Nascar legend Dick Trickle has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after calling police to alert them to where they would find his dead body.
The 71-year-old’s body was found a short distance from his pickup truck at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City, North Carolina.
Police confirmed that, shortly before the body was found, Trickle had called to warn them that “there would be a dead body and it would be his”. They added that there was no answer when the emergency operator called the number back. Foul play is not suspected.
Trickle became a Nascar legend, as much for his name and his eccentric behaviour as for his racing talent.
He was named Winton Cup Rookie of the Year in 1989 at the age of 48 – the oldest driver in the Cup’s history to be awarded the title.
In a career spanning 24 years, Trickle competed in a total of 2,200 races and is believed to have accumulated the most wins in short track racing history. But despite his numerous race wins, Trickle never managed to win a Cup race.
One of the aspects that made Trickle famous outside the world of Nascar were the great lengths he went to in order to be able to smoke while racing.
Trickle, who was nicknamed the White Knight by his corporate sponsor SuperAmerica, had a hole drilled into his crash helmet to allow him to smoke, and demanded cigarette lighters were installed in his cars.
Recently asked how many cigarettes he would get through in a race, Trickle replied: “How many yellows are there? I smoke one for every yellow”.
Over the years, race commentators would have great fun with Trickle’s name, ensuring a major announcement of his race position, no matter where he finished, to great roars from the crowd.
Speaking with the Associated Press, former Nascar driver Geoff Bodine expressed grief over his “fun, just plain fun” friend’s death.
Bodine said: “It's all just sad. We don't understand why he would do this. Hopefully we will all learn why he would do that. There was something that triggered him to take his own life. We are all really saddened by this in the racing community.”
Describing Trickle’s personality and story-telling ability, Bodine said: “People everywhere knew his name... That’s why they used his likeness in that movie Days of Thunder. He was such a character.”
In one interview a few years ago, Trickle was asked how he would like to be remembered. He replied: “I just want to be who I am and satisfied that I had a great career. I'm happy with it. I think I made a lot of friends”. He added that he intended to be a stay-at-home grandpa from that point on.