CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
An investigation is underway after deputies in Lincoln County say a NASCAR legend called 911 before committing suicide in a local cemetery.
According to the sheriff’s office, Retired race car driver Richard “Dick” Trickle, 71, died Thursday from an apparent self inflicted gun shot wound.
Investigators say Trickle apparently went to the Forest Lawn Cemetery on Highway 150 East in Boger City around noon on Thursday.
He used his phone to call the Lincoln County Communications Center and told the 911 operator to come to the cemetery and “there would be a dead body and it would be his.” He then hung up the phone.
Communications Center workers attempted to call Trickle back, but he did not answer.
When emergency crews arrived on the scene, they reportedly found Trickle’s body lying near his pickup truck.
WBTV has learned that Trickle’s granddaughter, Nicole Bowman, is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Bowman was 16-years-old when she was killed in a crash along Highway 73, east of Lincolnton, in August of 2001.
Dick Trickle was NASCAR legend who actually didn’t start with the organization until he was 48-years-old. He won the Winston Cup Series’ “Rookie of the Year” in 1989.
Trickle, a Wisconsin-native who achieved much success on short tracks outside of NASCAR, made his Cup debut in 1970 but he didn’t race full time in the series until 19-years later.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today,” said NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France. “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,” France continued.
He was known as “The White Knight” and often referred to as the “winningest short track driver in history” with more than 1,200 wins on short tracks all over the country.
His last Winston Cup start was in 2002.
He finished his Cup career with 303 starts, but no wins. Trickle had more than 150 starts in the Nationwide series, the last in 2001, where he won twice.
NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace competed for years against Trickle on Midwest short tracks, in the American Speed Association (ASA), and then later in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
“I’m in 100 percent shock. 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,” Wallace said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
“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,” Wallace continued. “
A man that’d won over a thousand short track races, was one of the most winning short trackers in America, was a role model to many short track racers coming up. Could just do magic with the race car and he taught me so much about racing. My success in the ASA and what Trickle taught me is what got me into NASCAR. That’s what got me hired by Cliff Stewart back in ’84. Between Larry Phillips and Dick Trickle, they taught me everything.”
Dick Trickle has lived in Lincoln County since the early 1990’s.
Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.