May 16, 2013, 7:18 PM EST
Ten years ago, I wrote one of my favorite ever stories … about the late, great Larry Phillips. Larry was, as I wrote in the piece, “the roughest, toughest, meanest, craziest and grouchiest son of a gun who ever climbed into a race car.” Only, Larry told me later, he wasn’t really all that.
No sir, he said. That was Dick Trickle.
They were wild young men. It was true even after they stopped being young. They traveled the country — Dick Trickle was from up in Wisconsin, Larry Phillps from the heart of Missouri — and they chased around the moth-flapping lights of the short tracks. They smoked their cigarettes and drank their whiskey straight and chased wild young women, even after they stopped being young. And, most of all, they raced. Late Model. Super late model. Modified. Semi-Modified. The money wasn’t great, and the trophies were pointless. But they weren’t in it for money or trophies, not exactly. They were in it for the roar and the danger and the checkered flag. It was something, Larry told me, you either got or didn’t get. If you got it, well, come on then. And if you didn’t, well, Larry said, to hell with ya.
Person after person told me there was no man tougher than Larry Phillips. They said he won more than 2,000 races on short tracks all over America. They said he could do things in a car that no one ever did before or ever will again. They tell one of my favorite tales: Someone was giving $500 to any man who could break the track record at ol’ I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo. There was a hole in the race track and the dirt on turns was loose and slick, there was no one crazy enough to go for a track record. Well, there was one. Larry shoved pedal to the floor and never pulled back and broke that track record. Larry was actually trembling when he finished that run — that’s how crazy it was. But he got his $500.
Larry was dying when I talked to him — dying a choking and coughing death where he found it hard to breathe — but he had some things to say. He said that some of the stories were true (like the $500 record story) and some them were not true. He said that he didn’t have no regrets except maybe he could have spent a little more time with his children. He said that nobody ever wanted to win more than he did, nobody, except maybe one guy: Dick Trickle.
At the time — and still to this day — people will say that Dick Trickle won more short track races than anyone who ever lived. But those are Dick’s people. Larry’s people say HE won more short track races than anyone who ever lived.
Larry just wouldn’t stand for that.
“How many races did you win?” I asked him. He laughed. “Just a few less than Dick Trickle,” he said.
“Well, there are some people who say that you won more than Trickle,” I said.
“Is that so?” he asked. I confirmed that it was so.
“Well,” he said. “People are entitled to their opinion. I figure I won just a few less than Dick Trickle.”
Maybe that’s just to camaraderie of old racers. But there was respect there. They called Trickle the White Knight, because of his white car. “It was a serious thing seeing that car come up behind you,” Larry said. But it wasn’t the car … it was the man. Larry said Dick Trickle would stay out all night, drink everyone under the table,tell the best stories, lie the best lies, then limp back to the room — he limped from childhood injury — take a quick shower, grab his pack of cigarettes (he would go through a pack or two every race) and without a wink of sleep go out and win the race like it was nothing. Then he would get out the car, find an Old Style beer, down it in about three seconds and start the process all over again. “I’ve seen him do it,” Larry told me. “Man wasn’t human.”
Larry didn’t have a NASCAR career. He raced in one race, but he didn’t like much. Too corporate. Too many responsibilities. He wasn’t the type to entertain sponsors or sign autographs at a local supermarket. Dick Trickle, though, did start racing NASCAR when he got into his late 40s. His first year, he finished Top 5 six times and won more than $300,000 and was named rookie of the year. Not bad considering he was 47 years old. At 56, he won more than $1 million. Every year, people voted him the most popular driver or one of them.
All in all, he raced 303 times in NASCAR. He never won a race. He laughed about that, at least in public. He’d won plenty of races in his life.
On Thursday, the Lincoln County Communication Center in North Carolina received a call. A man on the other side reportedly said, “There’s gonna be a dead body, and it’s gonna be mine.” When they tried to call back the number, there was no answer. When they got to the scene, near a cemetery, the dead body of Dick Trickle was lying near his pickup truck. He had apparently shot himself. He was 71 years old.
“He was Superman,” Larry Phillips had said of Dick Trickle. They’re both gone now, as is their time.
Dec 5, 2013, 5:54 PM EST
It was a trying Formula One season altogether for Williams, but their young driver Valtteri Bottas still managed to have some nice moments in his rookie F1 campaign, including his first points-paying finish at the United States Grand Prix. Bottas appears to have a good future ahead of him in F1 and will return to…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:09 PM EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a tie with Bill Elliott by earning his 11th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver award during today’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon in Las Vegas. Earnhardt, who finished fifth in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship, has won the award every year since the 2003 season. The…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
NASCAR CEO Brian France mentioned lots of accomplishments for his organization during the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season this morning in Las Vegas, but noted that it’s also preparing diligently for the year to come. In a wide-ranging session with reporters, France talked about the ongoing testing for the Gen-6 cars that debuted this past…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Multiple changes have been announced this morning by NASCAR regarding drivers’ eligibility for being elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Going forward, drivers that have competed for at least 10 seasons and have turned 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the year prior to the nominating year are eligible. Additionally, drivers…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:15 PM EST
We wish a happy 27th birthday today to IndyCar’s lone full-time confirmed Canadian for 2014, James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport. As Hinchcliffe ticks another year off this year, we figure it would be a good time to look back and see how he’s grown in…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
Virgin Racing has signed up with the new FIA Formula E Championship as the series’ ninth team. Alex Tai will operate the squad as team principal and the effort has the full support and backing of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. Virgin has spent some of its large sum in motorsports before, as a partner…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
There’s no rest for the weary in the Formula One world when it comes down to chassis design for their 2014 cars, to comply with the new regulations. Dell, a partner with the Caterham F1 Team, released this brief video where the team’s performance director, John Iley, discusses just how much these regulation changes are…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Jimmie Johnson, like the rest of the NASCAR fraternity, is in Las Vegas this week for Champion’s Week. Johnson has six Sprint Cup championships, and 66 career wins. And in the above picture he posted to his Instagram page, Johnson is trying to win the Internet. He’s doing his best imitation of the crew from…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Finishing third in the…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Next up, the championship…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:00 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Let’s get started with…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:00 AM EST
Over the last month and a half since the 2013 IndyCar Series season wrapped at Auto Club Speedway, we’ve had a plethora of posts here on MotorSportsTalk looking back at the 19 races, drivers, teams and story lines. However, we would expect that you probably have missed one here or there. Well never fear, because…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:22 PM EST
Only a little more than a week ago, Josh Wise announced he was leaving Front Row Motorsports’ third car. On Wednesday, it was confirmed he’ll stay in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with another fledgling operation, Phil Parsons Racing. The team announced Wise’s signing and a switch from Ford to Chevrolet for the black No. 98…
Dec 4, 2013, 7:09 PM EST
Today’s test session at Sebring International Raceway began a new era of sorts for Chip Ganassi Racing, which tested together with Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan (pictured, No. 8) and new engine supplier Chevrolet for the first time on-track. Team managing director Mike Hull is optimistic about what both can bring to the team after…
Dec 4, 2013, 4:25 PM EST
Today, the NBC Sports Group announced Rick Allen, known by many NASCAR fans as the TV voice of the Camping World Truck Series, has signed a multi-year agreement to become the new lead announcer for NBC’s upcoming Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series coverage that begins in 2015. “I’ve had the good fortune to work with…
Dec 4, 2013, 4:04 PM EST
The all-electric FIA Formula E championship has announced a 10-race schedule for its inaugural 2014-2015 season that will start September 13, 2014 in Beijing. As expected, two North American races are part of the docket. For Round 6, F-E will look to win the hearts of Los Angeles race fans on Valentine’s Day, February 14,…
Dec 4, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
This morning’s release of the final 2014 F1 schedule revealed that the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas had moved up one week to Nov. 2, 2014. But on that very weekend, a few hours up the road in Fort Worth, all three NASCAR national series will be competing…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles may have given us an glimpse into IndyCar’s near-future yesterday at the 2013 Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas. SportsBusiness Daily’s Josh Carpenter reports several interesting tidbits from Miles during his interview at the Forum, including the revelation of potential new international markets such as the Middle East, South…
Dec 4, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Two days ago, Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan had some fun seeing his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy for the first time. But today, he and his new teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing are putting in work. Kanaan (pictured), reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, and American driver Charlie Kimball are testing at Sebring International…
Dec 4, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
My MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and I looked at the 28 IndyCar drivers who raced in seven starts or more this year in detail. The remaining drivers in spots 28-39 all had their moments in their four starts or less (29th, Ana Beatriz, was covered in a separate post after running in seven races). My…
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