LINCOLN COUNTY, N.C. — The NASCAR community was shocked and saddened to hear about the loss of a man they call a true legend.
Richard "Dick" Trickle, 71, who some claim is the "winningest" driver of all time, was found dead shortly after noon Thursday at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City.
It's a place of significance for Trickle's family. His granddaughter was buried there after she was killed in a car accident in 2001.
The Lincoln County Sheriff's office said they received a 911 call from Trickle saying, "There would be a dead body and it would be his."
When emergency crews arrived at the cemetery, they found Trickle dead by his truck.
Deputies said he shot himself.
Deputies told Eyewitness News they did find a note near Trickle's body, but wouldn't say what was written on it.
Trickle's family released a statement Friday saying he had been suffering for some time with severe chronic pain and had seen many doctors.
In the statement, family members said they, "Find his death very hard to accept, and though we will hurt from losing him for some time, he's no longer suffering and we take comfort knowing he's with his very special angel."
The statement went on to read, "Dick's passion in life was his racing. He touched many lives throughout his career, provided memories for many that will last a lifetime."
Read the full statement here.
On the track
Trickle is considered the all-time winningest driver in short track history after winning over 1,000 races.
He was awarded rookie of the year in 1989, his first season racing full-time in the Cup Series.
He made 303 starts at NASCAR's top level. He never won a race, but did have two wins in the Nationwide Series.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France called Trickle a legend in the short track racing community and said his personality helped shape the sport.
"He did not reach the cup level until he was late 40s. I think he was around 48 when he won rookie of the year, which is very old as athletes go, but he could hang in there with the young guys," said NASCAR Hall of Fame Director Winston Kelly.
Fans and those who knew him best say Trickle was a tremendous race car driver who could take on any opponent.
"I just loved to watch him because he'd take risks that nobody would take," said race fan Mike Eckhoff.
The family has asked the Lincoln County Sheriff's office to not release any more information until its investigation is over.
So far, there's no word on funeral arrangements for Trickle.
A moment of silence will be held Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway before the truck race to honor Trickle.