MILWAUKEE, Wis. – In his 43 year driving career, Rich Bickle Jr. has raced at a staggering 225 paved race tracks across America.
He has cataloged more than 500 race victories in his storied career. It may be hard to believe, but the 58-year-old is still in pursuit of his first win at the famed Milwaukee Mile oval.
For Bickle, winning on Wisconsin short tracks against the likes of his hero and friend, Dick Trickle, made him a top caliber racer in Wisconsin. He won the 1990 Red, White and Blue State Championship, he owns four Slinger Nationals titles and several weekly track championships.
Getting the opportunity to race at The Milwaukee Mile starting in the late 1980’s helped propel and prepare him for 218 NASCAR national series starts between 1989 and 2005.
With determination and talent, Bickle was hired by NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip at some point to drive for their NASCAR teams, and fielded his own entries in what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“I first saw Don White and Roger McCluskey racing in USAC stock cars at the Mile in the 1960’s with my mom and dad, and I knew from that day that I just had to race there,” Bickle said. “I had the same feeling after going to the 1976 Daytona 500 with my parents and witnessing the famous Richard Petty and David Pearson crash. I just knew I had to race there someday.”
Bickle raced twice in the Daytona 500, and began chasing the checkered flag at The Milwaukee Mile in 1988 in a 60-lap ARTGO-sanctioned race, in which he finished 12th.
“I’ve raced in just about every kind of stock car at The Mile, but something has always bit me there,” Bickle shared. “I’ve led laps in NASCAR Trucks and XFINITY Series there, had a shot at winning a couple races in my Miller-sponsored late model there, too.”
In total, Bickle raced in five ASA National Tour races held at The Milwaukee Mile, led in two of the three NASCAR Xfinity Series races he competed in there, and in five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races, his best result was a third place finish in 1997, the year he finished second in the series championship points.
Flash forward to 2019 and Bickle is back home on the Wisconsin short tracks, and he’s not just making laps. He’s already finished third at the Dells Raceway Park in a 100-lap race, and second in the 200-lap Joe Shear Classic at Madison Int’l Speedway. He feels he had a shot to win both races had it not been for bent suspension components from race altercations in each event.
Bickle and Tony DeAmbrose of T1 Racing have been “trying to put better stuff together for 2019,” including long hours preparing their race car in recent weeks for Milwaukee. Bickle offered that the speed in his car can be credited to DeAmbrose and what the pair have worked on and fine-tuned down south.
Bickle competed in December at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., the track where he’s won the prestigious Snowball Derby race a record five times. He also competed in January in a 250-lap race in Cordele, Ga., against some of the same national traveling stars he’ll face on Father’s Day Sunday.
After two top-10 finishes in the first two ARCA Midwest Tour events this year, he enters The Milwaukee Mile race third in series points. He is confident he will be among a handful of drivers who have a real shot to win the 100-mile race on June 16th.
Bickle has ten top-five finishes in 39 ARCA Midwest Tour races since 2007. He raced a full season in 2013, including an abbreviated run to a 33rd place finish due to an engine failure at The Milwaukee Mile that season.
“I think it’s the only track I’ve raced at in Wisconsin that I have not won at,” he exclaimed. “Winning at Milwaukee would top off my career.”