The Loss Of A Legend: A Year Since The Passing Of Dick Trickle
Written By: Gregg Paul
A year ago I wrote an article about a young lady’s friendship with the legendary Dick Trickle. It was an article about their seemingly improbable friendship despite the fact that she never got the chance to see him race. It was a genuine friendship between two people, yet it showed that despite her not seeing Dick race, that he had the ability to treat his fans with the same kind of loyalty and respect that they had showed him over the years.
However, when I look back at the past year since Dick’s tragic death, I am reminded of what I wrote towards the end of that article.
“Legends are not supposed to die. Friends are not supposed to die either. It hurts knowing that we have lost both.”
Every time I have gone to a race track since that somber day, I have seen reminders of what Dick Trickle meant to his legion of fans and to the racing community as a whole. I see countless people wearing their old Trickle t-shirts, hats, or jackets. I see many more people wearing the memorial t-shirts celebrating the life of Trickle. I have overheard countless conversations about the many exploits of Dick’s racing career as well as the rumored after race parties. I have spoken to race drivers who have reflected on what Dick meant to them and how he had either helped them with their cars or driving style, or how Dick had inspired them to become a racer.
These same drivers often added to the Trickle legend about how he raced or his many innovations. Many would tell stories about Dick’s antics both in and out of the car and the many late night parties after the racing.
Even though I never got to cover Dick’s racing career, I was able to witness many of his races in person. Part of the reason I ventured out to so many tracks was knowing that Dick and so many of his contemporaries were going to be there racing. As a fan I saw firsthand how he raced and won so often, as well as being fortunate enough to be able to speak with him after the races. Despite the short snippets of time I was able to spend talking with Dick when I was younger, he always made me feel like I was somehow important to him.
Once I was able to become a reporter and cover racing, I was always eager to get the opportunity to speak with Dick. Being able to get that one on one conversation for a longer period of time that I could never have had when I was a youngster and just a fan, was a thrill every time. Even though Dick had retired from driving by the time I started reporting, he was always willing to be interviewed and just talk about racing in general.
A few years ago I interviewed Dick about his “semi-retirement”, since he never really announced a formal retirement. I asked Dick if he missed racing and if he could still get the job done.
“Sure I miss it, but what do I have left to prove?” said Trickle. “It takes a lot of work to be competitive these days and I am having just as much fun without all that work. I still get to see all the great people and my friends and the beer tastes just as good whether I have raced or not.”
Looking back in hindsight I believe Dick missed racing more than he let on. Perhaps it was due to the health issues, but he still had that wry smile on his face throughout the entire interview. He never let on that things were worse than they appeared. Obviously I along with the rest of his fans and friends had no idea things would turn out the way they did, yet despite the tragedy it is still awesome to see that Dick Trickle has not been forgotten.
I was right when I said that legends are not supposed to die. Dick Trickle’s many race fans and friends have made sure of that. Some of his best friends and fellow racers are planning a memorial at the Rudolf Community Park. Trickle will forever be immortalized in his home town. It is something that is well deserved for someone that rightfully achieved legendary status. The memorial with all its trimmings along with the great stories we can all tell should ensure that this legend truly never dies. Something we should all be thankful for and to look forward to.
The loss of Dick Trickle the racer, the man, and the friend can never be expressed with mere words. The loss of Dick Trickle the legend will hopefully never happen. In that sense I was wrong. We have not lost both.
Racing Has Lost A Legend, WARN Has Lost A Friend
Written By: Gregg Paul & Julie Heisler
The world of auto racing has lost one of its most legendary drivers. Dick Trickle’s passing signifies the end of an era for the people who knew him and watched him race. Not only did he race anywhere and everywhere, but he also won races anywhere and everywhere.
However, this is not going to be a story about Trickle’s racing accomplishments. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, his on-track performance is worthy of legendary status. Rumored to be up to 1,200 career feature wins, and 67 wins in 1972 alone, Trickle amassed seven ARTGO championships in nine years. He also had two ASA National Tour Championships, multiple track championships throughout the state of Wisconsin, Rookie of the Year in both NASCAR and USAC, and was instrumental in creating the Slinger Nationals, which became one of the most prestigious short track racing events in the country.
No, this is a story about one of Trickle’s fans who never even got to see him race. It is a story about the development of one of the unlikeliest of friendships. Yet a friendship that was, in many ways, exactly what you would expect from this legend, who lived thousands of miles away, and a young woman who never knew he existed until she met him.
Two years ago at the Slinger Nationals, Emily Heisler, the current ARCA Midwest Truck tour photographer, met Trickle during a VIP autograph session which we attended together. They began a conversation about racing and life in general. It would be a conversation that would spark the beginning of a special friendship.
After that race ended, Emily was on the track in Victory Lane for photos and an interview with Kyle Busch, who won the race. We proceeded to look for other drivers to interview and she took pictures along the way. We were about to leave when I spotted Trickle walking alone in the pit area. As we approached him, I turned on my voice recorder as I asked to interview him.
We began the interview and Dick answered questions, but also interjected his opinions and expertise. He commented about the run that Becca Kasten had that night. Kasten finished in the top five and was a strong contender during the entire race. Kasten is a woman of small stature and Dick commented about how surprised he was at how good she drove, despite her size.
“She (Kasten) did a good job,” said Trickle. “They bumped on her and beat her up pretty good. She held in there good. She only weighs about 90 pounds!”
“That’s how much I weigh,” Emily said.
“You don’t weigh 90 do you?” asked Trickle.
“Yes,” said Emily.
“That must be with the camera,” said Trickle with a smile.
That was the beginning of the good-natured friendship between Emily and Trickle. Emily attended a number of other races that summer, including Oktoberfest. When she caught his attention after the race in his honor had ended, he not only remembered her from the night at Slinger, but he wholeheartedly agreed to conducting an interview with her. Trickle suggested that Emily join him in his golf cart to get out of the hot sun and to get away from the crowd. As Emily began to ask her questions to the racing legend, a television reporter also asked for an interview with Trickle. To everyone’s surprise, Trickle told the television reporter that he was already in the middle of an interview and that the reporter would have to wait until Trickle was finished speaking with Emily. The interview continued over 45 minutes, as Emily and Trickle discussed his racing history, his thoughts on racing today, and whether or not he would ever race again.
The next racing season found Emily and Trickle continuing their friendship, with conversations at various race tracks. Every time they met, Trickle gave Emily a big hug and asked how she had been since the last time they saw each other. Every time they would part at the conclusion of the event, there would be another hug and the wishes of both to see each other at the next race opportunity. A true friendship had developed.
Last November, at the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame induction ceremony, it was announced that Trickle was to be the guest of honor at the hall of fame’s annual golf outing this June. Emily and I were both looking forward to that event. Sadly, when the news broke that Trickle had passed away, it brought tears to my eyes. Not just because of losing a legend in the sport I have loved since I was 4 years old. Not just because I was fortunate to have grown up watching Trickle race and win at many racetracks throughout Wisconsin. Not just because I was fortunate to have spoken with him many times, first as a fan and then as a reporter. I also shed tears because I knew how difficult it would be to tell Emily that she had lost her friend.
So, while many stories in the coming days will discuss the racing record of Trickle, or his zany sense of humor, or his quirky habits, this is a story about his capacity for an unlikely friendship. Whatever the reasons, Trickle and Emily seemed to form a genuine friendship. There was something about the way they conversed so easily, about racing and about life. The way they hugged upon both meeting and saying goodbye. It was a true friendship that was far too short and cannot be easily explained.
Legends are not supposed to die. Friends are not supposed to die either. It hurts knowing that we have lost both. More importantly, it hurts knowing that Emily has lost a true friend not only in racing, but a true friend overall.