NASCAR legend Dick Trickle passed away on Thursday afternoon near his Lincoln Country residence. According to a news release from the local county sheriff's department, Trickle died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a North Carolina cemetery.
He was 71.
ESPN's Ryan McGee released a portion of the press release from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. Here's an excerpt from that release:
Retired race car driver Richard “Dick” Trickle, 71, died today from an apparent self inflicted gun shot wound. The incident occurred at 12:02 p.m. at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Highway 150 East in Boger City.
The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call apparently from the victim that “there would be a dead body and it would be his“. Communications Center workers tried to place a return call to the number but did not get an answer.
Trickle was the 1989 Rookie of the Year on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now the Sprint Cup), and before his full-time NASCAR stint, he was one of the most decorated short-track race car drivers of all time.
The Wisconsin native retired from the sport after a long career that spanned over four decades, but his legacy is one that includes all of his accomplishments in different racing circuits and a long-standing nickname—"The Purple Knight"—that captures his No. 99 purple mustang perfectly.
Although his short-track success didn't transfer over into high-level Winston Cup wins (Trickle finished third five different times), he was one of the most notable drivers on the circuit. He made headlines during his NASCAR stint for drilling a hole in his safety helmet through which he could smoke cigarettes.
After the body was found at the cemetery and the family had time to collect itself, Trickle's brother Chuck spoke to David Newton of ESPN.com. According to Chuck Trickle, his brother was dealing with a severe pain issue at the time of his death, and had reached out over the past few weeks to voice his discomfort:
Last week he told me, 'I don't know how much longer I can put up with this,' said Chuck Trickle by phone from Las Vegas. They were going to put something in him to help with the pain. It was a five-step process. I don't know how far along he was.
Trickle denied that his deceased brother was a candidate to commit suicide for any reason other than the pain, noting that "He must have just decided the pain was too high, because he would have never done it for any other reason.''
I'm at a loss for words...I wish I knew the answer. This is not a thing he would do. I believe the pain was the problem. He never cussed in his life, [and] the type of person he is, he never was sad. There were some words that came out last week that were not very good.
Trickle also told Newton he has not yet seen the note that authorities discovered at the cemetery in Boger City, the same place where Trickle's granddaughter is buried.
As McGee stated on Twitter after the news broke, Trickle will and should be remembered by sports fans for his accomplishments on the track alone—where his career record speaks for itself:
To non-race fans Dick Trickle was a punchline. But racers knew him as a short track legend who won 1000+ races. #NASCAR— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) May 16, 2013
With such a rich racing resume, his accomplishments on the track are undeniable.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Trickle family during the aftermath of this tragedy.