Former short-track ace Dick Trickle died Thursday at age 71 from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Lincoln County (N.C.) Sheriff's Department.
Trickle was active in NASCAR racing for more than 30 years. He was winless in 303 Sprint Cup Series starts but collected two victories in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the first coming on Easter weekend in 1997 at Hickory Motor Speedway, where the Wisconsin native took the lead from Randy LaJoie with 22 laps left and held on for the win.
When Trickle won his second and final race on September 5, 1998, at Darlington Raceway, he was 56 years, 10 months and eight days old, the oldest race winner in NASCAR's three national series.
Trickle's body was found near his pickup truck in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City, N.C. The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call at around noon Wednesday, from a man -- apparently Trickle -- who said there would be a dead body, and it would be his.
Communications center workers tried to return the call, but no one answered, according to the sheriff's department. The body was found by the first emergency units dispatched to the scene.
Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski heard about Trickle's death en route to the unveiling of his "Fan Mosaic" paint scheme for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
"Dick Trickle's one of those guys who was a part of the sport in a number of ways and meant a lot to the local short-track racers," Keselowski said. "Kind of like the Midwest style of racing, which was track by track when NASCAR was more of a regional Southern sport, before it had developed to the national platform it is now.
"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."
Trickle, who won well over 1,000 short-track features in his career, ran his last NASCAR race in 2002. He had lived in Lincoln County since the early 1990s.
NASCAR's Chairman and CEO, Brian France, issued the following statement regarding Trickle's passing.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today. 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."