Five-time Snowball Derby champion Rich Bickle got his start in racing at the Slinger Super Speedway in the 1980s, competing against some of the greatest Super Late Model racers of all-time before expanding his program. His 2020 racing schedule sees him returning to the high-banked quarter-mile looking for a fifth Slinger Nationals title.
A former track champion at Slinger, Bickle arguably has turned more laps around the track than anybody else in the track’s 60-plus year history. He joined “The Bullring” to talk about what makes the Slinger Nationals and Slinger Super Speedway so special.
“It’s probably the greatest little short track in the country, as far as I’m concerned. It’s two grooves, you can run side-by-side, and it’s fast,” Bickle said. “You go around there and the track’s now wore out, we’re almost beating the track record when Tony Strupp set it back in 1994 when they repaved it. It’s just a great place to race, it’s a blast.”
While Bickle is widely regarded one of the top short track racers to ever come out of the Badger State, but he is perhaps most known for his success at the Snowball Derby. In 11 starts in Super Late Model racing’s biggest race, he has five wins and has finished outside the top three just three times total.
However, two of the years he did not end up in victory lane are two Derbies he remembers the most.
“It started in 1989, I tell people I won five of them but the two I remember most was 1989, I had (Rick) Crawford passed and the yellow came out with two to go and he just beat me to the line by three feet. Then I think it was 1993 maybe, I had a Ford V6 in and I had the field lapped with 50 or 60 to go and I blew up.”
In all his Snowball Derby starts, he led more than 100 laps in a race just once. He talked about how he was able to be as successful at Five Flags Speedway as he was.
“It’s just one of those places, I tell people it’s probably one of the easiest races I’ve ever won because it seemed like I never had to drive the car very hard. It’s just one of those races where everybody burned their stuff up and I just rode around until the end and won. It fit my style back in the day and I feel like it does now.”
Over the years, Late Models have undergone several major changes in all facets. Bickle has noticed this trend in recent times, giving his opinion on what he thinks should be done in the discipline.
“The cars are definitely faster but there is so much more work. It just gets to the point to where you miss it by a little and you’re off by a lot. They’re too technical and they’re just too much on the edge. I think if they go back and put a spring rule in and get rid of all this bump stock shock stuff, it would make racing better and they’d get a lot more cars to come back and go racing.”
The Slinger Nationals is the one event Bickle looks forward to every year as his storied career slowly begins to wind down. As he looks to make his 17th start since the Nationals went to a single event in 2000, he gives fans his pitch as to why they should tune in to the marquee event.
“It’s tight at two-wide but you can do it all day, that’s what’s cool about the place. [Turns] one and two are banked really good, three’s banked pretty good and then it tapers off in four and makes the track unique. You’ve got to keep the car tightened off in the corner. It’s one of those places, I’ve raced at 226 different racetracks and that to me is definitely a top five and it always will be.”
The Slinger Nationals will be broadcasted live on Speed51 for the second straight year. Click here to purchase your PPV ticket for Tuesday’s event.
Fans who missed Bickle’s interview on “The Bullring” can watch a replay here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo