Former NASCAR driver Dick Trickle has died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 71-year-old's body was found at a cemetery in Boger City, N.C., early on Thursday afternoon.
Local media report that the county emergency services center received a call that appeared to be from the victim saying that "there would be a body and it would be his." Attempts to call the number back were not answered.
Trickle carved himself a reputation as a specialist on short tracks, and won multiple short-track titles during the late 1960s and mid-1980s. He was named NASCAR Winston (now Sprint) Cup Rookie of the Year in 1989 at the age of 48, making him the oldest driver to receive the honor.
Although he never managed to win at NASCAR's highest level, he registered 36 top 10 finishes and claimed two wins in the Busch Series. His last NASCAR start was at Dover in 2002, although he continued to make occasional appearances at local races in the years that followed.
Aside from his prowess as a driver, Trickle was known for having a hole drilled into his helmet and cigarette lighters installed in his racecars so that he could smoke during races.
“I'm in 100 percent shock," said racer turned ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace at the news of Trickle's passing. "Dick Trickle was my mentor. When I was short track racing, I would call him every Monday morning and he would always help me with race setups and stuff.
"He and I had such a good time telling little stories, but he was the guy that taught me almost everything in the American Speed Association. And he was the guy that I battled right to the end for my 1983 ASA championship. I barely beat the guy that taught me everything.
"I'd not seen Dick as much as I'd like to of late. He was a legend. A man that'd won over a thousand short track races, was one of the most winning short trackers in America, was a role model to many short track racers coming up. Could just do magic with the racecar and he taught me so much about racing. My success in the ASA and what Trickle taught me is what got me into NASCAR. That's what got me hired by Cliff Stewart back in '84. Between Larry Phillips and Dick Trickle, they taught me everything.”