Edwards, Fennig Hope To Put Trickle In Victory Lane
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Thanks to Carl Edwards, his Wisconsin-born crew chief Jimmy Fennig and many of his Roush-Fenway Racing crew, legendary short-track driver Dick Trickle has one more opportunity to visit victory lane.
That opportunity will be Saturday night in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In honor of the sometimes gruff, but personable 71-year-old Trickle, who died Thursday, the team has removed Edwards’ name from above the driver’s door and replaced it with “Dick Trickle.” Edwards’ car number – 99 – also was Trickle’s in ASA, a former Midwest-based Late Model stock car series that produced such drivers as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Alan Kulwicki.
Several members of Edwards’ team are from Wisconsin and they made the name change prior to securing the pole for the All-Star event during Friday’s unique qualifying session. This year there was no speed limit on pit road and Edwards posted a lap time of 111.297 for an average speed of 145.556 mph in the qualifying that required a four-tire stop during a three-lap run.
A former winner of the All-Star race, Edwards said he always had a lot of respect for Trickle’s “toughness and his determination.” The first time Edwards met Trickle he was at Michigan International Speedway and he thought the gritty man was wearing a black uniform.
“He was out there in the sun on a 100-degree day just smoking a cigarette,” Edwards recalled. “I was 16 years old and I was dying. I can’t remember, but it seems like he had a cup of coffee in his hand.”
Fennig always found himself competing against Trickle on the Midwest’s tough short tracks.
“You would go race the short tracks up there [in Wisconsin] and he was the one you would be gunning after to try to beat whenever you would go race against them,” Fennig recalled. “All my career (before coming to NASCAR) I always raced the short tracks up in Wisconsin and we raced against Dick, (Bob) Senneker, Mike Eddy, Alan Kulwicki. Dick was like the leader of the Wisconsin crew. He was the leader of the short track racers. After the race everybody would go hang around his hauler in the back and Dick would kind of hold court.”
It wasn’t until both men found their way to NASCAR that Fennig and Trickle found themselves on the same team. At the time, Fennig was Bobby Allison’s crew chief at Stavola Brothers Racing. Allison was critically injured in June 1988 at Pocono. Mike Alexander was named to replace Allison. In December 1988, Alexander suffered a head injury in an accident during the Snowball Derby at Pensacola, Fla. When team owners Bill and Mickey Stavola decided to replace Alexander after the season opening 1989 Daytona 500, Fennig recommended Trickle because he believed he would be the “best fit” for the car at that time. That year the season’s second race was at Rockingham. When Trickle showed up for the early March event, Fennig said that, as usual, Trickle came walking in with his cowboy boots.
“I told Dick these cars aren’t what you’re used to,” Fennig recounted. “He said, “Awe, these boots are what I’ve worn my whole career. I said, ‘Well, I’ve got some Simpson shoes.’ He said, ‘Nah. I’ll be fine.’ Halfway through the race he said to give him those shoes. So we changed them halfway through the race on a yellow flag. Back then, you didn’t have a side window so he’d lift his leg, we’d go underneath there and pull a boot off. We had to make more than one stop.”
Trickle finished 13th that day.
Fennig last saw Trickle a year ago when he stopped by his office at Roush-Fenway Racing in Concord, N.C. He said he, Trickle and several of the crew members reminisced about the old short-track days in Wisconsin well into the night.
“We used to go racing five, six nights a week,” Fennig said. “Of course, Dick was there every time. He would race people (hard) and when he was done beating them, he would sit back and be their friend.”
Ironically, Edwards isn’t the only driver in Saturday’s Sprint All-Star race with a tie to Trickle. On Feb. 9, 1997, Trickle’s nephew, Chris, was the victim of a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He had left home about 9 p.m. to play tennis with a friend and as he drove over the freeway, a car drove alongside and fired shots into the car, hitting Chris in the head. He succumbed to his wounds on March 25, 1998. The young Trickle’s murder was never solved.
After the shooting, Kurt Busch was named as the young Trickle’s replacement in NASCAR’s Southwest Tour Series, an opportunity that propelled him to that series 1999 championship.
“I was actually away at college in Tucson, Ariz., and the phone rang and they said that Chris had been in an accident,” Busch recalled. “Of utmost concern, of course, was coming back to see him in the hospital and to hold his hand and to try to help him through it, but he never was able to pull through. He spent over 13 months in a coma from the injury.”
Busch, who qualified second for the All-Star race, said that growing up in Las Vegas it was the Trickle family that was the city’s racing family.
“It was Chuck Trickle was the dad, Chris Trickle was the son, and they were known as the big name,” Busch said. “We always looked up to those guys on how they raced and how their demeanor was outside of the car and inside the car.”
Busch said he raced against Dick Trickle only once and that was at Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin.
“It was always fun when he was at the track,” Busch said. “And when you were there racing against him, you knew he was always going to have a smile on his face. Jeff Gordon always told the story on when you knew you were going back to green when the cigarette butt came flying out the window and hitting the track.”
Maybe if Edwards wins the All-Star race, in true Trickle fashion, they’ll have a cigarette and a cup of coffee, sitting in victory lane.
– Deb Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment