One of our most important events of the racing season occurs on Father's Day weekend at the Bullring. Each year we honor the late Chris Trickle with a pair of 35-lap Super Late Model features. When people in the Las Vegas racing community think about Father's Day, they start thinking about Chris Trickle and the amazing bond he shared with his father Chuck.
On Saturday night I witnessed the end of an era when Chuck took the checkered flag on an amazing career behind the wheel of a race car. For many, many years people in racing thought of Chuck as "Dick's brother" because of the amazing 1,500-plus win record that his brother recorded on short tracks across the midwest. Then Chuck carried the tag of "Chris's dad" as his son burned up the Bullring and the Southwest Tour and appeared to be on his way to superstardom before the tragic night that he was taken from the racing world. (For our local fans you probably know the story about Chris, for those of you new to Las Vegas Motor Speedway here is a great story.
Through the course of the last 12 years Chuck, with some prodding by his wife Barb, has been on a mission to live life to the maximum and be a motivational force for many, many people. When Chuck took the checkered flag on Saturday night and began his farewell laps around the Bullring I had tears in my eyes. It's always sad to see a great performer take his final bow and it's even more difficult when that person is a friend. Chuck made several laps around the track waving to his loyal fans and then started doing burnouts and donuts in a smokey farewell. Everyone was clapping, cheering and laughing...the perfect salute.
Following the race I stopped by the pit area where more than 100 people were in line to get an autograph, say their goodbyes and to just share a few laughs with one of the most interesting characters you will ever meet. The first thing he said to me was, "I didn't run good but nobody does those burnouts and donuts like me. People will remember those burnouts." Chuck was smiling from ear-to-ear and the massive crowd in his pit area just wouldn't leave. Even though the racing ended at 9:30, the Chris Trickle Father's Day Doubleheader was just beginning when the checkered flag dropped. This massive racing family reunion was special and no one wanted this night to end. Everyone knew that this was the last night of Chuck being a race car driver...actually, THEIR race car driver, and no one wanted to accept it.
Chuck isn't your typical race car driver and he's not your average 65 year-old. The number of people who refer to him as "Dad" or "Granpa Chuck" is amazing. He's one-of-a-kind and he has the ability to make everyone seem special. It doesn't matter if you are a friend of many years or you just met him at the races. Chuck Trickle will find a way to make you laugh and will become a part of your life.
Over the course of the last three years Chuck went from being a person I asked for opinions about racing to being a guy I listen to about how to be a dad. Chuck's grandson Christopher is just a few months younger than my son Austin and the two boys race against each other in quarter midgets and Bandoleros. The racing rivalry between Austin and Christopher isn't about what the two of them are doing on the track, it's mainly fueled by Chuck and I messing with one another. We trash talk, accuse each other of stretching the rules and go out of our way to stir each other up. The little battles have been a lot of fun and we do our fair share of laughing at one another. At the end of every race we slap each other on the back and trade a few racing stories.
On countless occasions my conversations with Chuck have gone from stories about the racing back in Wisconsin to stories about his racing with his kid. Chuck remembers every detail of every race he shared with Chris. He tells me the stories about the road trips, the nights they beat and banged with other racers here at the speedway and the countless Sunday mornings at the breakfast table when Chris would watch the videotape of the previous night's races while eating his cereal. Chuck has told me on numerous occasions that some of his best memories in life are of the times he, Chris and their crew worked on the cars in the shop. A lot of male bonding can be achieved with a race car, a garage and a toolbox.
I don't think I've ever had one of our storytelling sessions end without Chuck reminding me to appreciate every bit of time I get to spend with my son. He constantly reminds me to prioritize my life and don't miss out on the things that matter most. The "Chris Trickle Father's Day Doubleheader" at the Bullring isn't just another event, it's a reminder from Chuck to live life to the fullest and make the most of your time with your family.
That led me to start thinking about what I could do with Austin on Sunday to celebrate the holiday. We began the day at the Strip for the conclusion of the Motorcycle Drag Racing Association and Street Wars event. When it wrapped, I looked around for something special to do and realized that maybe it was time for some male bonding with a race car, a garage and a toolbox...sort of like Chuck and Chris used to do. We headed to the shop, grabbed the toolbox and began working on his quarter midgets in preparation for his next big race. Over the course of the next six hours we talked, we laughed, we got our hands dirty, we scraped some knuckles and we talked some more. Instead of a nice dinner out (as he originally wanted to do) we wrapped up our Father's Day with a trip to the 7-11 for a Slurpee and then grabbed a pizza on our way home. For non-racing people it may seem like we just wasted a day playing with race cars. Racing folks know that days like that are what we live for.
When Austin got ready to go to bed he told me it was an awesome day and, the more I thought about it, I would have to agree that it was a pretty good Father's Day. Last year we enjoyed the Ringling Brothers Circus as our Father's Day treat. I can't tell you that much about the circus of 2008 but I sure learned a lot about my kid today just from a few hours of working in the garage with him. Chuck and Chris had a common bond in racing and they made the most out of the time they had together. It wasn't until I started thinking about this blog for Chuck that I started thinking about the time I spent with my son today. Like I said before, Chuck keeps reminding me to enjoy every moment and value these days because I will never be able to get them back. It looks like racing is the common bond I share with my son and the words from Chuck keep reminding me to prioritize things while I still can. That makes me wonder just how many other people he's given that advice to and just how many have actually listened to him?
That's probably the reason so many of those people in the pit area stopped by to thank Chuck and wish him happy birthday. He talks to everyone and I'm sure he has told everyone to take a look around and realize that the people that matter most are the ones we sometimes take for granted. Chuck endured a terrible tragedy and since that time has poured his heart and soul into making a difference in the lives of many people. He's opened my eyes to a few things and I appreciate his words of wisdom.
With that, I just want to thank Chuck one more time for being a hell of a race car driver, a good friend and the best damn motivational speaker I've ever met.
Chuck, I know you don't plan on racing again but I would like to make a special request; Next year you need to drag that car out of the garage and bring it to the Bullring for the Chris Trickle Father's Day Doubleheader. All those people who lined up to see you in the pits after the races need you. We need to be reminded that success in racing isn't about the number of wins but about the friends you make along the way. We need to see that #70 car on the track to remind us about the two amazing people who drove that car. There are dads in the grandstand who need to be able to point to that car and tell their kids some racing stories. We also need someone to come out here and do some burnouts and donuts to teach these young kids how it's done. You claim to be the best at it...keep on proving it.