|Martin grew up racing in the midwest|
“I remember one more thing,” he said, before telling yet another story of the man who embodied Midwest short track racing for decades.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the 71-year old Trickle had ended a life that included over 1,000 race victories and saw him mentor many of the sport’s brightest stars on the short tracks of Middle America.
One of those youngsters seeking Trickle’s wisdom was Martin, who as a teenager battled the Wisconsin legend on the ASA and ARTGO series before moving south to a NASCAR career that now includes 40 Sprint Cup Series wins and a likely place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“Dick made himself a mentor to many,” said Martin. “Rusty (Wallace), myself, Alan Kulwicki -- you know we wouldn’t have been the racers that we were when we got here, had we not come under his influence.”
Martin didn’t follow Trickle’s example to the letter. He didn’t smoke cigarettes – both in and out of the race car -- and he fell far short of Trickle’s “one hour of sleep for each 100 laps of racing the next day” rule. But Martin, and others, learned plenty.
|Trickle was a winner and mentor|
“I was proud of who we were and the racers we were,” Martin said. “(I’m proud of) the influence that he had on us, the etiquette and the way he raced. He raced us real hard on the race track, but off the race track, he was very free with parts or advice. He gave freely.”
Those short track days may be just a distant memory, but the lessons learned as a teenager under Trickle’s guidance still resonate. And when Martin starts Sunday’s Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he’ll remember one of the first lessons.
"This is kind of corny, but it isn't when you're 18 or 19 years old,” Martin recalled. “He told me in order to finish first, first you must finish. That has always kind of stuck with me.”
Trickle’s last NASCAR race came in 2002, and Martin said the pair rarely crossed paths in recent years. Despite the separation, he said Trickle “was part of the influence that helped mold the people and racers that we were.”
And that extra memory at the end of the media session?
It goes back to 1977, when the 18-year-old Martin travelled from Arkansas to Wisconsin, racing five nights a week. The promoter at the high-banked, third-mile Golden Sands Speedway in Wisconsin Rapids offered a $100 bonus to anyone who could break the existing track record.
Martin smashed the record and grabbed the provisional pole. As qualifying wound down, he began thinking of ways to spend the extra cash that would surely be his.
Suddenly, an open trailer rolled into the pit area, with a racecar idling on the back. The crew climbed from the trailer and dropped the ramps, before Trickle drove the car off the trailer and directly onto the race track, where he knocked Martin off the pole and set a new track record of his own.
"Afterward, he got on to me for breaking the record too much,” laughed Martin. “He said we were only supposed to break it a little at a time, so we could collect the $100 every week.
“I'm sure he'd like to be remembered the way all of us remember him -- and that is as a hell of a hard guy to beat.”