CONCORD, N.C. -- Mark Martin received a piece of advice from Dick Trickle very early in his career that he has never forgotten.
"He was the one that told me, and this is kind of corny, but it isn't when you're 18 or 19 years old -- he told me 'In order to finish first, first you must finish,' " Martin said. "That stuck with me always."
The NASCAR garage was full of Trickle stories Friday, a day after the 71-year-old racer died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. An old-school driver with an odd name, and a guy who earned an almost cultlike following among fans, Trickle was mostly remembered for his role as a mentor to many drivers who went on to have far greater success in NASCAR than Trickle ever achieved.
A short-track star from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Trickle was believed to have won up to 1,000 races while inspiring hundreds of racers throughout the Midwest. Among them was Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, a St. Louis native who toured the same Midwest circuit and raced Trickle down to the wire for the 1983 ASA championship.
"When I was short-track racing, I would call him every Monday morning, and he would always help me with race setups and stuff," Wallace said. "He and I had such a good time telling little stories, but he was the guy that taught me almost everything in the (Midwestern) American Speed Association."
Martin said he, Wallace and the late Alan Kulwicki, a Wisconsin native, owed their success to Trickle.
"We wouldn't have been the racers that we were when we got here had we not come under his influence," Martin said. "He raced us real hard on the racetrack, but off the racetrack, he was very free with parts or advice. I'm confused and brokenhearted about what happened."
Audio released by the Lincoln County (N.C.) emergency dispatch center revealed a calm Trickle stating his location in the Forest Lawn Cemetery and telling the dispatcher where to find a 1993 pickup truck.
"There's going to be a dead body. A suicide," said the caller, who never identified himself as Trickle.
"Are you there?" asked the dispatcher.
"I'm the one," he responded.
The call ended as the dispatcher said she was sending help.
Trickle's brother, Chuck, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his brother had been having constant chest pains, and his obituary posted on the website for the Warlick Funeral Home in Lincolnton, N.C., said doctors could not find the source of "severe chronic pain."
His death shocked 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth, a Wisconsin native who last spoke to Trickle last July after Kenseth won a Late Model race at Slinger Speedway.
"He kind of peeked in the trailer there afterward -- of course he asked if we had any beer in there -- and man, we sat in there for two hours," Kenseth said. "Ninety percent of the stuff he told me through all the years I raced with him always proved to be right."