Monday, December 03, 2007
K. D. Lang 'Shadowland'
The time is near for me to say goodbye to a longtime friend… A friend of mine that has been with me since 1998. A friend that I hung out with despite all the stares and laughter from those around us. A friend that has been with me through all the good times and bad. A friend that I will miss greatly because there’s just nothing else like it… My Dick Trickle Helig-Meyers racing t-shirt.
I didn’t like NASCAR racing when I was a youngster. I just didn’t see the point in watching 40 rednecks drive 500 miles in a circle. I would tell my father that and he would say without turning his head from the television… “Son, you just don’t understand.”
I didn’t and I can see that know. At the time, I had no interest in NASCAR at all. The only names that I knew were the ones that I saw on advertising posters or t-shirts drifting around my personal space. I knew about Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Mark Martin, and the favorite driver of my parents… Bill Elliott.
By the way… Bill Elliott has one of the greatest quotes in NASCAR Victory Lane interviews. After winning the Winston Million, he said something like this in the Winner’s Circle… “I’d like to thank Jesus Christ as my personal savior and Coor’s beer…”
If I had of seen that on live TV, I’m sure I would have busted a testicle laughing. I have seen the interview on ESPN Classic.
One Sunday night, I happened to be finishing up some laundry at my parent’s house. The sports report was on and they were running down the list of top 10 finishers for the race that day. I wasn’t really paying that much attention, but one racer’s name caught my attention like a tank in a Wal-Mart parking lot. That racer’s name was Dick Trickle.
I busted out laughing and my parents were used to me making uproarious outbursts. They didn’t ask, but I had to say… “Who is this Dick Trickle? Is this guy real? It sounds like a slang term for a venereal disease!”
Following NASCAR as they did, my parents had never thought of that little viewpoint and they too started laughing.
That name caused me to search out Monday’s newspaper to find where Dick Trickle placed the previous day. As I started reading articles in the paper, I became more and more fascinated by the man behind the funny name. As it turned out, the guy has more stock car wins than anyone else in the history of the sport. He waited too long to join the ranks of NASCAR. He is the oldest NASCAR Winston-Cup Rookie of the Year at the age of 48. A record that will most undoubtedly stand.
I started following Trickle when he was driving the #8 Snicker’s Ford Thunderbird. While watching the races on TV, I would always have plenty of FunSize Snicker’s on hand. If Trickle fell out of the race, there would be no more Snicker’s for anyone.
The guy’s name was so popular that ESPN would always list where their favorite driver finished.
I even had the pleasure of meeting him once…
I heard all kinds of stories about the man from other NASCAR fans. How folks would camp out in the infield during race weekends and how Dick Trickle ended up hanging out with them on a Friday night drinking beer. For some reason, beer or as Trickle called them… “Barley pops”… Were always involved.
Because of his age and NASCAR owners going with younger and prettier drivers… Trickle struggled to find full-time rides in stock car’s premier league. I kept the faith and I believed that if he found the right combination and sponsor, he could win at least one race in what was then called the Winston Cup Series.
The first race I saw was at North Wilkesboro with my buddy Wally Harrison during Richard Petty’s farewell tour. Dick and Richard, the old guys, were starting in the top 10. They didn’t finish there. But it was great seeing the Snickers Thunderbird race right in front of me.
Dick Trickle was a character in the fullest sense. He drank beer and smoked. He even smoked while he drove in the races. He said things off the top of his head without thinking about how others would react. And on a short track, the guy was always a contender if he had the right equipment under him.
And about his name… He thought it was good that it caught everyone’s attention. He didn’t mind having his name as a joke around the track’s port-a-johns… “I just saw Dick Trickle” was a common phrase when some guy came out of one. And I liked wearing Dick Trickle t-shirts. It did seem kind of funny and I was one of the few wearing one.
In a sense, Dick Trickle made me feel special. And I hate that my shirt must be laid to rest.
As you can see from these pictures… The shirt is worn out. I placed a white towel inside to show where the holes are and the collar is frayed.
But instead of tossing it into the garbage and letting it decompose in the landfill at the end of White Street… I’m going to dispose of it like an American flag. It has served me well and must be burned with fire.