimmy Fennig, Trickle’s former crew chief, said. “The one thing about Dick, he built his own cars, he knew his cars inside and out.”
“He was fantastic.”
“A guy like Trickle and Richie Evans (another modified racer great), they wanted to race on their own terms and they raced a lot,” Ray Evernham said. “I’m glad that there are some guys like that.”
“You don’t have to be Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon to be a racing legend,” Evernham continued. “Those guys, Trickle and Evans, are racing legends too.”
Reigning champ Brad Keselowski also paid tribute to the late Dick Trickle.
“He was ‘the guy’ during the great short-track era,” Keselowski said. “His loss, in some ways, is a symbol of the end of that era.”
“That’s very sad to see.”
The NASCAR community will no doubt continue to remember and mourn the passing of Dick Trickle throughout the All-Star race weekend. One of the most touching tributes has been Dick Trickle’s name over the door of All-Star pole sitter Carl Edwards, particularly with Jimmy Fennig, Trickle’s former crew chief, now on the box for Edwards.
Trickle’s obituary best sums up his life, as well as his death at his own hands, as follows. Rest in peace now Dick Trickle.
Richard Trickle (October 27, 1941-May 16, 2013)
Richard “Dick” Trickle, age 71, of Iron Station, NC died of a self inflicted gunshot. He had been suffering for some time with severe chronic pain, had seen many doctors, none of which could find the source of his pain. His family as well as those who knew him, find his death very hard to accept, and though we will hurt from losing him for some time, he’s no longer suffering and we take comfort knowing he’s with his very special angel.
He is survived by his wife Darlene (McMahon) Trickle, three children Victoria Bowman (John), Tod Trickle, and Chad Trickle (Shannon), and 3 grandchildren, Lucas Bowman, Courtney Trickle and Carlee Trickle. He lost his oldest grandchild Nicole Bowman in a tragic car accident nearly 12 years ago. He was the son of the late Leo and Lauretta Trickle and is survived by his brothers Duaine Trickle, Charles Trickle and sisters Delores Iwanski and Susan Trickle.
Dick’s passion in life was his racing. He touched many lives throughout his career, provided memories for many that will last a lifetime. Many thought when he retired he would continue as a car owner, but he was a driver at heart, he wanted to be behind the wheel and be in control of his destiny. We believe he felt himself no longer able to be behind that wheel of life or be the man he only knew how to be because of the pain and suffering.
“His passion was racing but his love was his family. This is a very difficult time for the family, they hope everyone will understand and respect their wishes to have private services for his funeral. They appreciate all the calls, messages, and letters of support, but at this time need to be together as a family.
There have been requests for where to send flowers, in lieu of flowers the family has asked that a donation be made in Memory of Dick to: Victory Junction, 4500 Adams Way, Randleman, NC 27317. They thank you for all your love, thoughts and prayers.