Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Tribute To Dick Trickle (1941-2013)

Final Laps of the 1990 Winston Open at Charlotte
Cue to 19:04 To See Dick Trickle's Win Over Rob Moroso
(Posted by cubs604)

Twenty-three years ago this week, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin driver Dick Trickle scored his only NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in the 1990 running of the Winston Open at Charlotte, the qualifier for what is now the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.  The 48-year-old Trickle, driving the #66 TropArtic Pontiac for Cale Yarborough, led 28 of the race’s 134 laps and defeated runner-up Rob Moroso by just eight inches in a thrilling photo finish.  Trickle went on to finish 6th in what was to be his only All-Star appearance.

That qualifying race turned out to be a battle of two star-crossed Rookie of the Year winners.  The 21-year-old Moroso claimed the 1990 title posthumously following his death in a traffic accident that September.  And just today, Trickle, the top rookie in 1989, lost his life in an apparent suicide at the age of 71.

Before ESPN will almost certainly give Dick Trickle the same treatment they gave the Neil Bonnett tribute car at Talladega by making fun of his name and his winless Cup career, I'd like to point out that Trickle was one of the last few ties the sport had with its dirt track racing past.  To have lost him under such circumstances is nothing short of a tragedy that should be treated as such.

Trickle was an ageless wonder in NASCAR.  His first Cup start came at Daytona in 1970 the week Pete Hamilton pulled the upset in his #40 Plymouth Superbird.  Trickle never went full-time until 1989, when he won Rookie of the Year at age 47 and finished 15th in points.  He won a pair of Nationwide races past the age of 55, one each in 1997 and 1998, both coming at a time where Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was on the ascendancy. His final Cup start of his long career didn’t come until 2002, when he finished 42nd at Dover at age 60.

Trickle was an absolute terror on the short tracks, a two-time ASA champion with more wins than even he could count, which translated directly to his performances on NASCAR’s short tracks.  He won his lone pole position at Dover in 1990 and came home 3rd, a finish he matched at Bristol in 1997, giving Junie Donlavey’s car its best finish since the team’s lone win with Jody Ridley at Dover in 1981.  He was cut from the same cloth as fellow short-trackers J.D. McDuffie, Neil Castles, and Buddy Arrington.  The clip of Trickle smoking in his car at Talladega has gone viral on YouTube, harkening back to McDuffie’s practice of taping cigars to the dashboard of his cars on race day.

Like his runs for Donlavey and Yarborough, Trickle racked up many of his best performances driving for the sport’s oldest teams, including the Stavola Brothers, Butch Mock, and Bud Moore.  He finished 5th in the 1992 Daytona 500 in Mock’s unsponsored #75 Oldsmobile, and when he then returned to the Stavola team that gave him Rookie of the Year, he scored two more Top Fives at Atlanta and Bristol.  Even in the twilight of his career, Trickle drove in relief of fellow Cup veteran Dave Marcis, and in his 300th start pulled off a stunning 7th-place qualifying run at Rockingham in 2001.

But most of all, Trickle was a tremendous personality who had some of the most passionate fans in the sport.  They, like him, enjoyed seeing him compete, no matter how long the odds.  And if anything is to be gained from this horrible tragedy, let it be the stories of those fans, friends, and family who knew him as a man, a racer, and a legend.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I met him at Busch race at the Nashville Fairgrounds, he was kicked back drinking a cup of coffee and having a smoke, talking to me a few other fans about how the car felt in practice, his chances, truly a kind sole. I'll pull out my old Heillig-Meyers #90 Dick Trickle hat today to wear as my tribute...