As far as anyone can tell, Dick Trickle was the only NASCAR driver to install a cigarette lighter in his car. He also had a hole drilled in his helmet so he could smoke. That’s the way he rolled: a one-of-a-kind personality who became a legend in racing despite a decided lack of success on the bigger stage (he had a lot of success in his career overall, however).
But did his longtime smoking habit ultimately help usher him to his demise? Richard “Dick” Trickle, who apparently committed suicide on Thursday in North Carolina, had been suffering from a mystery illness, said his brother, Chuck. And the pain got so bad that he figured he couldn’t take it anymore. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Dick Trickle went to doctors twice a day, his brother said, to try to get rid of the problem. But the cause of his pain never was determined.
Chuck Trickle said his brother was healthy, except for the pain under his breast. The brothers spoke a week ago, and Chuck Trickle knew it was serious when he heard Dick Trickle curse for the first time that he could remember.
“He was very down,” Chuck Trickle said. “He more or less said he didn’t know how much longer he could take the pain.”
Chuck Trickle, a former race car driver himself, lives in Las Vegas. His son, Chris, was shot and killed in 1997 while driving: a case that is still unsolved.
Keith Olbermann, who along with former ESPN co-anchor Dan Patrick were always sure to note Dick Trickle’s racing finishes, mostly for the comedy value, said:
“This is a guy that got in a car, drove it as fast as it would go, that would light up a butt, smoke at 160 mph. There was just something spectacularly old-school about him.
“In a time in which athletes were really getting overly sensitive to what we and everyone was starting to do, his attitude was, ‘Hey, you guys made me money, all I’ve got to do is put up with a little giggling and I have to put up with the giggling anyway.’ “