- Dick Trickle, one of the winningest drivers in U.S. short-track racing and the oldest driver to capture NASCAR's Rookie of the Year title, is dead.
- Trickle, 71, is believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to media reports.
- It's widely believed that the name of the Tom Cruise character in the 1990 movie Days of Thunder was influenced by Dick Trickle's arrival in NASCAR in 1989.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Dick Trickle, one of the leading short-track racers in American motorsports history and the oldest driver to capture NASCAR's Rookie of the Year title, died Thursday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to media reports. He was 71.
Trickle was found near his pickup truck at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City after authorities received a phone call advising that they would find a body at that location.
It's widely believed that the name of the Tom Cruise character in the 1990 movie Days of Thunder was influenced by Dick Trickle's arrival in NASCAR in 1989. Cruise plays a young racer named Cole Trickle in the movie.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing," 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."
A posting on the NASCAR Web site called Trickle a "popular and successful racer often seen with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other."
Trickle was rookie of the year in NASCAR's premier series 1989 at age 48 with six top-five finishes and nine top 10s.
Retired journalist Tom Higgins, who covered NASCAR for The Charlotte Observer for four decades, suggested Trickle continued to grieve over the death of his granddaughter, Nicole Ann Bowman, in an auto wreck in 2001. She is buried in the cemetery where Trickle's body was found.
Trickle, a native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, is believed to have won more than 500 races on short tracks through the Midwest and beyond. He first raced in NASCAR's premier series in 1970, qualifying for the Daytona 500 and finishing 36th after the engine in his car failed.
With 16 starts under his belt from 1970 through 1986, Trickle moved to North Carolina to pursue a full-time career in the series then known as Winston Cup in 1989, driving for the Stavola Brothers Racing team. He also drove for NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough, journeyman team owner Junie Donlavey and others.
He competed in Cup full-time for 10 years and last raced in the Cup Series in 2002, racing in three events.
In 303 starts, Trickle had three 3rd-place finishes. He won two races in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Edmunds says: Another tragedy for the Trickle family. Dick Trickle's nephew, aspiring racer Chris Trickle, suffered a fatal gunshot wound in 1997 while driving on a Las Vegas freeway. He died more than a year later, at age 24.