Ex-driver Trickle dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound

Richard "Dick" Trickle, a retired NASCAR driver and short-track racing legend in the Midwest, was found dead on Thursday in North Carolina from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 71.

The Lincoln County (N.C.) Sheriff's Department said in a news release the incident involving Trickle occurred at 12:02 p.m. ET at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Highway 150 East in Boger City. The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call supposedly from Trickle, saying "there would be a dead body, and it would be his." Workers from the communication center placed a return call to the number but did not get an answer.

Emergency units found Trickle's body lying near his pickup truck when they arrived on the scene. Trickle was a Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. native but had resided in Lincoln County since the early 1990s.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said is a statement. "Dick was a legend in the short-track racing community, particularly in his home state of Wisconsin, and he was a true fan favorite. Personalities like Dick Trickle helped shape our sport. He will be missed."

Trickle competed in 303 races over a 24-year period in NASCAR's premier series. He won rookie of the year honors in the series in 1989. Trickle never won a points-paying race but scored a victory in the 1990 Winston Open (now known as the Sprint Showdown), which is the preliminary event for the NASCAR All-Star Race. He had one pole during his career, which came in '90 at Dover, Del. He also made 158 starts in the Nationwide Series, scoring two wins.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace raced against Trickle during most of his career. Wallace was stunned when he heard the news of Trickle's death.

"I'm in 100 percent shock," Wallace said in a statement. "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."

Trickle's greatest success during his racing career came on the short tracks, where he won more than 1,000 events. He is considered as the winningest driver in stock car racing on short tracks in the United States.

"Dick Trickle is one of those guys who was a part of this sport in a number of ways and meant a lot to the local short-track racers, in kind of more the Midwest-style racing, which was track by track when NASCAR was more of a regional Southern sport and before it had developed into a national platform that it is now," defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski said on Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the site of this weekend's all-star race. "He was the superstar of that style, of that genre and era. It's very sad to see him go, and obviously difficult with the way it went."