The NASCAR community is mourning a loss today.
E! News confirms that retired driver Dick Trickle, nicknamed the "White Knight" and known for his skills on the short track, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at Forest Lawn Cemetery in North Carolina at 12:02 p.m. this afternoon.
He was 71.
The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call apparently from the victim, stating that "there would be a dead body and it would be his," authorities tell us. Communications Center workers tried to place a return call to the number but did not get an answer. The first emergency units arriving on the scene located the body lying near Trickle's pickup truck.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement. "Dick was a legend in the short-track racing community, particularly in his home state of Wisconsin, and he was a true fan favorite. Personalities like Dick Trickle helped shape our sport. He will be missed."
Fellow NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon tweeted, "Sad to hear the news of the passing of Dick Trickle. He was one tough competitor! ," while Joey Logano wrote, "Sad to hear of Dick Trickle. At some point we were all short trackers. He was the best. ."
Trickle was the best, indeed.
Driving in more than an estimated 2,200 races, Trickle logged one million laps and is believed to have won over 1,200 feature races. He was reportedly billed as the winningest short track driver in history, winning 67 races in 1972 alone.
—Reporting by Lindsay Good