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Dick Trickle in The Beginning

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Dick Trickle in The Beginning
Bruce McClain Photo

THE START

Dick Trickle in The Beginning

By: Jeremy Markovich

Rudolph, Wisc., where Dick Trickle was born in 1941, was race-crazy in the 1950s. At one time, Father Grubba says, there were 26 race cars in a town of just a few hundred people. Nearly every driveway had a race car in it.

Dick Trickle in The Beginning
Bruce McClain Photo

When Dick Trickle was nine, a neighbor took him to a race at Crown Speedway in Wisconsin Rapids, and he thought that was the greatest thing he’d ever seen. For the next seven years, he focused on how to get behind the wheel of his race car. Problem was, the Trickles were on welfare. Dick’s father Lee came down with an ear infection that led to medical problems and was hospitalized for years. There was no money for racing. Dick had to work for his money, on farms, and in his father’s blacksmith shop. He swept the floors, but he also learned how to use the arc welder.

In 1958, at age 16, when he’d welded together enough parts and came up with enough money to buy a 1950 Ford, he dropped the engine from a 1949 Ford in it and started racing. It was slow, and during his first race, in Stratford, Wisc., he finished way back in the end.

WHENEVER HE RACED, HE RACED HARD, AND SMART, AS IF HE MIGHT NOT HAVE ANOTHER CHANCE.

Dick Trickle in The Beginning
85 Dan Prizborowski, 88 Tom Reffner, 99 Dick Trickle, 5 Dick Giles Bruce McClain Photo

When the nearest racetrack, Griffith Park in Wisconsin Rapids, found out he was too young to race, he was kicked out for a year. After that, Dick never took racing for granted. Whenever he raced, he raced hard, and smart, as if he might not have another chance.

But he still had a day job, working 66 hours a week at a service station in Rudolph while racing four nights a week. With his free time, he worked on his cars at night, using what he’d learned about fixing cars during the day.

Bruce McClain Photo

He married Darlene in 1961, paid $8 for a motel room the night of the wedding, and then ran two races the next day at Wausau and Griffith Park. Dick started working for a telephone company, and hated it, being up high on the poles. So he started doing the math: Gas was cheap. Parts were cheap if he scoured through the junkyard and did the work himself. If he owned his own car, he wouldn’t have

Bruce McClain Photo

to split up his winnings. Dick could bring in the money, and Darlene could stretch it as far as it would go, but the racing season in Wisconsin ran from only May to September, so he didn’t have all year to make money, and the payouts for winning races were maybe $100 one week, maybe $300 another. He would have to be on the road constantly, going from track to track, from LaCrosse to Wausau, from Madison to Wisconsin Dells. He couldn’t afford to lose. Wherever there was a race, Dick Trickle would have to go there and win.

I think I can make it, Dick told Darlene. And he did.

Jeremy Markovich | July 30, 2013

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