As my son put it on a Facebook post, “Some days are diamond, some days are stones. Last Thursday was a bleeping rock!”
When Tom Bowles asked me to do a piece about Dick Trickle, I was a little apprehensive as to whether I’d be able to. After a day or so, I realized that I owed it to Richard to do something.
Mike Neff did a great job on Monday with his story on Facebook, and I know everyone got something from it. One of his comments was that everyone who ever met Dick Trickle has a story. That’s true, and usually, so is the story. Maybe that’s what I have to do—relate a few of those I have. Many of them have come back to me in the last few days.
First off, I mildly resent NASCAR acting like Dick Trickle was one of “their” drivers. He was one of “ours.” A true short-tracker, a master of his art. I do appreciate Mike Joy mentioning his accomplishments on the short tracks. He was one of the last of the “old school” racers in the big time. Guys that built their own cars as well as drove them. As my friend Steve Stubbs said, “They won’t be making many race drivers like him again.”
I first met Dick Trickle when came to an ASA race at Winchester in the 70s. After the program, he walked up, stuck his hand out, and said, “You’re a hell of a flagman. I’m Dick Trickle.” Unable to corral my smart-ass side, I replied, “Is that a name or a condition?”
Turned out his sense of humor may have been second only to his ability as a driver and a race mechanic. From that point on, we were really good friends. He was one of only a few drivers who liked to “debrief” me after races, wanting to discuss why I did what I did up there in the flagstand, usually over a beverage from whichever brewery was one of his sponsors at the time.
My whole family liked him. My wife, Joyce, who could take or leave racing, thought he was one of the best people she’d ever met, and he was a hero to our son, Matt. He watched Matt grow up, and when he was in the Busch Series and they came to Indianapolis Raceway Park, he’d come looking for me. He wanted Matt to be his gas man or fill in somewhere else on his pit crew.
Joyce and I had a good hard cry on Thursday when we found out about it. I hadn’t done that since Rich Vogler was killed. When I called Matt to find out if he knew, I realized he had found out because he was crying, too.
Once he came to IRP while USAC was running two nights before the Busch race. He had our man on the back gate call and say me somebody wanted to talk to me. My radio blurted, “Hey Potts, it’s Dick Trickle!” in that familiar voice.
“Hey, Pecker, what’s up?”
“Can you get me in here?”
We were waiting out a shower, and even with it raining, I couldn’t let him sit down there. I jumped on the golf cart and took off for the gate. USAC’s Don Freeman was nice enough to sign him in, and the first thing he wanted to do was go to the main entrance where Joyce was taking tickets so he could say “Hi.”
Made her whole day.
That’s the way it was after I left ASA for IRP and he was in NASCAR. I could look forward to a radio call whenever he arrived.
I had known some pretty damned good short track racers while flagging at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville. I was impressed by Trickle from the start, but I wondered how he would stack up against those guys on their home field.
That lasted only until 1978, when he came to the Bluegrass 300, a series of 100-lap races on that third-mile oval.
He burned up his wiring in the first 100, then rewired the car himself (naturally), and proceeded to put a whipping on the local boys in the second and third 100. In one of those, he was chasing Charlie Glotzbach for the lead when they came up on a slow car. Glotzbach went inside, and Trickle went outside. He passed both of them right in front of me and took the lead heading into the first turn, amazing me, the crowd, and Glotzbach.
He didn’t win that thing, because it was determined by finishes in all three. Another pretty fair ASA racer, Joe Shear, Sr., won the overall title. But every race fan in Louisville knew who Dick Trickle was from then on, and that all those stories in the racing papers were true.
He was also a friend to every racer in the pits. Other teams told me that when they came to a track they’d never visited before, it was always Trickle who would be honest with them about the right setup.
He’d give you the shirt off his back if you wanted it. As a matter of fact, I remember him doing that once. Matt was admiring his SuperAmerica tee shirt, and he took it off and handed it to him.
Even bailed me out of jail once. Seriously.
After a race at Milwaukee, I took some pit crewman’s Corvette for a spin on the track. Blue lights on the backstretch. Turned out I had run afoul of some Wisconsin state law which made it illegal to drive on a state-owned race track when there wasn’t a race going on.
No handcuffs, but they took me to the office and told me I could post the $80 fine (which also happened to be the bail if I wanted to contest it) or spend the night in jail. I had maybe $50 on me. Now, if I didn’t get back to Scottsburg, Ind. by Monday morning, my newspaper editor’s job was going to be a thing of the past.
Matt went back to the pits and found Trickle still there. He sent one of his crewmen out to pay the fine.
All the stories about him loving to party were true. I tried to party with him a few times. Now, I considered myself a good party animal in those younger days, but I couldn’t keep up with him.
One of the best stories was while we were at a motel in Lexington, Mo., and everybody was getting thrown in the pool. We realized Trickle hadn’t gone in, so we headed for him. He grabbed the sides of the chaise lounge he was on and said, “I ain’t goin’ easy!”
So we picked up the chaise lounge and threw it in with him on it. He was only mildly unhappy, and that was because he got his cigarettes wet.
I’m rambling, but I’ll leave you with a couple of classic Trickle-isms.
“You need one hour of sleep for each 100 laps you’re going to run the next day.”
“A good hot shower is worth two hours sleep.”
My sincere condolences to Darlene and the rest of his family. The world of racing awoke last Friday much poorer than it was on Thursday.
Rest in peace, old friend.
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