Wednesday 3 July 2013

Dick Trickle

I heard this name a couple of months ago, and I was highly amused by it. Now that I have read about Richard "Dick" Trickle, I feel a bit bad about finding his name so hilarious.

Dick was a famous race-car driver. About the only things I know about car racing are that it involves cars and racing to finish first, so bear with me here.

It seems that Dick specialized in short-track racing. According to some estimates, Dick was in over 2,200 races and won more than 1,200. That sounds pretty amazing to me. Baseball players are considered good if they can bat .500, and Dick has that beat.

Dick was born on 27 October 1947 in Wisconsin. At the tender age of 8, he fell and broke his hip. He had to wear a cast, covering his body from waist to foot, for three years! His recovery was so slow that his doctors thought he would end up a life-long invalid, but Dick was able to walk again, albeit with a slight limp.

It was while he was still in a cast that he saw his first car race. He never forgot it. Although Wikipedia doesn't say so, I like to theorize that he was so mesmerized by the cars because he saw in them a way to get around without walking (he was still in a cast at the time, remember). If I were writing a screenplay of his life, little Dick would say something to that effect. Get on it, Hollywood!

As a teen, Dick worked some in a blacksmith's shop. He learned a great deal about machinery. In the late 1950s, Dick would purchase regular cars and turn them into race cars himself. I'm impressed by this. I thought all race-car drivers did was drive fast cars; I didn't realize that some drivers also built them. Way to go, Dick!

At first, Dick mostly raced within Wisconsin. In fact, he had a day job for a few years before he decided to race full time. Even then, Dick was still largely doing his own car work, although he sometimes had help with the engine.

He was, obviously, a successful racer. In 1968 he was the USAC Stock Car Rookie of the Year. In 1989, he made his NASCAR debut, winning "Rookie of the Year" at the Winston/Sprint Cup. He was 48 years old, and he made a joke about it, saying "I guess I’d just like to thank everyone who gave a young guy like me a chance". He won a NASCAR race in 1990, but was more of a top-ten finisher than a number one racer. But that's pretty good, especially since he had already finished a full racing career.

Apparently, Dick was a committed smoker. He had a hole drilled in his safety helmet so that he could insert a cigarette.

Sadly, Dick committed suicide on 16 May 2013. Dick shot himself around noon at a cemetery in North Carolina. Before killing himself, he had called the police to report his own suicide, although he had not left his name. Dick's family released a statement saying Dick had been in chronic pain, and, despite consultations with many doctors, had been unable to find relief. Dick was only 71.

Dick was survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren. Some of his family, however, predeceased him. According to Wikipedia, he had a nephew who was killed in a drive-by shooting and a granddaughter who was killed in a car accident (and buried in the cemetery in which he committed suicide). That's a lot of tragedy for one family.

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