Retired race car driver Dick Trickle, 71, died Thursday from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Lincoln County deputies said.
Trickle, a long-time Lincoln County resident, was found dead next to his pick-up truck just after noon. His truck was parked at Forest Lawn Cemetery on N.C. 150 East in Boger City.
Authorities said Trickle called the Lincoln County Communications Center and said “there would be a dead body and it would be his.” Communications Center workers tried to place a return call to the number but did not get an answer.
Trickle was a short-track hero during the 1970s and 1980s who won more than 500 regional races as a part-time driver from Wisconsin, said longtime friend and former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway Humpy Wheeler.
“He won a tremendous amount of races but never got national acclaim because he won in a regional area,” Wheeler said Thursday.
According to the book “Golden Age of Wisconsin Racing,” Trickle was billed at tracks as the “winningest short track driver in history.” He won seven championships in ARTGO in nine years between 1979 and 1987.
Wheeler said he tried to convince Trickle to start racing bigger NASCAR tracks full time in the early 1980s, but was unsuccessful because Trickle was making good money on short tracks.
Several years later, though, he began racing for NASCAR – first on his own team and later for other teams, including Stavola Brothers Racing, Butch Mock Motorsports and Larry Hedrick Motorsports.
In 1989, Trickle was named NASCAR’s rookie of the year – at age 48.
He never won a Cup series race in 303 starts but did win two races in what is now the Nationwide Series, with his last victory coming in 1998 at Darlington Raceway, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win.
“I have no regrets. I’ve enjoyed everything,” Trickle told the Observer in a 1992 interview. “It ain’t what I’ve done, it’s what I can do that counts.”
In recent years Trickle raced occasionally in Wisconsin, including the 2007 Slinger Nationals and on the ASA MidWest Tour.
“I’m firmly convinced that if he had started (NASCAR) Cup racing earlier, he would’ve been one of the biggest winners of all time,” Wheeler said. “He would have been another Waltrip, another Petty.”
“Personalities like Dick Trickle helped shape our sport,” NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France said in a statement Thursday. “He will be missed.”
In 2001, Trickle’s granddaughter Nicole Ann Bowman was killed in a car accident in front of East Lincoln High School. She is buried in the cemetery where police found his truck and body Thursday.
Tom Higgins, a longtime Observer racing writer and friend of Trickle’s, said the former race car driver had been distraught after his granddaughter’s death.
“He never, ever got over that,” Higgins said. Observer staff writer Jim Utter and researcher Maria David contributed.
BLACKSBURG, Va., May 14, 2013 – Virginia Tech President Charles W. Stegerhas announced his intention to step down as university president. The university's board of visitors will assemble a search committee immediately.
Steger will remain as president until the search concludes and his replacement begins work.
“When one is totally absorbed in doing what one loves, 14 years pass in a nanosecond," said Steger. “These years have been the highlight of my career in higher education, and it has been my privilege to serve as president during a period in which we have strengthened our academic programs and expanded our research and outreach programs.
“As a three-time graduate of this institution, Virginia Tech has afforded me the tools for leadership and personal fulfillment. I have been doubly blessed because I then had the opportunity to spend virtually my entire career in the service of this great university,” said Steger.
“We sadly accept President Steger’s desire to step down as president,” said Mike Quillen, rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. “He has had a long and successful tenure but we understand his desire to ratchet back the extraordinary commitment of a major university president. Charles has truly been outstanding, visionary, and productive. I believe when history looks back upon his tenure as president, he will be ranked among the best of Virginia Tech’s strong leaders. He has advanced Virginia Tech’s position and our ability to serve the commonwealth on many levels.”
Steger has spent virtually his entire career at Virginia Tech leading it from one superlative to another. Since becoming president in 2000, the university has increased it research portfolio by more than 300 percent, grown enrollment from 27,869 to 31,087, increased graduate enrollment increased by 12 percent, raised more than $1 billion in private funding, added more than 2.5 million square feet of buildings, formed a school of biomedical engineering, created a school of medicine, and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Early in his tenure, Steger charted a course to bolster the research enterprise and compete among the nation’s elite universities. He oversaw creation of broad-based research institutes capable of garnering large-scale, multi-disciplinary sponsored research grants. He made significant investments in selected life science programs. University sponsored research moved from $192 million in 2000 to more than $450 million today.
Over the course of his presidency, Virginia Tech has increasingly become a first-choice school in the mid-Atlantic region for highly achieving students. The average grade point average of incoming freshmen moved from 3.54 to 3.92 (on a 4.0 scale) and SAT average changed from 1173 to 1212 during his time at the helm.
He adopted a business model that invested in seven large centralized research institutes: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences; Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute; Virginia Bioinformatics Institute; Fralin Life Sciences Institute; Institute for Society, Culture and Environment; and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. The institute format allowed Virginia Tech to compete for and win large-scale multidisciplinary contracts.
Steger partnered with Carilion Clinic to create the innovative Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute forming the fifth medical school in Virginia. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has quickly garnered world-wide attention for unique new approaches to neuroscience.
A hallmark of his administration was the realization of a 50-year dream for Hokie fans – entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004. Football won four conference titles in the first eight years of play.
Steger championed the arts investing in liberal arts and arts programming. He was the driving force behind the new Center for the Arts scheduled to open this fall.
Along with two other Virginia university presidents, he helped write legislation giving greater operating autonomy to senior state universities.
Steger had a knack for fundraising. In 2011, the school completed a seven-year campaign raising more than $1.1 billion. Earlier in 1998, under his leadership as vice president for development and university relations, he led a fund raising effort garnering $337 million.
Virginia Tech made history in 2003 when it built the “terascale” supercomputer, System X. Using off-the-shelf Apple computers, System X was at the time the fastest university computer in the world and third fastest of any computer – business, government, or academic.
The Virginia Tech campus has been a construction zone for the better part of Steger’s presidency. Under Steger, the university built 40 major buildings, including The Inn at Virginia Tech and Conference Center, south and west side expansions to Lane Stadium, the Center for the Arts, Signature Engineering Building, Latham Hall, three ICTAS buildings, the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute complex, Hahn Hall North, Hahn-Hurst Basketball Practice Facility, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, The Virginia Tech Research Center -- Arlington, several residence halls, and two parking garages.
Steger elevated the university’s presence in northern Virginia by creating the National Capital Region operations and building a state of the art office and research facility in Arlington. The strategic move placed researchers closer to customers and made a strong statement about Virginia Tech’s commitment to the region.
Taking the land-grant university mission in a new direction, he led an effort to create Southside Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. Marrying the three-part mission of outreach, instruction, and research with high tech initiatives and local funding, the institute now sponsors graduate and undergraduate degree programs, has sponsored or hosted several research centers, and spun off new businesses.
Although Virginia experienced two recessions during the Steger presidency and severely reduced appropriations, the university still expanded instate undergraduate enrollment by 12 percent and increased overall enrollment from 21,869 to 31,087.
Concurrent with the expansion of research efforts, graduate enrollment also increased by 12 percent.
With a personal resolve built on the Hokie Nation’s strong sense of community, Steger also led the university through very dark days in spring and summer of 2007 following the unprecedented tragedy of April 16, 2007. Although the campus community suffered a tremendous collective trauma from the loss of friends, colleagues, and precious young students, Steger’s steady hand of leadership inspired the university to pull together and recover.
Earlier in his career, Steger was the youngest dean of architecture in the nation assuming the head post in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies at age 33. While dean, he was the driving force for establishment of Virginia Tech’s European study center in Switzerland. Beginning with architecture, the concept was later expanded to include other academic programs.
In his subsequent position as vice president for development and university relations, he directed the university's successful campaign, “Making A World of Difference,” that concluded in 1998, having raised $337.4 million, exceeding the $250 million goal by 35 percent.
Steger has been appointed by five governors of Virginia to various boards dealing with higher education, homeland security, information technology, and international education. His board appointments are numerous.
He has been accorded many awards including the 2009 Committee for Advancement and Support of Education District III Outstanding Leadership award, the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and the National Conference for Community and Justice awarded him the 2002 NCCJ Humanitarian Award.
He is a Senior Fellow in the American Institute of Architects.
Rector Quillen will soon appoint a search committee of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and board directors. The committee and the board’s search process will be supported by the Office of Senior Fellow for Resource Development, Minnis Ridenour and his staff.