NASCAR All-Star Race 2013: Matt Kenseth: Dick Trickle was a 'legend'

Todd Warshaw

Matt Kenseth grew up watching Dick Trickle race on short tracks throughout Wisconsin, and later became friends with the driver he called a “legend.”

Matt Kenseth had the same reaction as most everyone when he learned former NASCAR driver Dick Trickle had killed himself Thursday in a North Carolina cemetery.

But for him the news was particularly jarring.

As a young fan growing up in Wisconsin during what is referred to as the golden age of short-track racing in the Upper Midwest, Kenseth witnessed firsthand as Trickle established a reputation as one of the more prolific short-track drivers the sport has ever seen.

"Man, Dick was a legend, especially up in Wisconsin short-track racing, where I grew up," Kenseth said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Numerous times throughout the week, Trickle would battle against the likes of Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki and Rusty Wallace on tracks in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

Although all three were multi-time winners in NASCAR's top series -- and Kulwicki and Wallace would also win championships -- more often than not it was Trickle who would be standing in Victory Lane celebrating his latest triumph.

That success left a lasting impression on Kenseth.

"Dick is a legend and for a lot things," he said. "For the way he raced, for the way he conducted himself after the races, for all his different formulas for how much sleep he needed and just all the different stuff. He just was a racer's racer. That's all he cared about and all he worked on and that was all he did."

By the time Kenseth started competing in Late Models, Trickle had moved to North Carolina and was running NASCAR full-time and wasn't competing in Wisconsin regularly. But sharing a common background the two became friends, though Kenseth says they almost never had a conversation about anything other than racing.

Kenseth last saw Trickle last July at Slinger Speedway, a quarter-mile oval located about 35 miles outside of Milwaukee, where Kenseth was preparing to race in the Slinger Nationals -- one of the most prestigious short-track events in the country.

As they always did, the two talked shop. The topic of conversation centered on Kenseth's recent announcement that he signed a contract to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing beginning this season.

"I talked to him for a while and he kind of peeked in the trailer afterwards and of course he asked if we had any beer in there," Kenseth said. "We talked for two hours and he had a unique way of looking at things, he had a ton of common sense and he was really smart and always had a really funny way of putting things.

"He went on for about an hour just about my move and what he thought was great about it and just a lot of other interesting things that made me feel good. Ninety percent of the stuff he told me at least through all the years I raced with him and stuff always proved to be right."

As many are now doing, the 2003 Cup champion is trying to grasp the news that one of his boyhood heroes took his own life.

"It's just crazy, surprising news," Kenseth said. "I don't really know all the circumstances ... I'm still in shock. I don't really get it. I don't really know what all went on there."

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